From the Winter 2012 Oregon Stater
(The first part of the 20-item list can be seen here.)
By George P. Edmonston Jr.
As announced in the fall 2011 issue of this magazine, the following feature ends my 26-year association with this wonderful publication. In Part One we covered the first half of my favorite 20 defining moments in the university’s long and distinguished history. We now count down the final 10. Goodbye for now.
10 • The presidency of James H. Jensen
James Jensen was named president the year OSC became OSU, 1961. More than anything else he might have accomplished, Jensen oversaw one of the greatest periods of growth in OSU history. Under his leadership, OSU’s physical plant and programming went to the next level: the Kerr Library (now Valley Library) was completed, the Radiation Center was established, the OSU Marine Science Center in Newport (the Hatfield Marine Science Center) was dedicated and the research vessel Yaquina was commissioned. Jensen approved the construction of more residence halls than at any point in OSU’s history, including McNary, Callahan, Wilson and Finley halls; the Orchard Court Apartments and Avery and Dixon lodges. He helped organize the Black Student Union and assisted in opening the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center.
9 • The OSU Foundation
Since its birth under President A.L. Strand on Oct. 15, 1947, with the assistance and vision of three alumni – Robert M. Kerr, Edwin B. Aldrich and E.C. Simmons – the OSU Foundation has played a critical role in shaping the destiny of the university in ways the founders could never have imagined.
With an endowment that began with $21,000 in 1961, contributions by 2006 had reached over $50 million annually with combined assets of nearly $470 million. Launched by the OSUF in 2007, the ambitious Campaign for OSU surpassed its original $625 million goal in 2010, a year early. Now the university reaches for a new goal of $850 million and early projections indicate the final total expected by the year 2013 may approach a billion dollars, a nearly unprecedented amount for a U.S. public university without a medical school.
8 • The Olmsted campus plan
Commissioned by President Kerr in 1909, John C. Olmsted’s master plan for the campus was visionary. John Olmsted was the son of Frederick L. Olmsted, arguably the most famous landscape architect in American history. By the turn of the century, Olmsted and associates had amassed a portfolio of projects that included New York City’s Central Park, the U.S. Capitol grounds, and Yosemite National Park.
The OSU plan, one of more than 355 college and university campus designs they would complete, is a 60-page written report outlining suggestions for the look and feel of the campus. Its built-in flexibility is responsible for the distinctive atmosphere OSU enjoys today – highlighted by numerous pedestrian paths passing between historic red-bricked buildings outlined in white, terra cotta trim, and buildings arranged around neatly ordered rectangles.
7 • Back-to-back baseball titles
Baseball is OSU’s earliest team sport, dating to 1883. Until 2005, the program had enjoyed success from season to season but had only once earned its way to the pinnacle of the sport – an appearance at the College World Series – and this had been back in 1952.
In 2005, Coach Pat Casey’s Beavers won the conference championship outright and then punched its first ticket to Omaha in 53 years. Early elimination only forced the Beavers toward greater resolve for the 2006 season when the Beavers became national champions – only the second time in school history OSU had won a team national championship (the first was in 1961 in cross country) and delivering a stunning surprise to all the baseball experts.
The 2007 season was to deliver an even greater mind twister. Finishing 10-14 in conference play, the Beavers eked out an invitation to the NCAA Tournament, advanced to the Super Regionals and on to Omaha where the men from Corvallis never lost.
OSU became only the fifth team in NCAA history to repeat as back-to-back baseball national champions.
6 • Cauthorn’s politics
Although Corvallis College became the recipient of the land grant for the state of Oregon in 1868, the matter was never a done deal until Thomas E. Cauthorn entered the mix in the mid-1880s. From 1868 until 1885, criticism and questioning of the school’s motives poured in from all over the state.
Cauthorn, a Benton County senator, sponsored the legislation necessary to keep the State Agricultural College in Corvallis. It was approved on Feb. 11, 1885. The Legislature attached one stipulation to the bill – that the citizens of Benton County erect a building on the college farm within 24 months, costing no less than $20,000 (in private donations) and to be at the time of its opening, free from all debt. Fundraising took place from 1885 to 1888 and the building was ready by the fall of 1889. Benton Hall is still in use today.
The college’s first dorm for men was named after the hero of the day – Thomas Cauthorn. It is known to us as Fairbanks Hall.
