CORVALLIS, Ore. - The Agricultural Research Foundation at Oregon State University has named Cynthia Cox as its executive director. The private non-profit organization supports agricultural research in Oregon.

Cox has been the foundation's finance manager since 2008.

Sonny Ramaswamy, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and ex-officio board member of the foundation, said Cox's accounting background was attractive to the board, but it was her ideas for the future that made her stand out.

"She articulated a very strong vision for the foundation," he said.

Cox said she would like to build the foundation's flagship competitive grant program, which awards two-year grants to OSU researchers to test new ideas and methods with the aim of improving Oregon's agricultural industries.

"The foundation funds 32 grants of about $12,500 per year to support new ideas and new faculty," Cox said. "I would like to increase the award amount or the number of awards."

Her plans also include strengthening the foundation's partnership with other organizations, including commodity groups, growers, OSU's Agricultural Experiment Stations and the College of Agricultural Sciences. She also hopes to expand the board of directors to include industries not represented.

Cox said she will continue the high level of service cultivated by her predecessor, Dorothy Beaton, who has retired.

Beaton was hired as an office manager in 1984, the first paid employee of the foundation, and became its first executive director in 1988. During her tenure, she increased the organization's net assets from less than $3 million to $18.6 million. 

"Dorothy took the organization from a small entity that not very many people knew about, and made it an entity to be reckoned with," Ramaswamy said. It was her astute management of resources, he added, that helped the foundation weather economic downturns.

"I've had a long run; now it's time for somebody to interject new ideas and take it into the future," Beaton said. "Cynthia brings a lot of technology things to the forefront that I think is probably what ARF needs now. I think she's a person who can really move it forward."

The Agricultural Research Foundation, founded in 1934, is an affiliate of OSU. The organization awarded nearly $400,000 to 33 projects for 2011-2013, including grants to develop new varieties of Christmas trees, examine declining honeybee populations and study spotted wing drosophila. In 2009-10, the foundation marked its 75th anniversary by providing $1 million in funding for research projects.

Funding for the Agricultural Research Foundation comes from state commodity groups and private donations.

Cox graduated from the University of Oregon with a bachelor's degree in accounting and is a certified public accountant.

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Cynthia Cox, 541-737-4066