Ken Austin, OSU’s First Benny Beaver, Returns to the Homecoming Parade

An early version of Benny Beaver
An early version of Benny Beaver

When Ken Austin was chosen to be Oregon State College’s first Benny Beaver in the spring of 1952, his budget was less than $100, and he had no costume and no notion of what a student mascot would do at a football game. After all, at the time, only two other Pac-8 schools — Cal and Stanford — had live student mascots, and Austin had never attended their games.

So he took his meager funds to a costumer in Portland, who fashioned him a tail and a head made out of papier-máché, and covered both in brown shag carpeting. He drew inspiration from the clowns at the St. Paul Rodeo near Newberg, Ore., where he grew up. And then he performed.

“I had to create my own ideas,” Austin says, “I was having fun. And I think the crowd was having fun, too.”

During Beaver football games, Austin went wherever the action was. He once climbed onto the goalpost to taunt an approaching Stanford offensive line — until the referee threatened to hit the Beavers with a 15-yard, unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Austin encouraged the Tail Flappers — the men’s cheering section — to be louder, and got the Beavers’ crowds to laugh.

According to Austin, today’s Beaver fans are even more vocal and involved than when he was Benny. “Student participation is great. It’s a much louder and stronger voice than we had,” he says. “Everything was so much more reserved in the 50s.”

Austin’s dedication to OSU hasn’t changed, though. At 77, he is returning this
year to serve as the marshal of OSU’s annual homecoming
parade, which takes place at 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 1. “I’m loyal to
Oregon State,” he says. “I came back because they asked if I would.”

As a student, Austin loved participating in Oregon State’s homecoming traditions, namely the bonfire and the noise parade. His ambition, he says, was to build the loudest float in the parade, and he usually succeeded. In his first year, he borrowed Newberg’s air raid siren and hitched it to a trailer. The following year, he built a cannon, which he and his fraternity brothers from Delta Tau Delta shot off during the parade.

Austin graduated in 1954 with a degree in industrial administration and later founded the prominent dental equipment company A-dec with his wife, Joan. The two were the force behind the Austin Family Business Program as well as the Austin Entrepreneurship Program. A major gift helped renovate Weatherford Hall, where
entrepreneurship students live. Both Ken and Joan were inducted into the College of Business Hall of Fame in 2003.

“I don’t know how to be grateful enough to Oregon State for allowing me to follow my passions,” Austin says. “That’s why we supported the entrepreneurial program at Weatherford Hall. We wanted to see other students follow their passions, too.”

Benny Beaver photo courtesy OSU Archives; P017:0032

When Keith Frost couldn’t find the quality of barbecue sauce he wanted, he decided to try his own hand at it.

Keith Frost started a business searching for better sauce
Keith Frost started a business searching for better sauce

Keith Frost, a consummate griller, was frustrated with run-of-the-mill barbeque sauces. Mere “spiced-up versions of ketchup” he complains. So began his quest for the quintessential sauce.

The backyard hobby soon became an obsession. Using fresh Oregon produce — sweet onions from Hermiston, garlic from Klamath Falls, plums from the Willamette Valley — the Rogue Valley native was soon serving up platters of ribs glazed with his Sweet Honey & Garlic BBQ Sauce, salmon marinated in Plum-Ginger Teriyaki Sauce, and T-bones garnished with Not-So-Hot Garlic Pepper Sauce.

“If you create a sauce with patience,” says the OSU graduate student, “you can add layers and complexity to the foods you eat.”

Once he enrolled in OSU’s Austin Entrepreneurship Program, Frost gained the business skills to parlay his culinary discoveries into a start-up. The Southern Oregon Sauce & Spice Co. got a big boost when it won seed funds from the Portland OSU Business Roundtable in 2005.

“Our sales have exceeded expectations,” says Frost, who at 33 is what OSU President Ed Ray calls an OTA (“older than average”) student. “We’re in eight stores, our Web traffic is off the charts, and we’re gaining traction.”

A graduate (summa cum laude) in agriculture with minors in animal science and business, Frost finds the time not only to run his start-up but also to pursue a master’s degree in agricultural education. “Ag-ed is natural fit for me,” says Frost. “My company is focused on ‘value-added agricultural products,’ and the Ag-ed program places special emphasis on leadership development and communication — two skills essential in the classroom or the boardroom.”

Like any talented entrepreneur, Frost is constantly pushing the envelope — expanding the customer base, growing the product line, envisioning the possible. A sugar-free line of sauces is one concept under development. New spices, too, are being rolled out.

“Now we’re looking for an angel investor to help us grow through this next phase,” Frost says. His goal? To sell 10,000 bottles of sauce before 2010.

Austin Entrepreneurship Program

Agricultural Education Program

You may not know Mike Rich by name, but chances are you’ve seen his work.

Mike Rich wrote the script for "Finding Forrester" and "The Rookie"
Mike Rich wrote the script for "Finding Forrester" and "The Rookie"

Mike Rich was working as a news reporter at a Portland radio station in the mid-1990s when he decided to turn his dream of writing a screenplay into reality.

