NORMAN — Paul Gillan Risser, 74, of Norman, died Thursday, July 10, 2014.
The son of Paul and Jean Risser, he was born Sept. 14, 1939, and always treasured the fact that he shared that birthday with his twin brother, Jim. After graduating from Blackwell High School, he attended Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa, where he received a B.A. in 1961, as well as an honorary degree in 1994. He earned his M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1965 and 1967, respectively.
Throughout his professional career, Dr. Risser served as chief of the Illinois Natural History Survey, provost and vice president for research at the University of New Mexico, president of Miami University in Ohio, president of Oregon State University, chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, acting director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and chair and chief operating officer of the University of Oklahoma Research Cabinet. He also served as the executive director of EDGE, Oklahoma’s economic development organization.
Dr. Risser served as NSF program director of Ecosystem Studies and as president of three professional organizations: the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the Ecological Society of America and the Association of Southwestern Naturalists. He was chair of the Board of Environmental Studies and Toxicology of the National Academy of Science, secretary general of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) and chair of the Board of Trustees of the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York. At the time of his death, he was serving as a member of the board of trustees at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, vice chair of the Board of Trustees of Grinnell College and chair of Oklahoma’s P-20 Council.
He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences with research on grassland and forest ecosystems, environmental planning and management, landscape ecology and global change. Throughout his career he authored or edited six books and published more than 100 chapters and scientific papers in refereed journals.