CORVALLIS - Peter Copek, director of the Center for the Humanities at Oregon State University since its inception in 1984, died Wednesday at Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis following surgery. He was 56.

Copek joined the OSU faculty in 1972 as an assistant professor of English, and later directed the university's humanities development program. OSU received a $700,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1984 to establish the Center for the Humanities and, with Copek's leadership, helped raise more than $2 million in additional funding.

"This is a tremendous loss," said Rich Holdren, interim associate vice provost for research at OSU. "The center really is an embodiment of Peter; he developed it into an entity with an international reputation. As a friend and a colleague, he will be missed."

The Center for the Humanities, housed in the Autzen House on Jefferson Street just off the OSU campus in Corvallis, supports speakers, conferences and cultural events, and each year provides fellowships to scholars from across the country. These scholars typically study at the center, interact with OSU students and faculty, and present results of their latest research on campus and through national journals.

Copek was born in Chicago, and went to Loyola University in his hometown, graduating in 1967. He later earned master's and doctoral degrees from Northwestern University.

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Wendy Madar, 541-737-2450