A ferry tale ending

M.V. CohoDuring The Campaign for OSU generous donors have given the university a wide variety of valuable non-monetary gifts: a 17th century Spanish thesaurus, Steinway grand piano, herd of purebred cattle, and a four-seater airplane are just a few examples. But one particularly unusual gift will always be remembered for the profound impact it has made on campus.

Lois Bates Acheson, a 1937 business alumna, was the head of a company now known as Black Ball Ferry Line, which runs the only ferry between Port Angeles, Wash., and Victoria, B.C. After she died in 2004, the OSU Foundation received the business as part of a $21 million estate gift in support of the College of Veterinary Medicine. This included the M.V. Coho (pictured), a ferry with a carrying capacity of 110 vehicles and 1,000 passengers. Acheson's bequest was the second largest gift ever made to Oregon State University — and undoubtedly its most complicated.

In January 2012 the business was sold to the company's executive management team. Both the OSU Foundation Board of Trustees and Black Ball's Board of Directors voted unanimously in support of the deal, agreeing that it best respected Acheson's wishes while continuing local stewardship of the company.

"My aunt Lois Bates Acheson's wishes have been carried out exactly as she would have wanted to the mutual benefit of the Black Ball management group, the Oregon State University Foundation, and the School of Veterinary Medicine," said Black Ball trustee Donna Lee Schoen in a company press release. "This is a wonderful resolution for all the parties involved. She would be very happy with the outcome."

Pursuant to Acheson's bequest, the company was placed in a long-term trust with the intention of preserving Black Ball's commitment to its employees and the region. The ferry line transports 400,000 passengers and 110,000 vehicles annually, operating terminals in both cities and employing more than 120 people. The company has an estimated economic impact of more than $160 million per year within the local communities.

Acheson had a lifelong interest in animals and veterinary care. She was an avid horsewoman and passionate about her horses, Twiggy and Fatso, and her dogs. Her estate gift established the Lois Bates Acheson Dean of Veterinary Medicine — the second endowed deanship in OSU history — and also built the college's endowment to ensure that quality veterinary education and research continue at OSU for generations to come. The college renamed its teaching hospital in her honor.

OSU's College of Veterinary Medicine is one of only five such schools in the West. Eight of 10 of its graduates stay in Oregon, serving the people, animals, and related industries of this state.


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