Richard and Betty O'Brien Professor of Extension Viticulture
One of Oregon's best vineyards might never have been planted were it not for a moonlit cruise down Germany's Rhine River. As Betty and Richard O'Brien glided past mile after mile of beautiful vineyards covering the hillsides, they began to seriously consider growing wine grapes. In 1983 they planted their first five acres on Yamhill County land inherited from Betty's parents, Elton and Peggy Ingram. Elton Vineyards would eventually include 60 acres of grapes, mostly producing pinot noir fruit made into top-ranked wines. After the O'Briens retired in 2007, their vineyard was contracted under a long-term lease to Willamette Valley Vineyards.
While the O'Briens always worked other jobs — Richard as a middle school teacher in the Salem-Keizer School District, Betty in public relations and management roles in nonprofit, government, and education organizations — they became very active in Oregon's rapidly growing wine industry. Among other involvements Betty has been a leader with the Oregon Wine Board, the Oregon Winegrowers Association, the Willamette Valley Vineyards Board, and LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology), which provides third-party certification in sustainable practices in grape growing and wine production. Betty also helped to develop the professional degree program in wine marketing at Chemeketa Community College. In 2010 the O'Briens were awarded the Outstanding Service Award by the Oregon Wine Board and Oregon Winegrowers Association. Richard O'Brien passed away in 2016.
As they thought about their estate planning, Betty said, "We wanted to really do some good for the wine industry, which has provided us with so many wonderful opportunities, experiences, and friendships." Members of OSU's class of 1965, the O'Briens recognized how helpful the Extension viticulture specialist had been to them and the industry. They decided to create an endowment supporting such expertise in the College of Agricultural Sciences in perpetuity.
The Richard and Betty O'Brien Professor of Extension Viticulture will play a leading role in the Oregon Wine Research Institute, addressing research, outreach, and business needs of the region's wine industry.