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.