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$20 million new gift from Judy and Mike Gaulke brings AI to ocean research
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$20 million new gift from Judy and Mike Gaulke brings AI to ocean research

A gift of $20 million to the Oregon State University Foundation from alumni Judy and Mike Gaulke will help create a new center that helps society better understand, protect, and utilize the ocean and its environment.

The Gaulke Center for Marine Innovation and Technology will utilize innovative research and development, such as collaborations between oceanography and AI, two areas of academic strength at OSU.

‘We are grateful to the Gaulkes for their support as we boldly tackle some of today’s biggest challenges,’ said Oregon State University President Jayathi Murthy. ‘What is so special about this gift is that it leverages OSU’s global distinction in oceanography with our extraordinary strength and depth in engineering. The Gaulke Center will inspire and enable greater collaboration and technological innovation in ocean research.’

Mike Gaulke graduated from OSU’s College of Engineering in 1968 and spent more than 20 years as an executive in Silicon Valley, he was inducted in the OSU Engineering Hall of Fame in 2008.

Judy Gaulke, then Judy Mellenthin, earned a home economics degree in 1965. After graduation, she spent four years as an international flight attendant for Pan American, eventually becoming a full-time artist.

The gift from the Gaulkes provides funds to establish the Michael and Judith Gaulke Chair in Ocean Innovation. The person holding this chair will serve as executive director of the center and hold a joint faculty appointment in the OSU colleges of Engineering and Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

Additionally, the gift will include start-up funding for the new center, faculty and graduate support, and funding for early-stage research or projects that have significant potential impact but may be considered too risky to receive other types of funding.

The Center will be able to take advantage of one of the nation’s most powerful supercomputers, with access to the resources of the Jen-Hsun and Lori Huang Collaborative Innovation Complex. Solving global challenges in areas such as oceanography, climate science sustainability and water resources, with a team-based approach.

Oregon State researchers are currently working on projects to develop an unmanned robotic system that could independently explore under ice shelves, using AI and robotic boats that aid in measuring glacier ice melt.

“Our future lies in the ocean, and it’s very clear that we need to change how we care for it,” Mike Gaulke said. “Marine sciences can help, and it’s very exciting to see how advanced technologies can provide tools and approaches for addressing problems.”

In 2012, the Gaulkes established the first endowed chair in the College of Engineering’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, they were inspired to make their most recent gift because of their lifelong love of the ocean.

“We have had the opportunity to sail, dive and swim in oceans around the world, and we have seen dramatic changes within our own lifetime – from the disappearance of sharks to coral bleaching,” Mike Gaulke said. “From the massive worldwide problem of junk in the ocean to the opportunity of harnessing sustainable energy, there are so many challenges to address. We believe OSU is the ideal place to invest in creating solutions, and we hope others will join us.”

A search committee is being formed to hire the Gaulke Center’s executive director, with the goal of having the position filled by summer 2024.

The Gaulkes’ gift is part of Believe It: The Campaign for Oregon State University. Publicly launched in October 2022 and led by the OSU Foundation, the $1.75 billion fundraising and engagement campaign seeks to inspire gifts supporting educational access and student success, research and innovation addressing challenges of global importance, and programs that strengthen communities across Oregon and beyond.

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