5 • The presidency of John M. Bloss
John Bloss, who served as president from 1892-1896, places high on my list of defining moments for this reason: More than any of his predecessors, it was Bloss who expanded the college experience for students to include extracurricular activities not directly tied to academics. Bloss was responsible for elevating football to varsity status His presidency. also saw the establishment of most of OSU’s core traditions, the majority of which are still around. School colors changed from navy blue to orange and black; a school cheer was approved for student gatherings,”Zip Boom Bee, Zip Boom Bee, OA, OA, OAC”; and he gave the go-ahead for the cadet band to perform at the school’s first football game on Nov. 11, 1893, the start of the campus’ longest-running musical show.
He was also the first OSU president to encourage large numbers of women to major in agriculture and placed new emphasis on research in such areas as soils, fertilizers and drainage; feeds for livestock; farm pests; and the production of prunes and flax.
4 • The presidency of Benjamin Lee Arnold
Arnold served OSU from 1872 to 1892. His first step was to reorganize the school into a more manageable system by dividing the institution into two departments – the Literary Department, comprised of ancient languages, modern languages, history and literature – and the Scientific Department, which included mathematics, engineering, technology, physical science (chemistry, agriculture, biology) and moral science (ethics and logic, political and social science). The fundamental academic skeleton of the modern OSU can still be seen in this primitive curricular structure.
Also under Arnold we see the beginnings of formal instruction in military tactics (later to be known as ROTC), the first residence halls for students, start-ups in engineering and home economics, literary societies, a formal library, diversity within the student body and the hiring of the school’s first out of state faculty.
3 • The Great Depression
Seven months before the start of what we know as the Great Depression, Oregon created the State Board of Higher Education. The new board was charged with numerous oversight responsibilities as well as reorganization of the state’s six publicly-sanctioned schools.
Degree programs were to be dropped at both the UO and OSU, and colleges and departments would be transferred from one institution to the other. Law, social sciences, fine arts, physical education, literature and languages, and commerce would be based in Eugene. Corvallis would have the sciences, home economics, agriculture, engineering, forestry and pharmacy.
Lower divisions were established at both schools; no longer would freshmen be required to declare a major the first year. Students could now attend a full two years before making a commitment, and subjects taken at either school automatically transferred to any school within the system at full credit.
The actions of the board served to tear apart the college President Kerr had built to national prominence. His response to the board’s action was to retire – he was quickly hired to serve as the state of Oregon’s first chancellor of higher education.
In a very real sense, the academic and research specialties enjoyed by both the UO and OSU today can be traced to the Great Depression and the changes the State Board of Higher Education mandated at that time.
2 • The presidency of Edward J. Ray
It can be argued that it’s best to let 25 years pass before judging the legacy of a university president. In the case of President Edward J. Ray, I’m willing to skip the wait.
He has spearheaded the completion of a strategic plan which is already having a profound impact on the development of OSU as it moves into the 21st century. The university’s first-ever comprehensive capital campaign, launched in 2004, has already generated more than $700 million in private giving and had its goal upped to $850 million by 2013.
Under Ray, annual research awards and contracts have increased almost $123 million to $275 million, thus strengthening the institution’s role as the leading research university of the state. Also, enrollment has exploded to about 25,000 students and the 2011 graduating class was the largest in school history. Meanwhile, OSU is pursuing a $500 million expansion and renovation of the Corvallis campus, the largest such project in school history.
Ray has played a key role in helping OSU-Cascades become a viable branch campus with a promising future in Central Oregon. This is only a very partial list of his accomplishments so far, and although he has begun to hint at retirement, noting that he won’t be around forever, he shows no sign of letting up anytime soon.
1 • The presidency of William Jasper Kerr
With the arrival of William Kerr in 1907, Oregon State’s perception of itself as a”farmer’s school” began to change with emphasis shifting from farming education to professional education. Indeed, during Kerr’s 25-year tenure, he laid the foundation for OSU to become the great university it is today.
Kerr’s leadership led the way in changing the role of land-grant colleges from a secondary”vocational” status to one of”service” to business, industry and agriculture. He raised entrance requirements worked diligently to nationally certify academic programs and achieve accreditation from the nation’s professional organizations. A strong competitor for state funding, Kerr doubled the size of the campus by adding more than 25 buildings.
He also established the”look” of OSU, through architectural and landscaping benchmarks still in use.
If Jasper Kerr were to suddenly appear today in front of the MU, he would feel right at home.
His position as Oregon’s first chancellor of the state system of higher education would prove to be the toughest assignment of his long and distinguished career. Guiding the schools that made up the system through the worst years of the Great Depression, he resigned at age 72. He would have been proud to see his name placed on the library built in 1962. That same year, Kerr’s son, Robert M. Kerr, became one of three founders of the OSU Foundation.
George P. Edmonston Jr. is history and traditions editor of the Oregon Stater, and is the retired editor of the magazine.