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Leonard William Rice

1962 - 1977

Dr. Leonard W. Rice was born in 1914 in the small Utah town of Garland, and was raised in the even smaller town of Clifton, Idaho. Dr. Rice’s father worked in the coal mines of northeastern Utah and southwestern Wyoming before buying a farm in rural southeastern Idaho. By the age of ten, Dr. Rice was working as a farm laborer, but he understood his mind was his best chance to escape the harsh realities of life on the farm or in the mines.

Dr. Rice graduated high school as class valedictorian, and entered Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah. He graduated as his class valedictorian in 1941 with a Bachelors degree in English and a minor in Speech. Dr. Rice was accepted into the graduate program at the University of Washington (UW), and completed the requirements for a Masters degree before serving in World War Two. Dr. Rice was assigned as a cryptographer to General Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters in the South Pacific during the war. As a cryptographer, Dr. Rice was responsible for encoding and decoding the final surrender terms between Japan and the United States that ended hostilities in the Pacific.

After the war, Dr. Rice and his wife Ruth, who he met as a student at BYU, returned to Washington and he completed a doctorate at UW in 1950. Dr. Rice accepted an offer to teach at BYU after graduation, and soon was the chair of the English department and, in 1957, the dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at BYU. Dr. Rice left BYU in 1960 to teach at Rhode Island College before accepting the position of president of the Oregon College of Education in 1962.

Dr. Rice served as OCE President from 1962 until his retirement in 1977, making him the longest-serving president in the history of the school. Dr. Rice oversaw construction of many new campus buildings and a large increase in enrollment. Within a month of Rice’s arrival, the Columbus Day Storm destroyed the South Wing of Campbell Hall. The damage to Campbell Hall eliminated almost half of the school’s classroom space and the only auditorium on campus. The dedication of Humanities and Social Science, replacing the South Wing of Campbell Hall, was the first of many physical improvements to campus under Rice’s leadership. The Health Center (1963), Education Building, (1966), Natural Sciences Building (1970), New Physical Education and Valsetz Dining Hall (1971), a remodel of the Student Center, now known as the Werner University Center, in 1972, and the construction of a new auditorium facility in 1976, named in honor of Dr. Rice, highlight the growth of the campus during his presidency.

Dr. Rice retired from OCE in 1977, declining a distinguished professorship of humanities at the school, and relocating to Salem, Oregon. Dr. Leonard W. Rice, the thirteenth president of the campus in Monmouth, passed away in 1986 following a battle with brain cancer.


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