Research VP embraces change

2010-07-23T11:15:00Z Research VP embraces changeBY GAIL COLE, Gazette-Times Reporter Corvallis Gazette Times
July 23, 2010 11:15 am  • 

Building renovations have kept Rick Spinrad, Oregon State University’s new vice president for research, from dressing up his new office in Kerr Administration Building. But once the dust settles, the first thing he plans to hang on the wall is a gift from President Barack Obama.

Spinrad received the Distinguished Presidential Rank Award, given to select senior government executives, two weeks before leaving Washington, D.C., for Corvallis earlier this summer.

He received a similar award from President George W. Bush, and said the two awards prove how research is “longstanding and apolitical.”

Spinrad succeeds John Cassady, who retired in January. As VP for research, his administrative duties include overseeing the research conducted in OSU’s 11 individual colleges and 20 institutes and centers — including the Hatfield Marine Science Center and Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute — and leading the Technology Transfer, Incentive Programs, Sponsored Programs and Research Integrity offices.

OSU, a Carnegie Research I University, brought in $252 million of research funding in the fiscal year 2008-09, a $21 million increase from the previous year.

“I think we’re looking at fairly significant growth since last year,” said Todd Simmons, interim vice president for University Advancement, on Tuesday. Official numbers for 2009-10 have yet to be released.

Prior to joining OSU, Spinrad served as assistant administrator for research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In addition, he was research director for the Office of Naval Research, directed a Washington, D.C., nonprofit and worked at a private company. He began his career as a research scientist.

Spinrad begins his time at OSU amid financial uncertainty and strategic change at OSU, marked by the state’s $577 million 2009-11 budget hole and OSU President Ed Ray’s so-called “OSU 2025” plan.

Announced at an OSU Faculty Senate meeting in October 2009, the 2025 plan’s goals include increasing student enrollment from its current 22,000 to 35,000 and doubling value of research dollars by 2025.

“You can see us viable to (reach these goals) under Rick’s leadership,” Simmons said.

At the same meeting, Ray also announced plans to align the 11 colleges into four divisions; Spinrad is enthusiastic about the university’s long-term goals, and calls Ray’s leadership “dynamic.”

“I think it’s a great plan,” he said. “What we’re doing in research needs to align with (the 2025 plan’s) goals.”

A large chunk of OSU’s research dollars go to the hard sciences; the College of Agricultural Science and its research stations alone received nearly $44 million in funding. However, Spinrad believes anyone who uses the scientific method — a system based on hypotheses, testing and conclusions — is a researcher.

“Not all researchers are scientists,” Spinrad said, saying that the humanities have an important place in OSU’s future.

Spinrad began his own career in research at OSU, where he received both his master’s and doctoral degrees in oceanography.

Spinrad’s best memory of Corvallis from his student days?

“Getting married,” he said. He met his future wife while he was a graduate student. Their wedding was at Peavy Arboretum.

The couple planned to return to Corvallis after Spinrad retired, and he said the chance to work as an administrator at his alma mater’s research office was too good to pass up.

“I feel like a kid in a candy store,” Spinrad said.

Contact reporter Gail Cole at 541-758-9518 or at

Copyright 2015 Corvallis Gazette Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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