On November 2, 1995 the Oregon State Board of Higher Education named Paul G. Risser to succeed John Byrne as the thirteenth president of Oregon State University; he began his presidency in January 1996. An internationally renowned biologist whose research interests include the structure and function of grassland and forest ecosystems, environmental planning and management, landscape ecology, and global change, Risser expanded OSU's Corvallis campus and facilitated the establishment of both the OSU-Cascades Campus in Bend and the extended campus online.
Born on September 14, 1939 in Blackwell, Oklahoma, Paul G. Risser earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Grinnell College in Iowa (1961) and both a master's degree in botany (1965) and a Ph.D. in botany and soils (1967) from the University of Wisconsin. He was a faculty member at the University of Oklahoma from 1967 to 1981 and served in several administrative positions at the University of Illinois from 1981 to 1986, including Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. In addition, Risser was both the president of and a professor of botany at Miami University in Ohio from 1993 to 1996, prior to coming to OSU.
As president, Risser emphasized the need for increased marketing and student recruitment and retention. He also oversaw the building of the Valley Football Center, Goss Stadium, the OSU softball complex, and Truax indoor practice facility. Risser resigned from the presidency upon his appointment as chancellor of the Oklahoma University System in November 2002. He passed away on July 10, 2014.