State of the University Address

Edward J. Ray
Oregon State University
State of the University Address
Portland, Oregon
January 19, 2011

It's great to see so many Beavers and so many friends of Oregon State University here today. I'm grateful for your continued support and for the opportunity to speak with you about the state of the university. "Grateful" because, despite the state of the national economy and the financial environment within which we all operate, the state of OSU is stronger than ever. The past year was certainly one of enormous challenges, but OSU charted historic progress on multiple fronts as we expanded on our position as Oregon's leading research university and made progress toward our goal of becoming one of America's top land grant institutions. While many in higher education were reduced to treading water, we were moving ahead with a sharper focus than ever before. Best of all, we're anticipating a 2011 that will hold more good news for all who care about OSU.

The bright spots in 2010 were many. Let's recount just a few:

  • Number 1, our enrollment rose to nearly 24,000 in the fall term, making this year's the largest student body ever. Factor in the enrollment of OSU Cascades, and we're closer to 24,500. That overall population includes record numbers of Oregonians, including about 7,500 from the greater Portland area; of historically underrepresented students; of international students and of high-achievers. OSU solidified its position as the university of first choice for valedictorians, salutatorians and other high achieving students around Oregon, and for the second consecutive year of The Oregonian's two-year-old survey of top Portland-area graduates, more indicated they'd be studying at OSU than any other institution. In fact, more chose OSU than the second- and third-place universities combined. We celebrated all of that in September with a fantastic Rally in Pioneer Square that drew more than 1,500 new students, alumni and other Beaver Believers to downtown Portland. For those of you who weren't able to attend, here's what it looked like. (ROLL 30-second video clip)

    That's an event we're looking forward to repeating this fall with the added support of the OSU Bookstore, which will move to its new downtown Portland location this summer at 538 S.W. 6th Avenue. OSU's presence in downtown Portland, as you can see, is growing.

  • Number 2, OSU researchers earned an incredible $275 million in research contracts and grants, more than all six other campuses of the Oregon University System combined. Our strategic focus on health and wellness, economic development and social progress and sustainable earth ecosystems helped our faculty to bring in $23 million more than the previous year. Just about all of these monies come through competitive awards from federal agencies and other entities outside Oregon, so in addition to supporting critical studies and solutions that matter to our state, these funds create jobs and significant economic activity. For instance, a $5-million federal grant to OSU announced just last week will have activities and impacts in multiple counties across Oregon in tackling the problem of childhood obesity.

    With so many patented innovations coming out of OSU labs, we are transforming our operations to keep pace. Effective immediately, the OSU Office of Technology Transfer is now the OSU Office of Commercialization and Corporate Development. This is representative of an important shift for that operation, one that will make OSU a more active developer of innovations and corporate partnerships. We expect that it will result in more invention disclosures, more patent awards, more new spinoff businesses and more licensing revenue. We're also adding key new staff to work with office Director Brian Wall, and the first hire is a name that many of you may be familiar with: Dan Whitaker, a "serial entrepreneur" who has started 16 companies over the course of his career. Many of them, like Hotdata, Rogue Wave Software and Centralia Sawmill Company, are now publicly traded or have been sold to larger interests. We welcome Dan and look forward to greater impact from this reconstituted office.

    OSU has now doubled its research funding over the past decade, and continues to be Oregon's only university to hold the prestigious Carnegie Foundation's prestigious top rating for research universities. Speaking of the Carnegie Foundation, we were honored recently to be notified that we've earned Carnegie's "Community Engagement" designation, conferred upon select universities with deep and substantial outreach and connections to the communities they serve. So not only are we conducting a phenomenal volume of high-impact research, we're sharing our intellectual treasure with communities around Oregon through our Extension Service, our Forest Research Laboratory, our Experiment Station branches and other outreach efforts.