Setting aside a couple of free hours each day, he wrote “Finding Forrester,” a story that delves into the relationship between an inner-city teen and a reclusive writer.

After unproductive attempts to contact agents, production companies and studios, Rich entered the play in the Nicholl Fellowship competition sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

“The first letter I received said congratulations, you’re a quarter-finalist. That was validation. It put me in the top 220 of 4,500 entrants,” he says. “That’s where I thought it would end. Then came a letter saying I was a semi-finalist and then a finalist and finally one of five fellows.”

After that, interest developed quickly. Columbia purchased the script and Sean Connery agreed to play Forrester. At that point, Rich “thought they would just go off and make the movie.” He was wrong. Six rewrites later, it was shot.

Over the past eight years, the OSU College of Business alumnus has followed “Finding Forester” with “The Rookie,” “Radio” and “Miracle,” all successful movies.

“I always start with character. The audience needs to care about the people,” Rich says.

In “Miracle,” the story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team’s historic upset of the Soviet Union, “you want to get the audience to the point where they don’t care that they know how it’s going to end. They want to see how it gets there.”

Look for more from Rich. “Manhunt,” an adaptation of a historical thriller about the search for John Wilkes Booth, is being filmed; “Invincible,” the story of Philadelphia Eagles fan Vince Papale, a bartender who tried out for the team as a kicker and made it, is set for release later this year; and “Nativity,” a story leading up to the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, has been purchased by New Line Cinema.

Despite all this activity, Rich keeps his life in perspective. He lives in Beaverton, Ore., with his wife and three children. “My son plays high school football,” he says. “I catch every game I can. When it’s done, it’s done, and you don’t get another chance.”

Finding Forrester

The Rookie


Alan Mui and his partners, Howie Price, Brian Gin, and Chris Allen, developed an affordable web-based surveillance system.

Alan Mui and his partners, Howie Price, Brian Gin, and Chris Allen
Alan Mui and his partners, Howie Price, Brian Gin, and Chris Allen

“Put 285 students in Weatherford Hall–all of whom have an interest in starting their own business–and I can guarantee that you will see some innovative concepts come through.”

That observation by Ilene Kleinsorge, OSU’s College of Business dean, is getting its first full test with the opening this fall of the renovated Weatherford Hall as a residence hall and laboratory for students in the new Austin Entrepreneurship Program.

One of the first businesses to come out of the program was established by Alan Mui, an engineering major who graduated in June before having an opportunity to live in the residence hall.

The new business started with a project in OSU professor Justin Craig’s class. Mui and Howie Price, a business major, were assigned to develop a feasibility plan on an entrepreneurial idea. They discovered not only that they worked well together, but that there was a real demand for their product, an Internet surveillance system. Mui came up with the idea while trying to help his father set up a low-cost security system for the family’s business, the Republic Cafe together, and sometimes we have to do that literally,” Achterman says. “We’re having a series of monthly dinner meetings in Portland to bring together policy leaders, scientists, private industry, anyone who might be able to help address some of the tough natural resource issues that we face. We get people who rarely meet each other in the same room, let them talk and trade ideas about what needs to be done, how we might solve some of these problems.”

Achterman and other experts say there is no shortage of problems the institute might tackle. They have already brainstormed a list of 70 to 80 potential projects, such as ways to promote business development and the state’s economy in an environmentally sensitive way or do a better job of environmental restoration without unnecessary government regulations.

Institute for Natural Resources website

INR reports

Students, faculty, and visiting business leaders are living and working in the renovated hall focused on entrepreneurship.

A sketch of Weatherford Hall
A sketch of Weatherford Hall

The College of Business’ new Austin Entrepreneurship Program now has a home of its own with the reopening of historic Weatherford Hall in the fall of 2004.

A College of Business faculty member and visiting professionals live with students in Weatherford to complement the college’s formal and informal entrepreneurial programming.

“Our goal is to help formalize the chaos of entrepreneurship by providing entrepreneurs with business acumen to succeed,” says Mark Green, head of the program. “We’ve graduated many entrepreneurs from this college, and now we’ll have a focused program to encourage more innovativeness that we hope will have a long-term impact on Oregon’s economy.”

Although the renovation of Weatherford wasn’t completed until fall, the first class of students in the entrepreneurship minor begins course work in winter 2004.

The new residential college program was spurred by a gift from OSU alumnus Ken Austin and his wife Joan. It makes OSU one of the few universities in the country where students live, eat, learn, work, and dream together in a business incubator community.

In addition to rooms that accommodate 285 students, the renovated Weatherford features a cyber café, business incubator spaces, a library, seminar rooms, and apartments for visiting faculty and business leaders. The program, which is intended to stimulate economic growth and create new jobs in Oregon, is administered by the College of Business in partnership with University Housing and Dining and the College of Engineering. It is expected to attract top students from a variety of OSU colleges, including engineering, forestry, and pharmacy.

College of Business Entrepreneurship Program site

Weatherford applications being accepted