OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

OSU to Graduate Largest Class, Honor Displaced WWII-era Students

06/04/2008

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University will graduate the largest class in its history on Sunday, June 15, during the university’s 139th annual commencement ceremony beginning at 1 p.m. in Reser Stadium. It will be broadcast live on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

The class of 2008 will include a record 4,365 students receiving 4,586 degrees, according to OSU Registrar Kent Kuo.

Several special awards and degrees also will be presented by OSU President Ed Ray and others during the ceremony. The commencement speaker will be Helen Diggs, an Oregon State graduate who went on to become a national leader in veterinary medicine and animal welfare. She will receive an honorary doctorate from the university.

Twenty-three other former Oregon State students will receive honorary bachelor’s degrees. They are among the 42 students – all of Japanese ancestry – who were forced to leave the university during the early years of World War II after President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which sent many of them to internment camps.

Many of these former students since have died. But at least five will return to campus and many others – both living and deceased – will be represented by family members during the OSU ceremony, where they will receive their long-overdue honorary degrees. OSU President Ray says public recognition of the sacrifices these students made is overdue.

“It is a great privilege for all of us at Oregon State University to honor our former students with their degrees,” Ray said. “A great wrong was done to them and it is never too late to do the right thing. More importantly, we should use the memory of this sad and unconscionable chapter of our history to strengthen our resolve to stand up for each and every member of our community when we are tested, as we surely will be in the future.”

Two OSU students – Joel Fischer and Andy Kiyuna – provided the impetus for recognizing the former students and helped turn it into a law signed by Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski. For more information on that process, see: http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2008/may/osu-honor-wwii-era-students-japanese-ancestry-june-commencement

Also scheduled for special recognition is Weixing Cao, vice president of Nanjing Agricultural University, who has been instrumental in creating and strengthening business ties between Oregon and China. Cao, who received his Ph.D. from OSU in 1989, is scheduled to receive the university’s Distinguished Serivce Award.After returning to China, he worked with OSU and the Oregon Seed Council to test and promote Oregon grass seed products in China. In the mid-1990s, Oregon was exporting just 50,000 pounds of grass seed to China annually; today that total is more than 15 million pounds. Much of the grass that will be on the fields of competition in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing will have Oregon ties.

OSU’s commencement speaker also made good use of her Oregon State education. A 1985 graduate of the College of Veterinary Medicine, Helen Diggs is the director of the Office of Laboratory Animal Care at the University of California at Berkeley. She has been a school teacher in remote Alaskan communities, the head veterinary medical officer for the Veterans Administration Medical Center, and last fall she was elected vice president of the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine.

Oregon State University’s class of 2008 includes a total of 4,586 degrees – 3,608 are bachelor’s degrees, 684 master’s degree and 294 Ph.D.s and professional degrees. Each of the OSU graduates has a unique and sometimes inspiring background behind their pursuit of a degree.

Lori Chen, from Clackamas, is graduating after just three years with a 4.00 grade point average and a degree in human development and family science and a minor in Mandarin Chinese. Last summer she participated in a study abroad program in Angers, France and she had two rigorous internships involving children, including a stint with an orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Her internships became life- changing experiences that solidified her interests in international adoption work with a long-term goal of opening her own orphanage.

Colby Mangini is a U.S. Navy officer serving as an instructor in the Nuclear Power School in Charleston, S.C., where he is earning a master’s degree in health physics through OSU’s Ecampus program. Most of his course work has been completed online, though he came to Corvallis last summer for some intensive one-week, on-site classes.“One of the courses that I teach our enlisted sailors is radiation protection, which in my opinion is the most important course that any nuclear operator takes,” Mangini said. “My course work in radiation health physics has proven invaluable as a radiation protection instructor. I am now able to go above and beyond my duty, and impart a wealth on knowledge onto my students as a result of my distance education experience at OSU.”

Taralyn “Tari” Tan, from Salem, the oldest of five children, will receive her degree in biochemistry and biophysics with a minor in psychology. Last year she was selected as an All-American scholar by USA Today in part for her work in biochemistry labs conducting gene sequencing studies looking for clues to animal behavior. She also has been an OSU Presidential Scholar and has received numerous other awards and scholarships because of her academic achievement and community service. In her spare time she’s been a Sunday school teacher, a Habitat for Humanity volunteer , a youth soccer coach, and a biology note taker for the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities.

Trevor Thompson, from Medford began his college career at the University of Oregon, but transferred to OSU to pursue a degree in chemical engineering. He has also been conducting extensive research into new treatments for hemophilia. He has served as president of the OSU chapter of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society and has been an active volunteer with the Oregon Prescription Drug Program, Postal Service Food Drive, Linn-Benton Food Share, Lane County Community Garden and Stone Soup Community Soup Kitchen.

Gail J. Woodside has earned an honors degree in natural resources, specializing in traditional ecological knowledge and arid-land research. Of Native American and German descent, she is the first person in her family to attend college. A single mother, she raised four daughters, all of whom are in college or are college-bound. At OSU, Woodside was president of both the Native American Student Association and the American Indian Sciences and Engineering Society. She has been the head woman dancer for regional pow-wows and has taught self-esteem workshops for young Native Americans. She served on the White House Commission on Indian Education with George H.W. Bush and on the California Native American Heritage Commission. Woodside has survived domestic violence, debilitating diseases, spinal reconstruction surgery and a stroke, but is determined to continue toward her dream of earning a Ph.D.

The state’s first branch campus will hold its commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 14, at Bend’s Mazama Field beginning at 3 p.m. During the ceremony, which begins at 3 p.m., the OSU-Cascades Campus will graduate 177 students, about half who are first-generation college students.

OSU-Cascades typically attracts an older or returning student, according to Diana Sloane, the campus executive officer, and 40 percent of the 2008 graduates fall in the 25-29 age group. Since its inception, OSU-Cascades has awarded more than 1,200 undergraduate and graduate degrees (including this year).

Commencement speaker for OSU-Cascades will be Clara Pratt, an emeritus faculty member in OSU’s Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, who was the first member of her family to go to college. She held the Barbara E. Knudson Endowed Chair in Family Policy at OSU, a position dedicated to increasing the well-being of families.