Wayne Burt came to Oregon State College in 1954 and received his doctorate from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, then served as the Associate Director of the Chesapeake Bay Institute in Maryland, then a year in the oceanography program at the University of Washington. In 1954 he began a project on the coastal oceanography of Oregon waters with OSC.
In 1958 he received support from the Navy through Project TENOC and a Department of Oceanography at OSC was formed in 1959. After ten years there were 31 faculty members and a staff of 122 under Burt. He remained chairman until 1967 and continued important research for years after as the program continued to grow.