Construction trades unions say goodbye to retiring OHSU president Joe Robertson


The Columbia Pacific Building and Construction Trades Council (CPBCTC) presented outgoing Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) president Dr. Joe Robertson with a plaque July 10 in recognition of his work transforming  Portland’s South Waterfront and Marquam Hill campus — using union labor.

Under Robertson’s leadership since 2006, OHSU experienced unprecedented growth. It built the Center for Health & Healing on the South Waterfront; the Collaborative Life Sciences Building and Skourtes Tower; and the Portland Aerial Tram, connecting OHSU’s South Waterfront and Marquam Hill campuses. It also has broken ground on the Knight Cancer Research Building, the Center for Health & Healing 2, and the Gary and Christine Rood Family Pavilion.

CPBCTC held its weekly meeting at the Center for Health & Healing South to make the special presentation to Robertson. Construction workers on the project were invited to attend.  

Willy Myers, executive secretary of the CPBCTC, told the Labor Press that OHSU’s more than $2.5 billion investment in construction has created 20 million hours of work, which has resulted in over $700 million paid in wages, about $200 million in pension contributions, about $200 million in health trust contributions, and almost $30 million in apprenticeship training contributions.

“This plaque is just a small token of our appreciation for what Dr. Robertson has done for our members,” Meyers said. “He’s a building trades champion.”

Robertson officially retired last October, shortly after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He agreed to stay on as president while OHSU searched for his successor. His last day is July 31.

Robertson has worked at OHSU for nearly 40 years. He started as an ophthalmology resident before joining the faculty. He was named director of the Casey Eye Institute in 1997, then dean of the School of Medicine in 2003. The OHSU board of directors selected him as president in 2006.


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