  • Number 3, our contributions to Oregon's economic development expanded in profound ways. Our Hatfield Marine Science Center is a major reason why Newport was chosen as headquarters for the NOAA Pacific Fleet. I was honored to be part of the groundbreaking ceremony last summer for NOAA's new facilities, along with Sens. Wyden and Merkley and Gov. Kulongoski, and I'm delighted that those facilities not only will be done by early this summer, but that some of the more than 100 staff and personnel who will work there have already begun to arrive. Three OSU spinoff companies, all based here in Oregon, earned major attention and donor support. HD Plus and Azuray Technologies accounted for more than half of the venture capital funding earned by Oregon companies in the first half of 2010, and NuScale Power continued its path toward the marketplace as one of the world's most promising nuclear power concerns. All of these efforts are creating jobs and helping to fuel Oregon's recovery.
  • Number 4, OSU's increasing impact at the federal level and in international issues was increasingly on display in 2010. Our esteemed marine biologist, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, was front and center of the federal government's response to the Gulf oil spill in her role as NOAA Administrator, and for her work she was recently named Nature magazine's "Newsmaker of the Year." Dr. Kelly Falkner was named deputy director of the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs. Two OSU faculty, Drs. Peter Clark and Phil Mote, were named lead authors on the upcoming fifth assessment report from the International Panel on Climate Change, co-winners of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Vice President Gore. Dr. Mote was also named to head two new climate change research centers established at OSU by the Dept. of the Interior and the Dept. of Commerce. Marine scientist Kelly Benoit-Bird was one of a select few honored last fall with a "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation. And esteemed alumnus Dr. Warren Washington received the National Medal of Science from President Obama in November at the White House.

    For a public institution of OSU's size to leave a footprint this large on the national scene is truly remarkable. And I'd be remiss if I didn't also applaud the success of another alumnus much closer to home: Loretta Smith, elected last fall to the Multnomah County Commission. She is only the second African American to serve as a commissioner, and we couldn't be more proud of her.

  • Number 5, the support expressed for all the previously stated work through the Campaign for OSU was, in a word, humbling. In the midst of the worst economic period since the Great Depression, our friends and supporters contributed more than $92 million, making 2010 the university's second-best fund raising year ever. Those funds pushed OSU past the initial campaign goal of $625 million a year ahead of schedule, and gave us the faith to expand the goal to $850 million. In fact, on the strength of $24.3 million raised last month – the most successful December in the university's history – our total now stands at more than $660 million.

    Already, the campaign is having transformative effects on OSU. For instance, we've raised well over $100 million in financial aid and scholarships. And campaign funds have made possible such new facilities as the Linus Pauling Science Center, currently under construction, and the Kelley Engineering Complex, which holds a LEED gold rating.

    I'm pleased to announce today another outstanding outcome of the campaign. Two Oregonians whose names are familiar to us all -- Bob and Charlee Moore, founders of Bob's Red Mill -- are establishing the Moore Family Center for Whole Grain Foods, Nutrition and Preventive Health through a $5-million gift to our College of Health and Human Sciences. The center will build on the college's public health research on nutrition, childhood obesity and related topics, and help promote healthy eating throughout Oregon and beyond. The Moores' gift includes endowments for the center's director and an additional professor, along with funds to support research and outreach, including a fund focused on childhood obesity. The Moores are with us today – Bob and Charlee, please stand so that we may recognize you for your incredible generosity and the lasting impact it will have for generations to come.

Now, if I had shared with you all of the above without any reference to dates, how many would have guessed that such a year of accomplishment would have been possible for any campus for 2010? In so many ways through so many individuals and so many developments, OSU reminds me daily that it is a place where people from ordinary or less than ordinary circumstances come to do extraordinary things.

Coming off that year of accomplishment, then, what lies ahead for 2011? As psychologists are fond of saying, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. And we're proving that point at OSU.

Our faculty researchers' efforts around research funding are keeping pace with last year's $23-million leap forward. This is a very pleasant surprise to many, who thought that the one-time funding available last year through the federal stimulus package to scientific agencies would produce a commensurate one-year bubble. And yet, more than six months into the fiscal year, we are roughly even with last year's performance. Maintaining that level of success, if we are able to do so, will be no small feat, given that funding for programs at most other campuses is likely to decline.

As an outgrowth of our research efforts and noted earlier, our Technology Transfer office is undergoing an expansion and reorientation into a more complete Office of Commercialization and Corporate Development. We'll be announcing new spinoff companies this year that will contribute to the significant and growing commercial activity coming out of OSU labs, and adding to Oregon's economy as we do.

