History of the College of Business

Business education has been an integral part of the educational landscape in Corvallis since the mid-19th century. The institution that would eventually become Oregon State University was incorporated in 1858 and named Corvallis College. It had yet to offer collegiate-level classes, but business training that included political economy, political science, and accounting was fundamental to its early curriculum.

The school began offering a college-level curriculum in 1865, and three years later the institution was officially sanctioned as the Agricultural College of the State of Oregon. The school was later renamed Oregon Agricultural College (OAC).

A two-year collegiate course in commerce was organized in 1898 and grew into a full four-year curriculum in 1900. By 1904, the college had granted its first commerce degrees. However, today’s College of Business marks its official beginnings when OAC solidified its commitment to business education in 1908 by establishing the School of Commerce.

1908: John Andrew Bexell becomes the first dean of the School of Commerce, one of the four major schools of OAC, and one of the first twelve schools of business in the nation. The school grows to three faculty members and 105 students.

1913 & 1914: To address course duplication between OAC and the University of Oregon (U of O), the Oregon State Board of Higher Education allocates “higher commerce” to the U of O. However, the board does not define the term, and OAC takes the position that it refers to graduate business instruction. The U of O contends that the term includes all upper division business courses.

1917: The School of Commerce experiences the largest number of students since its establishment. Classes in typewriting and stenography are most popular.

1922: Dean Bexell plans Commerce Hall. The building is erected at a cost of $180,000 and occupied for the first time during the 1922-23 school year. Stephen Miller, dean of the School of Business Administration at the University of Washington, comments that the new building is “undoubtedly the finest home for a School of Commerce or School of Business Administration that is to be found anywhere in the United States.”

1922: The School of Commerce participates in the Educational Conference, the first conference of its kind on the West Coast. Hosted by OAC, the U of O, the University of Washington, and Washington State College, the event discusses all matters related to a school of commerce.

1925: The Oregon State Board of Higher Education thoroughly examines the amount of program duplication taught by the School of Commerce and the School of Business Administration at the U of O. They conclude that there was very little duplication, possibly because both programs have large enrollments.
1930: The School of Commerce is recognized by several published works as one of the “most complete and adequate of the typical schools of commerce in the land-grant institutions.”

1931: Dean Bexell retires, at which time the school has more than 40 faculty members and 1,000 enrolled students.

1932: Amidst the Great Depression, the School of Commerce merges with the School of Business Administration at the U of O.

1933: Despite the merger with the School of Business Administration at the U of O, the Oregon State Board of Higher Education authorizes OAC to provide a four-year curriculum in secretarial science. The decision was based on the large number of students who wanted to continue their studies.

1937: Oregon Agricultural College is renamed Oregon State College.

1941: Oregon State College requests that the scope of the commerce department be restored to pre-1932 levels. The college argues that major studies in commerce are a recognized function of a land-grant college.

1942-43: The Oregon State Board of Higher Education restores a degree curriculum in business and industry to prepare students for war and post-war services. President A. L. Strand chooses Clifford Maser to head the newly formed Division of Business and Industry. At age 32, Maser becomes the youngest dean of a school of business in America. He begins the division with two full-time and one part-time faculty and 27 students, most of whom are women.

1947-48: The Division of Business and Industry is renamed the School of Business and Technology.

1950: The School of Business and Technology is the largest school on the Oregon State College campus, with a graduating class of 319 students.

1951: Dean Maser takes a yearlong sabbatical leave to become an administrator of a new refuge resettlement project in western Germany and Austria. He becomes a renowned expert on the refugee situation in Europe and the threat of communism in the world.

1957: Due to unprecedented enrollment levels, a faculty curriculum committee is steadily at work conducting a comprehensive review of the curriculum in business administration and technology.

1960: The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business accredits the School of Business and Technology, which at the time is a designation held by only 95 schools of business in the country.

1961: Oregon State College is renamed Oregon State University.

1963: The School of Business and Technology publishes Northwest Business Management, a business magazine released four times a year, with a $4 annual subscription fee.

1965: Oregon State University is granted authority to offer the master of business administration degree.

1966: Dean Maser retires. The Commerce building is renamed to Bexell Hall.

1967: The School of Business and Technology offers students a master’s degree in management science.

1970s: The increasing student-to-teacher ratio leads to what some people term the “None-of-Your-Business” School of Business. As viewed from the rest of the campus, the School of Business becomes a place devoted to teaching its own students first.

1974: The undergraduate office plans to offer studies in hotel, motel, resort, and restaurant management. The office also establishes a new degree program in residential institution management.

1980s: High inflation and interest rates and a collapsed economy cause OSU to trim its budget. As a result, more students enroll in business as a practical measure to battle an uncertain economy. Increasing enrollments cause the student-to-faculty ratio to reach a peak of 55.

1981: A computer lab is established in the school, using largely private funds.

1983: The college changes its name to the College of Business.

1985: The Austin Family Business Program is created. As one of the first programs of its kind in the nation, AFBP offers seminars and workshops throughout the Northwest to address the unique challenges facing family businesses.

1986: An alumni group called the Young Directors Circle is established to maintain close ties with alumni, assist undergraduates in transitioning from an academic to a professional environment, and facilitate idea exchanges.

1987: The Applied Technology Group (now called Business Solutions Group) is created. Students earn wages for testing new products for computer companies.

1988: The college establishes the Excellence in Family Business Awards to honor the accomplishments and contributions of family businesses and to recognize their innovation, entrepreneurship, commitment, and community involvement.

1990s: Despite budget shortfalls caused by Measure 5, the College of Business establishes a business minor to help graduates better compete in private business.

1991: Donald F. Parker becomes dean, and the college begins a significant transformation toward the use of technology for teaching and student use.

1997: First class enrolls in the Professional Management Institute, a program of study designed for mid- and upper-level managers and business owners in the area.

1997: Bernie Newcomb (’65) gives the college the third largest gift it has ever received—$6.1 million.

1997: The college launches the Business-ONE cooperative distance learning program, which provides an opportunity for students to complete an accredited business degree at a local community college.

2002-2003: Business & Information Technology Extension pilots business and technology education in two Oregon counties. It is the first pilot of its kind in the nation.

2003: Ilene Kleinsorge becomes dean.

2003-2004: The Austin Entrepreneurship Program at Weatherford Residential College is created and becomes one of the nation’s first living-learning environments devoted exclusively to entrepreneurship.

2005: The Close to the Customer Project launches, giving students the opportunity to develop professional skills, take on project management roles, and become workforce-ready prior to graduation.

2006: The university formally approves the college’s transformation into a professional school. Students are required to undergo a competitive application process before becoming admitted and beginning the professional program in their junior year.

2007: The State Board of Higher Education approves the College of Business’ request for a new bachelor of science in accountancy degree.

2008: The College of Business celebrates its centennial.