Community mourns death of OSU alumni Ken Austin

Ken Austin, the original Benny Beaver, poses with Benny Beaver on the field in Reser Stadium.

Paul Gasper, News Contributor

Ken Austin, an Oregon State University graduate and co-founder of Austin Dental Equipment Company, died on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, at the age of 87.

From a young age, Austin involved himself in philanthropy and philanthropic organizations. Notably, Austin was involved with the Boy Scouts of America and Delta Tau Delta fraternity, both organizations with a focus on giving back to the community.  

In 1952, Austin became the original Benny Beaver, designing the costume himself out of carpet pieces. He then graduated from OSU in 1954 with a degree in industrial administration. In 2000, Austin was honored with the L.B. Lemon Distinguished Alumni Award, an OSU award honoring graduates with distinguished careers and contributions to science.

Executive Director of the Oregon Historical Society Kerry Tymchuk said that Austin’s passions included Oregon State University, George Fox University, all things Newberg, Volunteers of America, St. Vincent DePaul and Special Olympics Oregon.

“His ability to unite his causes could be seen in his donations to Special Olympics Oregon to bring that organizations statewide summer games to Newberg for six consecutive years,” Tymchuk said.

According to the Austin Family Foundation website, Austin’s view of putting the people became a keystone in his philosophy towards business.

“You build a business to give, not to get,” Austin said in a previous story with George Fox University.

In 1964, Austin took his philosophy and put it to work in his own start-up business, A-Dec. According to the foundation’s website, A-Dec became a company built on a framework of giving back. Austin was known for speaking with dentists across the nation to develop equipment that would better equip them for their work.

Oregon State Vice President of University Relations and Marketing Steven Clark said Austin and his wife, Joan, are the embodiment of helping others advance, and communities advance, in Oregon. Joan passed away earlier in 2013.

“A comfortable dentistry experience wasn’t possible before Ken Austin,” Clark said.

A-Dec soon became the largest privately owned dental manufacturing corporation in the United States.

According to the Oregon State College of Business website, Austin Hall was named after the OSU alumni as a reminder of his generosity towards the university in 2014. Additionally, the Austin Family Business program serves as an influence to aspiring business leaders.