The Oregon State University Retirement Association (OSURA) promotes engagement among OSU retirees and between retirees and the University by providing information, programs, scholarship and volunteer service opportunities that contribute to a rewarding retirement and that support the University's mission.
During the summer of 2001, a group of retired and actively employed OSU faculty and staff met to discuss the need for an OSU retirement association. Unlike most comparable institutions, OSU did not have an organization for retired faculty and staff. In September of that year, a steering committee was formed, including OSU retirees Kathy Meddaugh, George Keller (former Vice-President for Research), and Bill Wilkins (former Dean of Liberal Arts), plus other retired and current administrators, faculty and staff. Particularly helpful to the committee was the active participation of Les Risser, wife of former OSU President Paul Risser. The Oregon State University Retirement Association (OSURA) received official recognition in December 2001 in a letter from President Risser granting OSURA affiliate status with the OSU Foundation, as required by OUS 580-046-00205.
OSURA’s stated mission is achieved through programs that bring retirees back to the campus. The Association also works with campus units to provide opportunities for retirees to volunteer their lifetime of experience to current students and faculty. An early activity of the steering committee was working with OSU Continuing Education to develop a plan for a “Learning in Retirement” program for retirees. This subsequently was spun off as an independent program to serve a wider community audience that would include other retirees as well as OSURA members. The Academy for Lifelong Learning (ALL), as this program came to be called, is a peer-led, fee-based cooperative endeavor which provides a wide variety of interesting courses.
As of December 2015, OSURA has over 250 active members. Membership is open both to retired and actively employed faculty and staff, spouses, surviving spouses and domestic partners. On application and approval by the OSURA Board, retirees from other colleges and universities also are eligible for membership. Annual dues are $20 per retiree or $30 per household.
Support from OSU’s administration has been, and remains, vital to the successful development of the organization. Following President Risser’s departure from OSU, interim President Tim White, speaking to the OSURA 2002 Annual Meeting, indicated that support of the organization would continue. Shortly after taking office in July 2003, new OSU President Ed Ray indicated his support for OSURA. In the Fall of that year, the University provided a two-year grant to assist with newsletter production and mailing and with website development and maintenance. In early 2005, the OSURA Board applied for permanent status as a recognized university organization; Provost Sabah Randhawa granted that request in May, thus “institutionalizing” OSURA with a regular budget and staff based in the office of University Advancement.
In 2002 and 2003, OSURA participated in a meeting with representatives from university retirement groups in the Northwest region, held in conjunction with UWRA’s Annual Festival. In addition to OSU and the University of Washington, there were representatives from Portland State University, the Universities of Western, Central and Eastern Washington, University of Idaho, University of British Columbia, University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University. While it was deemed unnecessary to formalize another layer of association, the group voted to continue meeting annually to provide mutual support and to exchange ideas on how best to serve members.
Since its founding, OSURA has offered members the opportunity to volunteer at annual University events such as New Student Week, Career Fairs, and the Flu Clinic. For example, in a two week period in November 2004, 76 people filled 81 slots to hand out over 19,000 new student ID cards.
Members have enjoyed a variety of on-campus events, including tours of several University facilities, including the School of Veterinary Medicine, the College of Education, the Clark Meat Center, the Bone Research Laboratory, and the Linus Pauling Institute. They also have attended plays produced by OSU Theater, with a special emphasis in recent years on the “Bard in the Quad” summer event. Members also have enjoyed dinners with guest speakers, followed by attendance at Women’s Basketball and Gymnastics competitions.
A number of off-campus events also have been offered to members. A sampling of those events includes a tour of the Oregon Coast Aquarium (2011), lunch and tour of the King Estates Winery (2011), visit to the Evergreen Air and Space Museum (2012), tour of the Wildlife Safari in Winston (2014) and the Albany Carousel (2015).
OSURA also sponsors what has become an annual “Start-up” event at the beginning of each school year. In 2015, this dinner event was held at the Corvallis Country Club and featured a talk by Professor Steve Zielke, Director of Choral Studies at OSU, with performances by some of his students.
Members receive two issues each year of the OSURA News and Views newsletter, an annual Retiree Directory, and the OSU research magazine Terra. They also have access to the OSURA website.
These tangible examples of mutual benefits for retirees and the University illustrate OSURA’s vital role at OSU. But the intangibles that are nurtured through active involvement and support of a university, to which members have dedicated much of their working lives, cannot be measured adequately. The Oregon State Retirement Association hopes to fulfill this role for all current and future retirees.