CORVALLIS, Ore. – Al Reser will long be remembered as one of the most generous alumni and longstanding supporters in the history of Oregon State University, OSU leaders said Tuesday as they mourned his overnight passage. Mr. Reser was 74.
Along with his wife, Pat, Mr. Reser served in numerous volunteer leadership capacities for OSU over the past 40-plus years and supported a long list of major university projects, including Reser Stadium and the $62.5-million Linus Pauling Science Center, which is under construction with completion projected for early 2011.
He was honored many times by his alma mater, most recently last Saturday night with the E.B. Lemon Distinguished Alumni Award at the Orange and Black Evening in Portland. The Lemon Award is the highest honor the university bestows on any alumnus, and Mr. Reser’s son, Marty, accepted it on his behalf. (A video tribute shown at the event is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8dvEOADPCY.)
Mr. Reser earned his B.S. in business administration in 1960 from Oregon State University, where he also met his wife, who earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education the same year. Together, the couple grew Reser’s Fine Foods, a family-owned fresh refrigerated food company based in Beaverton, Ore., into an $800-million domestic and international business that today employs more than 2,000 workers, half of them in Oregon.
Despite the demands of a thriving business and family – the Resers have five grown children, four of whom graduated from OSU – Mr. Reser always found time to give of himself and his treasure to OSU. Throughout the years, he served on the OSU Foundation Board of Trustees and the Beaver Athletic Student Fund Board of Directors. Pat Reser currently co-chairs the $625-million Campaign for OSU, to which she and her husband gave $10.65 million in support of the Pauling Science Center. They made other gifts to the Linus Pauling Institute and the colleges of Science and Business, as well.
“Al Reser was one of the most successful and most caring people I have ever known. He and Pat fashioned a remarkably successful business and a wonderful family,” said OSU President Ed Ray. “Al loved Beaver Nation, and he was loved in return. In recent years, Al received numerous honors in recognition of his philanthropy and service to others.
“Perhaps one could not expect to have enough time to celebrate him fully and properly but this loss is much, much too soon. We can best honor him by following his example of love and dedicated service to others.”
“Al and Pat’s vision and generosity will make a difference for generations of students and scientists who will learn and study at the Linus Pauling Science Center,” said Science Dean Sherman Bloomer. “We’ll be forever grateful for Al’s friendship and for the legacy he leaves behind.”
The Resers gave gifts totaling more than $14 million to support the renovation and expansion of the OSU football stadium, subsequently named in their honor. On Tuesday, OSU athletics leaders remembered Al’s friendship and generosity fondly.
“On behalf of Beaver Nation and the entire athletic department our thoughts and prayers go out to the Reser Family on their loss of Al. He is a great friend of this department and his support is truly evident in athletics, as well as the rest of campus,” said Bob De Carolis, director of Intercollegiate Athletics. “I will sorely miss those lunch meetings at his plant or watching him scoot around the stadium with a huge smile on his face. He and his family are the architects of whatever success this department has enjoyed. While he may be gone from this earth, his legacy and spirit will be with us for a long time.”
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Al Reser. He was a good friend, and our hearts go out to his great family,” said OSU head football coach Mike Riley. “We’ll miss him, and will always be proud to play our games in the stadium so fittingly named after him.”
Mr. Reser served on the OSU Foundation Board of Trustees from 1994 to 1997, served as an honorary trustee and was a former member of the Beaver Athletic Student Fund (BASF) Board of Directors. He was inducted into the College of Business (COB) Hall of Fame in 2006; he also received the COB Dean’s Award and was named one of the college's top 10 alumni, both in 2008. Al and Pat Reser were named the President’s Club Most Honored Members in 2003, and they received the Martin Chaves Lifetime Achievement Award for their contributions to OSU Athletics in 2008. They were also recognized with the 2008 Vollum Award for Lifetime Philanthropic Achievement from the Oregon and SW Washington Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals
Mr. Reser was named the Oregon Entrepreneur of the Year by the Oregon Entrepreneurs Forum in 2000 and received the 2006 Governor’s Gold Award. The Portland Business Journal named Reser’s Fine Foods the Most Admired Company in 2008, and last January, Mr. Reser received the Les Schwab Friends of Sports Award at the Oregon Sports Awards ceremony.
Mr. Reser’s memoirs, “No Small Potatoes,” are soon to be published in conjunction with the OSU Press and the OSU Alumni Association.