Thomas Maness, dean of the College of Forestry at Oregon State University since 2012, died Thursday in Corvallis following a 2 1/2-year battle with an undisclosed illness. He was 63.
Under Maness’ leadership, OSU was ranked the second-best college of forestry in the world in 2017 by the Center for World University Rankings, behind only the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, Sweden.
“Thomas will be greatly missed,” said OSU President Ed Ray in a statement released Friday by the university. “Thomas’ effective and strong aspirational leadership of the College of Forestry helped guide many key decisions and served to advance the university, our environment and the wood products industry.”
Maness arrived at OSU in 2009, serving as head of the Department of Forest Engineering, Resources and Management before succeeding Hal Salwasser as dean of the College of Forestry.
In January, Maness stepped away from his day-to-day duties as dean to focus on his health. Since then, Executive Associate Dean Anthony Davis has served as acting dean.
In a letter posted on the OSU website, Davis described Maness as “true visionary.”
“One only needs to look at the Institute for Working Forest Landscapes and the TallWood Design Institute to understand Thomas’ dedication to improving the health of our lands, people, businesses, and ecosystems, and to do so through collaborative work,” Davis wrote. “Through his vision, he helped propel our college into a globally recognized leader in forestry.”
The College of Forestry is currently undergoing a massive restoration with the $79.5 million Oregon Forest Science Complex, which is anticipated to open next spring. The 95,000-square-foot project will include the new George W. Peavy Forest Science Center, A.A. “Red” Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Laboratory and Richardson Hall.
Before joining OSU, Maness spent a decade in private industry as a research engineer, and in 1994 he founded the Canadian National Centre of Excellence in Advancing Wood Processing at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
Working closely with industry, he led research in sawmill optimization and real-time quality control systems. He also founded the British Columbia Forum on Forest Economics and Policy a decade later, guiding research in forest policy and sustainability.
Maness earned his bachelor’s degree in forest resources management from West Virginia University in 1979, a master’s degree in forest operations from Virginia Tech in 1981 and a doctorate in forest economics from the University of Washington in 1989.
Ed Feser, OSU provost and executive vice president, said Maness carried on a long tradition of leadership excellence and advances during his time at the College of Forestry.
“His stewardship in expanding the college through the new Oregon Forest Science Complex will serve students, research and OSU’s outreach and engagement mission for many future generations,” Feser said.
Maness was also a board member for the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, established by the Oregon Legislature in 1991 to encourage responsible forestry practices through public outreach.
“Thomas was an incredible OFRI board member, thought leader and trusted friend,” said Paul Barnum, OFRI executive director. “His leadership, professionalism and vision for the future of Oregon’s forests — and all forests — will be greatly missed.”