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OSU president in Bend: ‘No looking back’


On the very day a state appeals board heard arguments over a disputed campus site, Oregon State University President Ed Ray challenged the Central Oregon community Thursday night to look forward and contribute to the success of OSU-Cascades and the opening of a new branch campus in west Bend.

“I am proud to say that after 30 years of planning and hoping, Central Oregon will have its own four-year university beginning this fall, as OSU-Cascades welcomes its first entering freshmen class of 100 students,” Ray said during his State of the University address to more than 350 people at The Riverhouse Hotel & Convention Center in Bend.

The audience included Central Oregon community, business and education leaders, high school students, and OSU alumni, and faculty and students from OSU-Cascades.

“Bringing and sustaining a four-year university to Bend is not a spectator sport,” Ray emphasized. “It requires your leadership and engagement. At the close of the constitutional convention, spectators asked Benjamin Franklin whether we had a monarchy or a republic, and Franklin replied, ‘a republic — if you can keep it.’ You are on the brink of having a four-year university in Bend – if you can keep it.”

Coincidentally, Ray spoke in Bend just hours after the state Land Use Board of Appeals heard arguments in a challenge to the Westside campus site by the group Truth In Site, with a ruling expected by June 17.

Before his speech, in a live segment on NewsChannel 21, Ray said, “We’re absolutely committed to going forward. This community, this region, this city clearly need a four-year university here. We’re in it for the long haul.”

“Anything that’s transformative and is going to change how things are done is going to have some challenges,” he said, adding, “We have no intention of looking back.”

“We will adapt, we will adjust, we will certainly live by the letter and the spirit of the law,” he said. “I expect we will prevail in this case. I don’t know how many stops and how many delays we’ll have to deal with, but we have every intention of going forward.”

During his talk, Ray noted Central Oregon is the largest population area in the state of Oregon still without a four-year university

“Commit yourselves to fulfilling your long-time aspirations for having your own university in Bend by not looking back, but only looking forward,” Ray said. “We need each of you to be productively engaged, whether in critiquing proposed next steps or identifying solutions to challenges.”

“Join community leaders here tonight,” Ray said. “Say ‘yes’ to a four-year campus that is a central part of the community; ‘yes’ to collaborative planning and problem-solving; ‘yes’ to responsible enrollment growth; and ‘yes’ to local students … who otherwise will leave Central Oregon to attend a four-year university somewhere else and may never come back.”

Ray said he recognizes that work lies ahead in constructing the new campus. “Trust each other to work together to make this campus a showcase for this community that we all will be proud of. But for goodness sake, let’s get it done right now.”

Ray said the university is poised to tackle significant challenges facing the state – many of which are important to Central Oregon, including sustainable forests, climate change, safe supplies of water and food, clean energy, health and wellness – and, especially, access to education.

The OSU president outlined the story of Shannon Gasper, who grew up on the Colville Indian Reservation near Omak, Washington. He started a lawn mowing company at age 11 and eventually moved to Bend after high school where he started a T-shirt printing company.

But he wanted more, Ray said, and enrolled at COCC and eventually OSU-Cascades. He completed his degree in business administration last month and will participate in the OSU-Cascades commencement on June 14.

“Shannon was the first person in his family to attend college and he is the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree,” Ray said. “Along the way, he’s become a role model for his sisters, both of whom are now enrolled in college.”

Ray cited a number of highlights by Oregon State over the past year, including:

The completion of the Campaign for OSU, which raised a record total of $1.14 billion;
$285 million in grants and contracts from research, including a record $37 million from industry;
An economic impact of $2.371 billion a year, an increase of 15 percent from three years ago;
OSU’s enrollment exceeded 30,000 students overall. Included in that total are 1,170 enrolled at OSU-Cascades, of which 192 students are taking classes at Central Oregon Community College.

The Campaign for OSU resulted in the construction or renovation of 28 buildings on campus, more than 600 new scholarship or fellowship endowments supporting 3,200 students, the endowment of 79 new faculty positions, and the university’s investment in OSU-Cascades.

Ray said the value of OSU research is also apparent on the OSU-Cascades campus, where assistant professor Chris Hagen’s cutting-edge research in powering passenger vehicles and trucks with natural gas has drawn more than $3 million in support from state and federal agencies.

He noted the importance of OSU’s partners in Central Oregon research and education, mentioning Bend Research, the Unmanned Aerial Systems Enterprise and The Center and Therapeutic Associates; the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, EDCO and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs; COCC and area K-12 school districts.

Ray closed by saying Oregon State will always remain Oregon’s statewide university, noting that Oregonians make up 74 percent of its undergraduate class.

“Let me assure you of two facts about Oregon State University,” Ray said. “We are not done. The best is yet to come. And when it comes to fulfilling a 30-year dream of having your own four-year university in Bend, there should be no looking back.”

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