CORVALLIS, Ore. – Richard “Rick” Spinrad, an Oregon State University professor and former OSU vice president for research, has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce and administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

President Joe Biden nominated Spinrad for the role in April and the Senate confirmed his appointment by voice vote on June 17. Spinrad previously served as NOAA’s chief scientist from 2014 to 2016 during the Obama administration.

Spinrad is the third person from Oregon State University to lead NOAA, the federal scientific agency whose mission is to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts and to conserve and manage coastal and marine resources.

Former OSU President John Byrne served as NOAA administrator during the Reagan administration, from 1981 to 1984. OSU Distinguished Professor Jane Lubchenco led NOAA during the Obama administration from 2009 to 2013. Lubchenco just recently accepted an appointment in the Biden administration as the new deputy director of climate and environment in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“I am honored to follow in the footsteps of such venerated Oregon Staters as John Byrne and Jane Lubchenco,” Spinrad said. “My experiences as an OSU grad student and senior administrator provided me the important tools that will guide me in my leadership of our nation’s environmental agency.”

Spinrad is an internationally recognized scientist and executive with more than 35 years of experience who served four years as OSU’s vice president for research before stepping down in 2014 to serve as NOAA’s chief scientist.

During his tenure in the OSU research office, Spinrad led the launch of Oregon State University Advantage, which is designed to boost the university's impact on job creation and economic progress in Oregon and beyond.

Spinrad, a resident near Sisters in Central Oregon, returned to OSU in 2016 as a professor of oceanography in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and senior adviser to the vice president for research, where his responsibilities included a focus on funding for the PacWave wave energy test site project off the coast of Oregon. He has resigned from that role to take on the NOAA position.

Before coming to OSU, Spinrad was assistant administrator for research at NOAA. He also has been a research director for the U.S. Navy; taught oceanography at two universities; directed a major national non-profit organization; served as president of a private company; and worked as a research scientist.

He is the recipient of Presidential Rank Awards from Presidents George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama. Spinrad is past president of The Oceanography Society and the Marine Technology Society. He is a fellow of the American Meteorological Society, MTS and the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology.

Spinrad received his master’s and doctoral degrees in oceanography from OSU.

General OSU

About Oregon State University: As one of only three land, sea, space and sun grant universities in the nation, Oregon State serves Oregon and the world by working on today’s most pressing issues. Our more than 34,000 students come from across the globe, and our programs operate in every Oregon county. Oregon State receives more research funding than all of the state’s comprehensive public universities combined. At our campuses in Corvallis and Bend, marine research center in Newport, OSU Portland Center and award-winning Ecampus, we excel at shaping today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders.

Story By: 

Michelle Klampe, 541-737-0784, [email protected]


Rick Spinrad, [email protected]; Steve Clark, 503-502-8217; [email protected]



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