CORVALLIS - Oregon State University has received a gift of $5.9 million from the estate of Edward N. Rickert, Jr., a 1938 civil engineering graduate, that will significantly enhance educational opportunities for students in the College of Engineering.

It is the largest private gift for engineering in the history of the university.

The Edward N. Rickert Family Trust Fund has been established through the gift and will benefit students, faculty and programs in the College of Engineering, according to Dean Ronald L. Adams.

"This gift will enable us to initiate new and innovative approaches to the way we educate students," Adams said. "The permanent endowment in the OSU Foundation will help support instructional activities that are not even imagined yet and will benefit e ngineering students far into the future."

Rickert, who died in 1997, is a native of Spokane, Wash. His family moved to Newberg, Ore., and after he graduated from high school in 1934, Rickert enrolled at Oregon State. After his graduation in 1938, he worked as an engineer on the Grand Coulee Da m, in the Bremerton Shipyards, and for the Kaiser Frazer Car Co., before serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

After the war, Rickert worked for Monarch Machine Co. as chief engineer, later buying the company and serving as president.

"Ed Rickert brought leadership and vision to Oregon industry and the endowed fund established by this gift will continue his advocacy for the importance of education in our communities," said Jane Ratzlaff, director of alumni and corporate relations fo r the College of Engineering.

The gift is particularly timely for the College of Engineering, which is at a crossroads in its history. Adams, a former executive at Tektronix, was just hired as dean and is working to help create new partnerships between higher education and industry in the Northwest.

He said the Rickert gift will help advance the state's largest, most comprehensive engineering program by working as "seed money" to initiate collaborative, interdisciplinary and cutting edge programs.

"This is an exciting time for the College of Engineering," Adams said. "This gift will help us accomplish many of our objectives in advancing the college to the next level."

Several of those types of cutting edge, interdisciplinary projects have been launched in the last year, Adams said. OSU's College of Engineering, in collaboration with the Oregon Graduate Institute, Portland State University and the University of Orego n, began offering a master of software engineering degree in Beaverton. The college, in collaboration with PSU, initiated the Oregon Performance Center, which helps companies improve their performance and productivity. And an interdisciplinary effort at O SU has resulted in the creation of the Information Security Lab, which develops new techniques for computer data encryption.

OSU's College of Engineering has 2,800 students, 250 faculty and staff and offers 13 undergraduate and 12 graduate degree programs. The college recently received national attention for the quality of its students, who posted a 97 percent pass rate in t he Engineering Fundamentals Exam, the first step toward professional engineering status. That rate ranks among the top five institutions in the nation.

The college also has received plaudits for an internship program called MECOP, which is being hailed as a model internship program by educators. The Multiple Engineering Cooperative Program is a partnership with industry that provides practical experie nce for students in positions designed by individual companies. Many students go on to work for those companies.

"It is the support from alumni, friends and industry which has kept the college on the leading edge by providing scholarships to attract quality students, and the equipment, instructional tools and research opportunities to retain the best faculty," Ad ams said.

Edward N. Rickert, Jr., is survived by a son, a stepdaughter, three grandchildren, a great-grandson, a step-grandson, a great-granddaughter; and two step-granddaughters.

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Ron Adams, 541-737-3101