Willamette University

They Said It

“Steve is brilliant — you get that in the first 45 seconds with him and very quickly after that you discover someone who celebrates and embraces Willamette, without qualification. He understands the advantage of the Northwest and the rich history of the institution. Steve knows first-hand the power of a liberal arts education and its role in preparing students for lives of entrepreneurship, creativity, innovation and leadership.”

— Chris Simmons ’93
Associate Vice President, Duke University

“Steve has a remarkable string of accomplishments during his five-year tenure as dean, and he accomplished this while inspiring strong loyalty within his academic division and real admiration of his work throughout the university ... He is a fantastic choice for Willamette!”

— George Blumenthal
Chancellor, University of California, Santa Cruz

“As a teacher and scholar, Steve has long understood the critical connection between undergraduate learning and commitment to scholarship. His unique relationship with Willamette — going back to his childhood — enables him to tell our story in a particularly compelling way.”

— Ellen Eisenberg
Dwight & Margaret Lear Professor of History, Willamette University

“Thorsett’s intellect, insight and compassion for giving students a high-quality university education will greatly benefit Willamette. While his research looks to the heavens, his support of education is very down-to-earth. The Banana Slugs’ loss is the Bearcats’ gain.”

— Gary D. Novack
President, University of California, Santa Cruz Foundation;
President, PharmaLogic Development, Inc.


The Genesis Planet

Artist’s impression of Methuselah

Credit: NASA and G. Bacon (STScI)

We promise not to overplay the fact that our president helped discover the oldest known planet outside our own solar system — there are plenty of things he’d probably say are more salient to the job at hand — but it’s toogood to pass up.

People tend to call it Methuselah, referring, we suspect, to the biblical Methuselah, who was the oldestliving person at 969 years. (The “Genesis Planet” also works as a common name.) Whatever you call it, it is a special kind of celestial body.

The planet, which is estimated at 12.7 billion years old, follows a circumbinary orbit, meaning that it goes around two stars — neither of which is much like our own sun — instead of one. It is approximately 12,400 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Scorpius, and it was detected by measuring its gravitational nudges on the stars it orbits. Thorsett and his team concluded that the body was a planet in part because they could tell that it didn’t have enough mass to be another star.