Oregon State University; Oregon State University - Cascades; OSU-Cascades; OSU President Paul Risser

Paul Risser served as president of OSU from 1996 to 2002.

May 13, 2019

Oregon State University - Cascades will host a dedication ceremony May 17 for a newly installed outdoor seating and gathering area named in honor of former OSU President Paul Risser, who helped spearhead the opportunity for students to earn an Oregon State University degree in Central Oregon.

The Risser conversation circle, which was funded by private donations, is defined by natural rock, with stone paving and benches, and a central rock containing a tribute plaque. It will be available for classes, personal reflection, and gatherings of up to 30 people.

OSU President Ed Ray and OSU-Cascades Vice President Becky Johnson will be joined by Risser’s widow, Les, and others at a dedication of the Risser Memorial Conversation Circle. It will take place from 1 to 2 p.m., May 17, in Tykeson Hall, Room 111.

“Paul Risser’s career was marked by significant achievements, particularly at OSU,” Ray said. “Among his most significant commitments in service to others was to work with community leaders to create a four-year university in Central Oregon. We simply would not have progressed this far without Paul’s visionary leadership.”

Risser served as president of OSU from 1996 to 2002. Early in his tenure, he recognized the challenges facing Central Oregon residents and the regional economy due to the lack of a local four-year university.

“One of Paul’s strengths was his ability to bring people together to collaborate and problem solve,” Les Risser said. “An informal, outdoor gathering area at OSU-Cascades is a fitting tribute and will foster the kinds of conversations and connections that he valued most.”

Risser enthusiastically embraced volunteer efforts of the Central Oregon Regional Advisory Board, a group of community, education and business leaders who sought a university presence for the region.

He and CORAB worked with Oregon’s then chancellor for higher education, state legislators and the governor to secure funding for the early iteration of OSU-Cascades, a capstone university center model housed on the Central Oregon Community College campus. There, COCC students could continue their studies and earn a bachelor’s degree.

Risser’s career in higher education spanned nearly 40 years. Following his service at OSU, he became chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education and served as acting director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

He died in 2014, two years prior to OSU-Cascades’ expansion to a four-year university and its relocation to its own campus.

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About OSU-Cascades: Oregon State University’s campus in Bend, Ore. features outstanding faculty in degree programs that reflect Central Oregon’s vibrant economy and abundant natural resources. Nearly 20 undergraduate majors, 30 minors and options, and three graduate programs include computer science, energy systems engineering, kinesiology, hospitality management, and tourism, recreation and adventure leadership. OSU-Cascades expanded to a four-year university in 2015; its new campus opened in 2016.