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Donations boost OSU's engineering programs

Peter and Rosalie Johnson have committed $7 million to create a new education and research facility for the College of Engineering at Oregon State University.

OSU will use an earlier $10 million gift from an anonymous donor, $3 million in additional private funds and possible matching state funds to construct the planned $40 million building for engineering faculty, lab space for interdisciplinary research, and a center focused on improved recruitment and retention of engineering students.

The facility could be in the design phase as early as this spring, if lawmakers approve state bonds for the project.

OSU President Edward Ray told about 500 people during his State of the University speech in downtown Portland Thursday afternoon that the donations would help propel the school into the future. A Campaign for OSU has raised some $888 million toward a goal of $1 billion and was bolstered by Ray’s announcement of the new gifts.

“This new building will help to revolutionize how Oregon State approaches collaborative projects involving scientists and students in engineering and other colleges in essential areas of study and discovery,” Ray said.

Peter Johnson, a 1955 engineering alumnus, created Tekmax Inc. in Tangent, which revolutionized battery manufacturing equipment.

“Oregon State was instrumental in setting me on the right path,” Johnson said. “Oregon has a pressing need for innovation, and facilities like this new building can support collaborative research and hands-on learning for generations of OSU faculty and students.”

During the past three years, enrollment in the OSU College of Engineering has increased nearly 34 percent, and contract and grant awards for its faculty have increased nearly 30 percent. Home primarily to the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering, the new facility will house groups of students and faculty working to address global problems that affect human health, energy and the environment. It will contribute significantly to economic growth in Oregon and the region, said Sandra Woods, dean of the college.

“Our college has gained tremendous momentum over the last decade,” Woods said. “We are building critical mass in terms of faculty, students and external funding to the point where truly groundbreaking multi-disciplinary work becomes possible, and one step forward leads rapidly to the next. The high-quality space provided by a new facility will spark the growth that brings the college to the next level.”