November 13, 2002


New Chancellor Comes Home

An Oklahoma native with an extensive background in administration and research will be the new chancellor for Oklahoma’s public higher education system beginning January 6.

Dr. Paul Risser, president of Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore., accepted the chancellor’s post during a special meeting of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Nov. 11. He will succeed Hans Brisch, who will retire on Jan 5.

“It gives me a great deal of pride to be home and lead this system,” said Risser, who grew up in Blackwell, Okla. and taught at the University of Oklahoma from 1967-81. “Oklahoma’s system of higher education doesn’t need to be changed but supported. I think the State Regents are on the right track, but it is clear that there are some challenges ahead.”

As president of Oregon State, Risser has led the school to record enrollments and impressive growth over the past seven years. He previously was president of Miami University in Ohio and also has held the positions of vice president for research and provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of New Mexico, and chief of the Illinois Natural History Survey.

Risser joined the OU faculty as assistant professor of botany, and 10 years later was promoted to full professor and chair of OU's Department of Botany and Microbiology.

Among his distinguished national academic recognitions are the appointments as fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1985 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1994.

According to State Regents Chairman Carl Renfro, the clear message from Oklahomans to the State Regents was to get the very best person for the job.

“In Dr. Risser, we found someone who met all of the qualifications and who was born in Oklahoma,” Renfro said. “He knows Oklahoma very well, has knowledge of the state campuses and has taught in Oklahoma for 14 years. In addition, we got nothing but glowing remarks about him from Oregon’s business community.”

Joe Mayer, who chaired the search committee, said he was glad the State Regents were "able to convince one of the state's native sons to return to Oklahoma."

"It is clear to us that he will work closely with presidents, state leaders, the business community, the public, and especially students and faculty, to provide competitive higher education opportunities for our citizens,” Mayer said.

Risser holds a bachelor of science degree from Grinnell College, Iowa, a master's degree in botany and a doctor of philosophy in botany and soils from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

His wife, Les, holds a bachelor's degree from Miami University and is a former English teacher.

Paul Risser has four adult sons, one of whom resides in Norman, and Les Risser has two adult daughters. His mother currently lives in Tulsa.

Story contact: Harve Allen,