Leonard William Rice (1962-1977)


Leonard William Rice was born in Garland, Utah on December 9, 1913. He attended Brigham Young University and the University of Washington. Between earning his Master's degree and his Doctorate, Rice served in WWII. He was assigned as a cryptographer to General Douglas MacArthur's headquarters in the South Pacific during the war. As a cryptographer, Rice was responsible for encoding and decoding the final surrender terms between Japan and the United States that ended hostilities in the Pacific.

Rice has been, thus far, the longest serving president with a 15 year tenure. He oversaw construction of many new campus buildings as well as a large increase in enrollment. Within months of Rice's arrival, the Columbus Day Storm destroyed the South Wing of Campbell Hall and Bell Tower, eliminating almost half of the school's classroom space as well as the only auditorium on campus. The construction of the Humanities and Social Science building, 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 (1971) and Valsetz Dining Hall (1971), a remodel of the Student Center (now known as the Werner University Center) (1972), and the construction of a new auditorium facility (1976), named Rice Auditorium in his honor are highlight the growth of the campus during his fifteen-year presidency.

Rice supported an expansion of the institution’s reputation from being a teaching college to being a liberal arts college, without losing the charm or history of the former. He stated that “This institution is in varying degrees a college of education, a state college, a community college, and a liberal arts college. To ignore any one of these roles in an era when the thrust in higher education seems surely to be increasingly upon more post-high-school educational opportunities for more people and more kinds of people appears to me to weaken the promise of increased importance which this institution might enjoy in the future.”

Rice was one of many college presidents who sent a telegram to the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, in 1970, calling for channels of communication to be opened between campuses and the federal government. This was motivated by the death of four students at Kent State University by National Guardsmen during a student-led protest against the Vietnam War. During a student protest at OCE, which was a reaction to the Kent State tragedy, Dr. Rice met with the approximately 200 protesters on campus and spoke with them for over an hour, often agreeing with their sentiments. Leonard William Rice died in Salem, Oregon in August of 1986.