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John Vincent Byrne

John Vincent Byrne assumed the presidency in November 1984 and served as OSU's twelfth president for eleven years until the end of 1995.  Byrne began teaching at Oregon State University in 1960, and his career at the university spanned thirty-five years.  He was an early leader of the OSU Sea Grant program and was the director of the Marine Science Center.

Born on May 9, 1928 in Hempstead, New York, John V. Byrne earned a B.S. in marine geology from Hamilton College in 1951, an M.S. in geology from Columbia University in 1953, and a Ph.D. in marine geology from the University of Southern California in 1957.

Byrne's initial tenure at OSU lasted from 1960 to 1981, during which time he served as the first Dean of Oceanography as well as Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies. In 1981 Byrne left Corvallis to become the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a position he held until he was appointed president of OSU in 1984.

During his eleven-year presidency, OSU was negatively impacted by significant reductions in state funding, forcing the merger of the College of Education with the College of Home Economics, along with the elimination of the Departments of Journalism, Religious Studies, and General Science. 

Byrne helped boost private donations to the university and was instrumental in raising $40 million for the expansion of the library.  Byrne also aided in the expansion, renovation, acquisition or purchase of around forty buildings and other campus facilities.  He oversaw the establishment of thirty-one new degrees or certificates and the creation of the University Honors College and the Department of Ethnic Studies.  In 1988 he oversaw the design of a new baccalaureate core program, which soon became a national model.

Byrne created the Office of the Provost and five vice president positions within the Office of the President; oversaw the development of the President's Commission on the Status of Women; and implemented the use of the Oregon State Police for campus law enforcement.  Byrne also succeeded in acquiring the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers and other materials that were later housed in the OSU Libraries Special Collections.

In May 1995 Byrne announced his retirement effective either late 1995 or early 1996.  He became the director of the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities in 1996.  He continued to reside in Corvallis with his wife, Shirley, until passing away on January 11, 2024 at the age of 95.

Related Resources: President's Office Records, Memorabilia Collection, Oral History Interviews, Memorial Celebration

Black and white photographic portrait of John Vincent Byrne.

John Vincent Byrne, 1965.

Black and white photograph of John Vincent Byrne playing the saxophone.

John Vincent Byrne playing saxophone with the basketball band, 1993.