The Oregon State University Board of Trustees unanimously voted Friday to elect Dr. Rebecca Johnson as interim president following the resignation of former President F. King Alexander in late March.
Johnson, who is currently serving as the OSU-Cascades vice president, will be starting the interim president position on May 1, and will be resigning from her position as vice president. OSU Provost and Vice President Ed Feser will continue as acting president until that time.
The board of trustees meeting began with an introduction from Johnson who has served the OSU community for over 30 years and spoke about the strengths of OSU and the issues she will be looking to address.
“This past year has brought us challenges that we’ve never faced before, our faculty had to pivot to remote instruction with about a week’s notice [and] much of our research was shut down last spring,” Johnson said. “Our students struggled with remote learning and with mental health issues from isolation, everyone deserves tremendous credit for persisting through these challenges and continuing to make progress on our core missions.”
During the meeting, community members, faculty, business leaders and friends of Johnson spoke to her strengths and how she is a good fit for OSU.
Dean of the College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences Roberta Marinelli was one of the many who endorsed Johnson.
“I want to lend my support to [Johnson] because she is an able leader that is firmly connected to both campuses through her long presence in both Corvallis and in Bend,” Marinelli said. “She is clearly adept in her interactions with external stakeholders at the local, state and federal level.”
Rod Ray, the former chief executive officer of Bend Research, Inc. and Rita Hansen, the CEO of Onboard Dynamics Inc. in Bend endorsed Johnson as well and talked about her strengths as a leader and her passion for the Beavers.
Lamar Hurd, the television analyst for the Portland Trail Blazers brought up how Johnson said in the previous community meeting that work to uplift marginalized groups is work that has to be happening all the time.
“I know a lot of people say that but I felt that in the literal sense,” Hurd said. “Everyday of life there are groups who need the leaders to be working and thinking about [marginalized people] all the time.”
Hurd also endorsed Johnson, and thinks this is the “first step in the right direction.”
Trustee and Chair of Finance and Administration Patty Bedient was in charge of gathering community input about who should fill the position for interim president and also worked to perform a background check on Johnson through a third party.
Community desire for stronger background checks came after the departure of Alexander. Alexander resigned in late March following the mishandling of Louisiana State University Title IX allegations that occurred during his time as LSU’s president.
“I want to thank the OSU community and everyone else who participated in the search process, I know it was time consuming,” Johnson said. “I will be using the input gathered [from the community] as I embark on the new job.”