President for the people

OSU President Emeritus Ed Ray sitting on his porch with his dog Gus in 2016.

Sierra Koefoed Harlan News Contributor

From mischievous student to OSU President, a father and dog lover

The first thing you notice when he walks in the room is the large, dazzling, gold ring proudly displayed on his hand. The words “National Champions” surround a bejeweled number one. While this ring is a token from the Oregon State University baseball team, this man is no baseball player. He is Oregon State University President, Ed Ray.

“This is from the 2006 NCAA Baseball championship team here at Oregon State,” Said Ray. “We won the national title in baseball in 2006 and 2007 and so it’s kind of like carrying the flag. I’ll go places and people will say, ‘what’s that ring?’, and then I’ll get to talk about the Beavers.”

Since Ray began his career at OSU in 2003, he has launched the Marine Studies Initiative, helped OSU gain recognition as a public research university and increased enrollment from 18,979 students in the fall of 2003, to 30,354 in the of fall 2016. In addition to the improvements that he has made at OSU, he has also personally impacted students.

“I absolutely love President Ray,” said Rachel Grisham, ASOSU president. “He has a great sense of humor and is always willing to talk with students. I am so incredibly thankful to be able to work so closely with such a nice, empathetic, and passionate university president.”

Ray’s sense of humor comes out in the stories that he shares and is punctuated by his warm, hearty laugh. He has had a clever sense of humor since his childhood.

“I wasn’t the class clown, I was more impish than prankster,” Ray said. “I liked to joke and I like to have a good time, and that kind of thing. And I always loved school, so I always chatted and talked a lot.”

Ray shared a story about his middle school science teacher, Mr. Mermalstein, whom Ray referred to as a “pickle puss.” In class, Ray made a cigar box banjo to learn about harmonics. His teacher asked if anyone would like to show the class their projects, and Ray volunteered.

“I said ‘well we want to sing a song that we wrote, and we’ll play our cigar box guitars,’ and I had written this song,” Ray said. “And this is the song, I swear to God.”

Ray sang, “They sing and remember old nelly the cow, she gave ten quarts a day and they never found how, now that she’s gone and no longer can give, how then will the

old farmer live.”

“You never saw such an angry, unhappy teacher in your life,” added Ray. “I don’t remember, but I’m pretty sure we didn’t get extra credit. That was me at my most mischievous.”

Being a father has been an important part of Ray’s life. His eyes light up when he shares anecdotes about his two daughters, Stephanie and Katie, and his son, Mike. When his children were little, Ray worked a lot, but he tried to find ways to spend time with them. One activity that he enjoyed participating in with his children was the YMCA Indian Guide and Princess Program. This gave him the opportunity to spend time with his children through activities, such as camping. Ray’s children are now grown, and he has three grandchildren.

Ray moved to Oregon in 2003 with his wife Beth, who passed away in 2014. They immediately liked Corvallis.

“My wife said ‘we found it’ and I said, ‘well what is it?”’ Ray said. “‘Where we should be’ she replied.”

Ray has made a lasting impression on the people that he works with. Steve Clark, OSU vice president for university relations and marketing, works with him seven days a week, and they often speak over holidays.

“President Ray is a remarkable person who has a very true and accurate compass,” Clark said. “He is a true north star for Oregon State University and the communities we serve.”

Grisham is also in constant contact with Ray, and she has gotten to know him through their time together.

“He loves to garden and can actually grow some rather large zucchini,” Grisham said. “Also, his dog is super cute.”

Ray owns a Standard Poodle named Gus who is also a devoted Beavers fan. Gus is about 12 and a half years old.

“He’s getting long in the tooth, that’s kind of sad because he’s a sweetheart,” Ray said.

Ray proudly showed a picture of Gus from a few years ago during Homecoming Week. Gus is repping a tee-shirt that the music department gave him and an orange scarf.

“He’s a great dog,” Ray said. “He likes everybody and lives for the ball, although getting him to chase it now is more of a challenge.”

Ray is dedicated to his job and spends most of his time working on OSU affairs.

“He lives, works and breathes Oregon State University every day, and almost every moment every day,” Clark said.

Ray made it evident that he is personally committed to OSU, and that he cares about the success of the students.

“I tell people that our graduates are the most important contribution we make to the future,” Ray said. “So when I see our students graduating, I don’t know that there is

a better feeling.”

In Ray’s office, located on the sixth floor of the Kerr Administration Building, there is a large, built in bookcase filled with old books, many of which are from his time studying economics at Stanford University. A pair of gargoyles reside on the bookshelf, which Ray has always been fond of. There are also knick-knacks from his world travels as well as gifts from friends.

Ray is not afraid to try new things. He began running marathons at age 50 and has run a total of 13, but no longer has a desire to run long distance.

“I don’t run, I thump,” Ray joked.

Ray also rides horses on occasion, and has ridden in the Pendleton parade for the

past 14 years.

“People there are very proud, obviously, and they always ask ‘what’s your favorite thing about the Pendleton Round-Up?”’ Ray said. “Which you can understand. I mean, they’re very proud of the situation. And I tell them that my favorite thing about the Pendleton Round-Up is when I get off my horse at a time and place of my own choosing and under my own powers. That is my absolute favorite moment of the Pendleton Round-Up because I know I may actually live another year.”

Ray has a contract with OSU for another three and a half years. Clark pointed out how lucky the OSU community is to have Ray as president.

“He cares about people who are in need or suffering from illness, or who have been harmed by society or an individual,” Clark said. “He cares about others and I have personally seen him reach out to others in need, day or night.”

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