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South Waterfront building renamed in honor of Dr. Joe Robertson

two men in suits, shaking hands in front of a sign that reads robertson life sciences building
OHSU Board of Directors chair Wayne Monfries (left) announced the renaming of a South Waterfront building in honor of retiring president Joe Robertson. Robertson was deeply moved, and said the building embodies OHSU's motto of healing, teaching and discovery. (OHSU/Jordan Sleeth)

The OHSU Board of Directors have approved a resolution to rename the Collaborative Life Sciences Building on Portland’s South Waterfront the Joseph E. Robertson, Jr. Collaborative Life Sciences Building.

Board chair Wayne Monfries made the surprise announcement at the conclusion of a regular board meeting.

“The opening of the Collaborative Life Sciences Building in 2011 represented a significant milestone toward the vision of partnership, excellence in education and research, and improved health care access for Oregonians articulated by Dr. Robertson,” said Monfries, citing the resolution. “The board wishes to recognize Dr. Robertson for his dedication to OHSU’s missions of health care, research, education and outreach, his many years of service as president of OHSU, and his leadership of the institution.”

To name an OHSU building after a living person, OHSU policy requires “unusually meritorious reasons” for doing so, Monfries explained, acknowledging that Dr. Robertson’s vision, dedication and record of accomplishments far exceed that criteria.

“It is incredibly difficult for me to convey my full appreciation,” said Dr. Robertson, who was visibly choked up. “This building is truly emblematic of the value and mission of OHSU. It embodies our motto of healing, teaching and discovery, not just in the geographic sense, but in its function. It is the physical embodiment of our strategic plan to be a leader in science and innovation for the purpose of improving the health and well-being of all citizens.”

The Collaborative Life Sciences Building was constructed in 2011, and will now be known as the Robertson Life Sciences Building. (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)

Dr. Robertson went on to thank the many stakeholders who made the building possible, including the anonymous donor who contributed the initial $40 million to the building’s construction; OHSU’s numerous public and private partners statewide and beyond; the State of Oregon; the City of Portland; county and transportation officials; and countless others.

Dr. Robertson ended his comments with a reminiscence about the first time he entered the new building, one week before its official opening. He said he stood in the futuristic new atrium, looked up at all the walkways crisscrossing that space and the panoply of lights, and one thought came to mind, and still comes to mind whenever he’s there: “Beam me up, Scotty!”

Dr. Robertson retired from OHSU Oct. 31, 2017, but offered to continue serving as president without salary through the academic year to ensure continuity for OHSU during the search for the next president. The OHSU Board of Directors voted unanimously to reappoint him Oct. 26, 2017.

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