OSU alumni’s $20 million gift will establish a new ocean innovation and technology center

CORVALLIS, Ore. (KTVZ) – A $20 million gift to the Oregon State University Foundation by alumni Judy and Mike Gaulke will create a new center to lead and support innovative research and development of technology that helps society better understand, protect and utilize the ocean and its environment.

The Gaulke Center for Marine Innovation and Technology will emphasize interdisciplinary research such as collaboration between oceanography and artificial intelligence, two areas of academic strength at Oregon State.

“We are grateful to the Gaulkes for their support as we bravely tackle some of today’s greatest challenges,” said Oregon State University President Jayathi Murthy. “What is so special about this gift is that it leverages OSU’s global excellence in oceanography with our extraordinary strength and depth in engineering. The Gaulke Center will inspire and enable greater collaboration and technological innovation in marine research.”

The Gaulkes’ gift provides funds to establish the Michael and Judith Gaulke Chair in Ocean Innovation. The individual holding this chair will serve as executive director of the center and hold a joint faculty appointment in the OSU colleges of Engineering and Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

The gift also includes start-up funds for the new center, support for faculty and graduate students, and funds for early-stage research or projects that have significant potential impact but may be considered too risky to receive other forms of funding. A grant will provide long-term support.

The Gaulke Center will also benefit from the resources of the Jen-Hsun and Lori Huang Collaborative Innovation Complex, a research and education facility that will house one of the nation’s most powerful supercomputers and feature team-based approaches to solving global challenges in areas such as eg. such as oceanography, climate science sustainability and water resources.

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For example, researchers at Oregon State are currently working on projects to develop an unmanned robotic system that can independently explore under ice shelves using artificial intelligence and robotic boats that help measure glacier ice melt.

“Our future is in the ocean, and it’s very clear that we need to change how we look after it,” said Mike Gaulke. “Marine science can help, and it’s very exciting to see how advanced technologies can provide tools and approaches to solve problems.”

The Gaulkes, who both grew up in Hood River, Ore., and now live in the San Francisco Bay Area, are Oregon State alumni who have a long history with the university. In 2012, they established the first endowed chair in the College of Engineering’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

They were inspired to create their latest gift because of their lifelong love of the sea.

“We’ve had the opportunity to sail, dive and swim in the world’s oceans, and we’ve seen dramatic changes in our own lifetimes — from the disappearance of sharks to coral bleaching,” said Mike Gaulke. “From the massive worldwide problem of marine litter to the opportunity to harness sustainable energy, there are so many challenges to address. We believe OSU is the ideal place to invest in creating solutions, and we hope others will join us.”

Mike Gaulke graduated from OSU’s College of Engineering in 1968 and spent more than 20 years as an executive in Silicon Valley, including 13 years as CEO of Exponent Inc., an engineering and consulting firm. He was inducted into the OSU Engineering Hall of Fame in 2008.

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Judy Gaulke, then Judy Mellenthin, graduated in home economics in 1965. After graduating, she spent four years as an international flight attendant for Pan American, then became cookbook editor for Sunset Magazine and had her own food styling business before becoming a full-time artist.

“The Gaulke Center is a perfect example of what is possible when we combine our donors’ deepest passions with the University’s greatest strengths,” said Shawn L. Scoville, president and CEO of the OSU Foundation. “The Gaulkes are exemplary philanthropists, and we are grateful for their deep commitment to caring for the world’s oceans, as well as their deep love for Oregon State University.”

A search committee is being formed to hire the Gaulke Centre’s executive director with the goal of having the position filled by the summer of 2024.

Gaulkes’ gift is part of Believe It: The Campaign for Oregon State University. Publicly launched in October 2022 and led by the OSU Foundation, this $1.75 billion fundraising and engagement campaign seeks to inspire gifts that support educational access and student success, research and innovation that address challenges of global importance, and programs that empowering communities across Oregon and beyond.