The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Les Risser Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Janice Dilg.

March 24, 2014


Leslie McArthur Risser was born in 1949 in Cleveland, Ohio, where she also grew up. A graduate of Ohio's Miami University, Risser initially worked as a high school English and speech teacher before moving on to a long career at her alma mater. Risser served in Miami's School of Business and Office of the President, and also coordinated events for the entire university. She met school president Paul Risser while working at Miami and the couple was married in November 1995.

In January 1996, the Rissers relocated to Corvallis, where Paul had recently been named the thirteenth president in Oregon State University history. As OSU's First Lady (though she preferred the term "Ambassador"), Les Risser engaged actively in numerous campus and community initiatives. She was a visible presence within OSU's fund raising and athletics booster communities, and served on various student affairs committees including a task force on Greek life at OSU. Risser likewise lent her talents and energy to Corvallis' Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation Board and Crossroads International. She also helped to found the OSU Retirement Association, was instrumental in the formation of the Women in Philanthropy statewide organization and chaired the Valley Library Courtyard Quotations Project.

The Rissers left Corvallis in 2002 when Paul accepted a position as chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education. They established their new home in Norman, Oklahoma and remained there as a couple up to Paul's passing in July 2014.