Pat Reser, one of Oregon State University’s leading donors, will head the university’s new institutional governing board.
Reser, widow of Al Reser and chairwoman of Reser’s Fine Foods, was elected by her fellow board members during their first meeting, held Thursday on the Corvallis campus.
Darry Callahan, former president of Chevron Chemical Co. and a past chair of the OSU Foundation Board of Trustees, was voted vice chair.
Both positions are considered provisional until the board officially assumes its duties on July 1.
Under new authority granted by the Legislature last year, Oregon’s three largest public universities — OSU, Portland State and the University of Oregon — chose to break away from the Oregon University System and form their own institutional governing boards.
The boards will have authority over university business policies, set tuition and fees, oversee academic programs, submit budgets to the Legislature and, in consultation with the governor, hire and fire university presidents.
OSU’s board initially had 14 voting members, with President Ed Ray serving as a nonvoting 15th member.
But John Turner, former president of Blue Mountain Community College, announced his resignation last month after deciding to run for the Legislature. Gov. John Kitzhaber is expected to announce his nomination to fill Turner’s seat in the near future.
In other action Thursday, the board adopted bylaws and formed committees. Paul Kelly was picked to chair the Academic Strategies Committee. Kirk Schueler will head the Finance and Administration Committee, and Reser will lead the Executive and Audit Committee.
Meg Reeves, OSU’s chief legal counsel, was named secretary.
Thursday’s meeting at the CH2M Hill Alumni Center was part of a two-day series of get-acquainted sessions and workshops aimed at getting the board up and running.
Buzz Shaw, a former chancellor and president of Syracuse University and now a consultant with the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, advised the new trustees to keep their eyes on the big picture.
“What is the mission? How’s it doing? How are you going to measure how it’s doing? And as you measure it, how are you going to make changes?”
The board’s role, Shaw said during Thursday’s morning session, is not to micromanage the institution. Rather, it is to provide direction and require accountability.
“If you’re unhappy with the direction,” he said, “it’s your job to deal with it.”
He also warned the trustees that they would be operating in the public eye and would need to measure their words and actions accordingly.
“Transparency is really going to be very important,” he said.
Ray echoed that point, saying that “everything we do at the university is subject to scrutiny.”
But he also urged his new board members not to pull their punches when they have criticisms of the university’s direction or his job performance.
“Guarded conversations in the public arena invite all the worst possible interpretations,” Ray said.
“We really ought to try to have as candid and direct conversations as possible because this affects what happens at this institution.”
The rest of the day’s agenda included sessions on a variety of topics, from the legal framework of institutional governing boards in Oregon to an outline of board responsibilities and tips for creating a productive and nurturing culture.
A second day of meetings is scheduled for today.
OSU will be picking up the tab for hosting and staffing the board meetings, which are expected to be held quarterly. University spokesman Steve Clark estimated the cost of this week’s gathering, including meals, lodging and transportation, at $10,000.