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Recently funded with a multimillion dollar endowment, the Edwards Chair is a lasting tribute to OSU alumni Miles Lowell Edwards, ’24, and his wife Margaret Watt Edwards, ’27. Although endowed chairs are traditionally tied to a single discipline, this new chair breaks this mold by encouraging the holder to be involved in teaching and research that crosses traditional boundaries—much like Miles Lowell Edwards did throughout his prolific career.
Although Edwards graduated in electrical engineering, his work demanded interdisciplinary expertise. In 1950, he invented the world’s first artificial heart valve by collaborating with renowned cardiac surgeon Dr. Albert Starr. The Starr-Edwards valve is still in wide use today. Edwards also developed the world’s first hydraulic tree debarker for the logging industry, a fuel booster pump widely used in domestic and military aircraft, and held more than 50 patents. Indeed, he remains one of the most accomplished alumni in the university’s history.
Margaret Edwards wrote or co-authored more than a dozen novels, poetry collections, and social histories, including “Land of the Multnomahs” and the award-winning “Rawhide and Orange Blossoms.”
The Edwards’ children, Prudence Edwards Denney and Miles John Edwards, established the chair to honor their parents’ inventiveness and connection to OSU. Their generosity and vision will ultimately lead to a state-of-the-art global tsunami warning system, based at the alma mater of their parents.
Harry Yeh, one of the world’s leading tsunami experts, has been appointed to the Miles Lowell and Margaret Watt Edwards Chair to help develop what will be the largest and most technologically advanced tsunami research center in the world.
His appointment is in the OSU departments of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering and Computer Science. Yeh, who grew up in Japan, holds a B.S. and M.S. from Washington State University, and earned his doctorate from UC Berkeley. He has done tsunami research in Indonesia, Nicaragua, Turkey, Greece, and other countries, and plans to use his worldwide contacts to expand OSU’s tsunami and ocean research to include a network of international players
“Bringing Harry Yeh here to join our existing faculty and students will create at Oregon State the world’s most powerful tsunami research team,” said Ron Adams, dean of the OSU College of Engineering. “This is important for Oregon, the Pacific Rim, and beyond, and marks another major step toward our goal of building one of the nation’s top-25 engineering programs.”
The OSU Tsunami Research Center employs state-of-the-art communications technology to enable researchers anywhere in the world to participate in real-time experiments via the Internet, ultimately improving tsunami warning systems around the planet.
The unique combination of physical research and information technology attracted Yeh to the position, and the Edwards Chair.
Unlike most endowed chairs, which are tied to a specific discipline, the Edwards Chair is designed to tap the synergy found where disciplines intersect.
“This is a powerful example of how an endowed chair can bring world-class faculty to Oregon State,” Adams said. “When professors reach out across disciplines, amazingly creative things happen, like the Tsunami Center.”
Yeh said he is excited to work at OSU in part because of the unusually high level of research collaboration across departments and disciplines at the university.
“Tsunami research is very, very multidisciplinary,” Yeh said. “It involves geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, hydrodynamics, seismology, mathematics, geographic information systems, social science, information transmission, remote sensing, and more.”