CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University President Ed Ray Thursday told members of OSU’s Faculty Senate that the university is on strong footing despite challenges occurring this year and others expected in the future.

“While we face changes, challenges and uncertainty, the opportunities lying ahead for Oregon State University are exciting,” Ray said in his final speech to the faculty senate before he steps down as OSU’s president on June 30.

In his speech, Ray recounted many university achievements accomplished around research, fundraising by the OSU Foundation and progress advancing student success, faculty excellence and inclusivity.

Since 2004, OSU’s total enrollment in Corvallis, online and in Bend increased from 19,298 to 32,012 students. This past June, the Corvallis campus awarded a record 7,235 degrees compared to 4,133 degrees awarded in 2004. And at OSU-Cascades, since 2004 the number of graduates increased from 22 to 318.

During that same period, the diversity of OSU’s student enrollment has changed dramatically from including 13.5% students of color in 2004 to 25.4% last year. And international student enrollment has increased from 6% to 11%, while the percentage of high-achieving Oregon high school graduates in the freshman class increased from 30.9% in 2004 to 44.8% last year. 

“My point in reviewing all of this is not to give a valedictory speech, but to point out where we have been, where we stand and to encourage you to appreciate what we have accomplished together,” Ray said. “This wonderful university has been transformed in many positive ways in recent years and the momentum we have is unstoppable. I hope that every time you hear me say that the best is yet to come for Oregon State University, and all of those we serve, you will think to yourself: dam right!”   

In the coming year, Ray said OSU must continue to make progress in achieving the university’s strategic plan; prepare for its next university-wide fundraising campaign; secure state support for operations and important building projects; create a seamless transition leading to the university’s next president; and build an inclusive and caring community.

“Clearly, we must eliminate academic achievement gaps and raise the first-year retention rate for all students to 90% as quickly as possible,” Ray said. “By doing so, we can also raise the six-year graduation rate for all students to 70%. I urge us to set a further goal of increasing our four-year graduation rate over the next five years from 36.8% to 50%.”

Ray said preparations are underway for the university’s next fundraising campaign. Led by the OSU Foundation, the university’s first capital campaign, known as The Campaign for OSU, ended in December 2014 having raised $1.142 billion. He said there is great momentum in philanthropy within OSU, evidenced by $144.6 million raised by the OSU Foundation last year. Ray said he has no doubt that the next campaign will be even more ambitious than the successful Campaign for OSU.

“Looking ahead, providing a seamless and undramatic transition in the university presidency requires each of us to do our best,” Ray said.

As well, he urged collaboration to build an inclusive and welcoming community, arrive at a faculty union contract and advance shared governance within the university during the coming year and beyond.

“We have made substantial progress in advancing diversity and addressing inequities at the university, but this work must continue,” Ray said.

Obstacles faced by the university can be overcome, Ray said.

“You might well ask how I can describe the state of the university as strong in the face of a second biennium of continuing budget cuts and an uncertain financial path forward. The simple truth is that I have been honored to work with many of you over the years. I have marveled at your accomplishments and I have observed our students and alumni and learned of their impact on communities and the world.

“I hope that when I conclude my comments today, you will agree that we have been tested under fire and proven to be resilient, creative and remarkably successful,” Ray said. “I want to remind you of what has been accomplished while we all kept our heads down and worked hard. In doing so, I hope it will convince you as it has convinced me that we are on a path to success that is unstoppable.”