Just as we reorient our commercialization efforts, the Oregon University System is working toward reorienting the state's approach to public higher education. A governance proposal due to be considered by the Legislature when it convenes next month would reduce costly red tape, allow OSU and Oregon's other public universities to operate more efficiently and hold us accountable to performance standards and outcomes by which we absolutely should be measured. Passing this package will be a significant step toward ensuring the viability of our campuses and creating a more stable environment for all of us, loosened somewhat from the up-and-down nature of Oregon's state budget.

That's particularly important to OSU, as we continue to grow and plan for our future. We're now approaching capacity for the current limitations of our Corvallis campus, and are building for a future that will see our enrollment expand by 5,000 to 10,000 students over the coming 15 years. We're in the midst of the most intense construction period in the history of the university, with about $170 million in building and renovations projects underway.

We remodeled and in some cases expanded 38 classrooms last summer. In addition to the Pauling Science Center, we are opening a completely renovated Education Hall, the International Living and Learning Center and the Hallie Ford Center for Children and Families all this school year. We'll make significant improvements in more than 50 additional classrooms by this fall, and complete the Student Success Center by autumn of next year. Fund-raising and planning is in full swing for our College of Business building, and we're exploring new funding strategies to expedite our ability to construct new instructional buildings on campus.

And to lead classes and research in those facilities, we're hiring. Thirty new faculty are being brought on board this school year, and we anticipate authorizing 30 additional faculty positions for next school year. These are not simply replacements for faculty who have retired or moved on, but entirely new positions, each created with a direct tie to OSU's strategic plan and its focus on academic areas of great promise. We expect these new faculty members to have a direct impact on the development and progress of OSU, as well as on our reputation as a university building steadily toward excellence. We've identified funds for these new positions through careful management by the Provost's Office, and our Campaign for OSU is enabling us to put together hiring packages that we believe will make the university more competitive in the national marketplace.

Those faculty will be joining an institution that is increasingly international in scope and diverse in character. We now draw students from more than 100 foreign nations, and this year enroll nearly 1,600 international men and women in our student body. That's fitting and appropriate for an institution that increasingly is involved in research around the world, with historic new memoranda of understanding, for instance, supporting OSU sustainability and engineering work in Qatar and Iraq and climate researchers engaged from the North Pole to the South Pole and all points in between. Our diverse campus also includes a record number of individuals from historically underrepresented communities. Nearly 18 percent of our students identify with a racial or ethnic minority community, and that percentage will grow this year and in coming years, as more Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans and Asian/Pacific Islanders choose OSU. We believe that's great for Oregon and great for OSU.

These new students, these new faculty and the new buildings and initiatives I've been discussing are all emblematic of what I hope is the abiding takeaway from today's program – this is an extraordinarily exciting time to be part of OSU. We are growing and maturing in ways that few thought possible only a few years ago, thanks to the dedicated work of our faculty, the performance of our students and the support of those who believe as deeply in our land grant mission as we do. Because that land grant mission is so inextricably tied to the welfare of this state and its people, we believe OSU's success this year holds great promise for Oregon, as well.

In that same vein, I want to note that I've been fortunate to meet with a long and growing number of business and community leaders in the greater Portland area over the past several years, including a leadership group that convenes regularly for dinner meetings. Though we come from different backgrounds and on any given day, have a wide range of concerns competing for our attention, we share a common bond: We care deeply about Oregon and what we can do to make this state better. I particularly want to thank those metro area leaders for the time they spend with me and for the care and interest they take in OSU.

I encourage you to watch us closely this year as we continue to deliver on that promise, and to visit us often, next door at our downtown Portland Center in the Union Bank building, in Corvallis, Newport, Bend or any of our other offices around the state. Our Campaign for OSU has a wonderful tagline – "This Amazing Place, This Historic Moment" – and I'm reminded when I think of it that OSU's presence around Oregon means that "this amazing place" can be just about anywhere, from Astoria to Ashland, Pendleton to Portland, McMinville to Medford and all points in between. We welcome your engagement wherever you encounter OSU and we welcome your support as we expand our horizons in 2011. Thank you for all that you do for OSU.