Although Professor Emeritus Tony Van Vliet retired from Oregon State University 1990 and from the Oregon Legislature in 1994, retirement has not interrupted his service to the state and local community and to OSU.
Van Vliet was born and raised in San Francisco. He came north to take forestry at OSU, graduating in Forest Products and Wood Science in 1952. He wanted to study forestry because of adventures to Oregon, hiking and camping. The reality that forestry was more than sitting on a horse looking at the sunset over a green forest hit home after several summers of fighting fires.
He holds an MS in Forest Products from OSU and a PhD in Wood Industry Management from Michigan State. Van Vliet began teaching in 1955 and served on the OSU faculty for 35 years, first as a professor of forest products and later sharing time as the Associate Director, then Director of the University’s Career Planning and Placement Center. During his tenure at OSU, Van Vliet was the recipient of two awards for outstanding teaching, the University Mosser Award and the College of Forestry Aufderheide Award.
During these years he also consulted with many forest firms on management and manufacturing problems, as well as wood science and engineering, and, while on leave from OSU, helped build and put into production a plywood plant for Bohemia Lumber Co. He was also the state’s first Forest Products Extension Specialist, a position he held for seven years.
Van Vliet entered politics in 1974, after winning a seat in the Oregon House of Representatives, and served for ten terms. In Salem, he served on the Revenue Committee for two sessions before spending the next 17 years on the Ways and Means Committee and the Emergency Board. Except for being Co-Chair in 1991, he spent almost all those years on the Education and Human Resource sub-committees, which represented over 75% of the General Fund budget. In 1983, he and Rep. Courtney introduced the first major revision of Oregon’s tax system—a sales/income tax revision that is still the model used today after several attempts. He also served on Governor's Public Lands Advisory Committee and on the Joint Data Processing Committee.
After leaving the legislature at the end of 1994, Van Vliet promptly began eight years of service on the State’s Environmental Quality Commission. In 1996, he chaired the Governor’s Task Force on the Local Option for schools which became legislation. He also chaired the Corvallis Riverfront Commission during its construction period, and has been a member on numerous special local and statewide committees.
He is a member and Past Chairman of the Board of Directors, Oregon Public Broadcasting, and a member of the Oregon Board of Higher Education. In announcing Van Vliet’s appointment to the Oregon Board of Higher Education in 2004, Governor Theodore Kulongoski said, “Tony brings exceptional knowledge and skills to this position. . . . It was very important to me to find a candidate who cares deeply about the future of higher education and who has the vision and experience to help move it forward. Tony’s background as both a state representative and a faculty member at OSU fits the bill perfectly and he will be a great asset to the board.”
Despite his other commitments, Van Vliet keeps in touch with the College of Forestry community and still steps up to offer help as needed. A recent example was during the College’s Centennial Open House in November 2006. A real highlight of the day was entertaining and informative “Art Walk”— a walking tour of the College’s exceptional art collection. Van Vliet, who was instrumental in helping establish and expand the collection over the years, led the very popular tour, providing information and colorful anecdotes about the various pieces.
The College of Forestry was proud to name Van Vliet as a recipient of the Outstanding Alumnus Award in 2006. In making the announcement at the 2006 Fernhopper Banquet, Dean Hal Salwasser said, “Tony’s long standing record as an educator, along with his record of service, has benefited the College, OSU and indeed, all Oregonians.”
Bio of Tony Van Vliet written by Emily Thomas, Editorial Assistant, Forestry Communications Group, College of Forestry