PORTLAND, Ore. - Oregon State University President Edward J. Ray painted a picture of a vibrant, robust institution Thursday in his "State of the University" address and backed up his description of OSU as an "authentic community of accomplishment" with a long list of achievements.

In his talk at the Portland Hilton attended by nearly 500 people, Ray also announced two initiatives supported by private gifts - a $40 million engineering research facility leveraged by three gifts totaling $20 million; and a $5 million gift commitment to boost performing arts at OSU and throughout the state.

Ray outlined Oregon State's role as a 21st-century Land Grant university that is "reinventing the workforce," a notion that is appealing to top students within the state. The OSU president noted that more than 40 percent of the university's incoming freshmen from Oregon had a high school grade point average of 3.75 or higher, and Oregon State attracts more valedictorians and salutatorians than any other institution in the state.

OSU's enrollment has climbed every year and is near 26,000, and it has nearly doubled its international enrollment. To meet the demand, the university has hired more than 180 tenure track faculty in the last two years.

"I know of no other university in the nation that has hired this many new faculty," Ray emphasized.

Despite the nationwide recession, Oregon State is on solid financial ground, Ray said, and praised his faculty for their research contributions and the Oregon State University Foundation for its successful Campaign for OSU.

Last year, Oregon State faculty brought in $281 million in research funding - despite federal cutbacks at the agency level. At the same time, the university signed a record 108 licensing agreements.

"Since 2006, we have spun off 17 companies that have attracted more than $180 million in capital investment," Ray said. He added that earlier this month, OSU launched a new initiative - the Oregon State University Advantage - to serve business partners throughout the region in areas including innovative materials, advanced manufacturing, energy and clean technology, high tech, health care and innovation related to food, water and the environment.

The Campaign for OSU has raised some $900 million toward a goal of $1 billion and was bolstered by Ray's announcement of new gifts.

The engineering initiative is being fueled by a $7 million gift from Peter and Rosalie Johnson, a $10 million gift from an anonymous donor, and $3 million in additional private funds and matching state funds. Peter Johnson, a 1955 engineering alumnus, ran Tekmax, Inc., in Tangent, Ore., a company that revolutionized battery manufacturing equipment.

The gifts will fund a new educational and research facility for the College of Engineering that will help accommodate a near-34 percent growth in student enrollment that has occurred over the past three years; will provide additional labs for collaborative research; and will expand Oregon State's nationally recognized leadership in chemical, biological and environmental engineering.

A $5 million commitment from an anonymous donor - the largest gift the university has ever received for the arts - will advance performing arts at OSU and beyond. In addition to endowed faculty positions and scholarships, the gift will create a new performing arts director position that is designed to boost interest in performing arts around the state.

Among other OSU accomplishments Ray pointed out:

  • This week, the National Science Foundation announced that it has selected OSU as lead institution on a project to design and coordinate construction of as many as three research vessels - a 10-year project that could total $290 million;
  • The state's first branch campus, OSU-Cascades, is rapidly moving toward becoming a four-year institution. Since late April, the campus has raised $3.3 million of a $4 million private fundraising goal to help fund the expansion;
  • This fall, the Fiske Guide to Colleges named OSU as one of the nation's 41 "best buy schools" based on strong academics and reasonable cost. Only 20 public universities were so ranked.
  • During the last year, OSU opened the Linus Pauling Science Center, the Hallie Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families, the International Living Learning Center, and the Graduate Studies Center at OSU-Cascades, and renovated Furman Hall.

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Steve Clark, 503-502-8217