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OHSU Commemorative Life Sciences Building Groundbreaking

OHSU Commemorative Life Sciences Building Groundbreaking

October 13, 2011

Thank you for that kind introduction, Chancellor Pernsteiner.

It’s always a pleasure to be back on the campus of my alma mater because I know that I won’t be taking exams, attending anatomy lab, or going to the post-lunch pathology class, with the slide show in the dark where I and countless others perfected the art of sleeping with our eyes open.

And while I know that this is not actually a campus yet, it is exciting to be standing on the future campus, at the site of a building that is jointly owned by OHSU, OSU and PSU.

It is a compelling and exciting idea: that the walls of the various institutions are broken down in this new space so that scientists and educators can collaborate on the basis or their shared interests, knowledge, and expertise, and students can benefit from this natural partnership.

We aren’t just breaking ground for a building today; we are breaking ground on some important ideas – and I will touch on four here.

First among those is innovation in our educational and research approach.

This jointly owned and operated space is made possible by the recognition of researchers, educators, and funders that progress in scientific research is ever more dependent on collaboration between fields as seemingly disparate as statistics and microscopy; I think there is a great recognition of that fact here in Oregon as is evidenced by this project. 

The second idea is that in a time of limited resources, partnerships are important to leverage funding and stretch the budget.

This is a $295 million dollar project. Of that $295 million, $50 million, or one-sixth of the budget, is funded through a general obligation bond. In short, for every dollar of state money, we are seeing another five invested either by revenue generated from the institutions and their enterprises or by our philanthropic community.

And that is the third idea I want to highlight: the power of philanthropy to transform a community. Today we honor those philanthropists: The Schnitzer family, which donated this unique and beautiful parcel of land in the heart of Portland on the banks of the Willamette; Bonnie and Eugene Skertes, who are sharing their success by helping to build a new School of Dentistry; Ken and Joan Austin and their company, A-Dec, which will supply that school with the most modern equipment; and the ODS company, which has made a major gift to help build the dental school.

No great community was ever built without the generosity and vision of its most prominent cities. As this building – and this campus – rise from a former scrap yard, remember these donors and the many like them who have helped build our universities.

Fourth, this building is a statement of overwhelming optimism.

One of my fondest sayings is that there is no survival value in pessimism. And if you want to be pessimistic, our national stage gives you plenty of reason.

But here in Oregon, I’d like to think we’ve turned some corner and can be a leading indicator of cooperation, bipartisanship, and collaboration. Our scientists and educators are reaching across the proverbial aisle in unprecedented ways; Oregon’s philanthropists are seconding the notion; and our students and citizens are poised to reap the benefits of this work. This construction project alone will create the equivalent of 250 full times jobs. And that is just the beginning of its economic benefits: down the road, we will realize the advantages of the highly educated workforce it will help us to produce and it will firm up Oregon’s place as a leader in innovation, research, and science.

I can’t wait to come back for the grand opening.

Thank you.


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