OSQA and History Course Collaboration: An OSQA Oral History Project

HST 368 Oral History Project Interviewees

HST 368 Oral History Project Interviewees

This spring term, the OSU Queer Archives (OSQA) collaborated with the history class HST 368 Lesbian and Gay Movements in Modern America with Professor Mina Carson. Carson, along with OSQA co-founders Natalia Fernández, Curator and Archivist of the Oregon Multicultural Archives, and Professor Bradley Boovy, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, developed an oral history project for the students. Using Carson’s network of Corvallis area activists, in total, the students conducted 9 oral history interviews and added them to the OSQA oral history collection!

The Interviews

Judy Ball Oral History Interview

Judy Ball

Judy Ball

Date: May 4, 2016
Location: Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
Length: 00:42:46
Interviewee: Judy Ball
Interviewer: Kristiane Width

Interview Video

Bio: Ball was born in 1952 in West Virginia, and adopted by parents Clyde and Nelly Ball. Raised as an only child, and living in a rural, isolated part of West Virgina, Ball and her parents were very close. She grew up in a lower middle-class and racially homogenous area, and because of this was not even aware of LGBTQ identities until much later in life. In her early childhood, Ball’s mother was a factory worker, while her father worked as a truck driver. However, due to financial difficulties and lack of job availability, both of her parents worked odd jobs for much of her youth, doing whatever was necessary to put food on the table. Interested in history and public policy from a young age, Ball escaped poverty through education, earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree. Although she has had relationships with both men and women, today Ball is happily single and is very involved in the local Corvallis community.

Summary: In this interview with Judy Ball, she begins by describing her childhood, which primarily holds good memories despite the poverty she grew up in. She explains that early on in her life, she knew that school would be her only outlet to pursue a better life. For Ball, life in college was dedicated to her studies. After getting her masters degree from Syracuse University, she began working for the federal government. Ball explains discusses her busy life in Maryland, and her career as a healthcare worker with the Federal Government which lasted over 30 years. During this time in her life, Ball was married for ten years. However, Ball explains that their love faded, and she describes the strong sense of independence that has always been an important feature of her personality. In 2008, Ball moved to Corvallis, and her relocation marked the beginning of her involvement with the LGBTQ community, as she had fallen in love with a woman and decided to follow her out to the West Coast. Ball admits she had never questioned her sexuality growing up and issues of alternate sexualities were never discussed in the household, which resulted in her finding the whole experience as surreal. Although her relationship with this new eventually came to an end, Ball continues to be very active in the Corvallis community, both serving on the school board and participating in local events. Ball discusses her sexual identity, and though she states that the evidence would suggest she is bisexual, she explains that she does not necessarily find herself aligned with this identity.

Julie Williams Oral History Interview

Julie Williams

Julie Williams

Date: May 5, 2016
Location: Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
Length: 00:46:37
Interviewee: Julie Williams
Interviewers: Alyssa Kauth and Kaitlyn Stephen

Interview Video

Bio: Julie Williams (1962-present) was born in Corvallis, Oregon to a Catholic family. Her father was the director of the laboratory at Good Salem Hospital and her mother was an insurance biller and nurse at the same hospital. Williams is the youngest of six children, and has been an athlete throughout her life. Born and raised in Corvallis, she attended the local elementary school and continued on to Corvallis High School, attending from 1976 to 1980. After graduating high school, Williams matriculated at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana (1980-1981) on a volleyball scholarship, but later returned to Corvallis to attend and play volleyball for Oregon State University (1981-1983). Although she received her bachelor’s degree in Pre-Therapy, Williams realized she wanted to be a teacher two weeks before she left for therapy school. For this reason, she decided to return to school to pursue her master’s degree in Education. In 1987, Williams became a teacher at Corvallis High School, serving first as the school’s volleyball coach, and later as a Physical Education and health teacher. As an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights in education, Williams traveled around the Corvallis School District ensuring LGBTQ+ rights and policies were enforced and that such students could feel safe at school. In 1996, she became the advisor for the Gay Straight Alliance club (GSA) at Corvallis High School, the first club of its kind in Oregon. In 1999 Williams became the last recipient of the Harvey Milk Award, presented by the After Eight organization. Williams has recently taken up activism for sustainability and climate change, and now teaches Sustainability and Climate Change classes at Corvallis High School.

Summary: In the interview, Williams first discusses her early years being raised in Corvallis, Oregon. Born in 1962, she attended school in Corvallis until leaving for Montana to pursue a college degree. Williams explains that there was little to no talk in her family of the LGBTQ+ community, and that she herself remained in denial of her sexual identity until her mid-twenties. Almost all of her life has been spent in Corvallis, and she offers some insight into the changes the community has experienced.

Williams discusses her decision to become a teacher and what it was like to teach at her alma mater, Corvallis High School. Williams explains how her connection to the LGBTQ+ community has both positively and negatively affected her teaching career. She shares her own stories, as well as those of students and fellow faculty members, to showcase the LGBTQ+ -friendly atmosphere at Corvallis High School.

The remainder of the interview focuses on the Queer-Straight Alliance club at Corvallis High School. As an integral member of its formation, Williams explains the goals of the QSA. She shares her hopes for the future of the QSA, her take on the community’s response to the QSA, and information on what the club offers for today’s student body.

Jo Ann Casselberry Oral History Interview

Jo Ann Casselberry

Jo Ann Casselberry

Date: May 11, 2016
Location: Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
Length: 01:19:39
Interviewee: Jo Ann Casselberry
Interviewer: Stefani Evers

Interview Video

Bio: Jo Ann Casselberry, or Jo for short, was born on Long Island, New York in September 1954. Her family soon moved to the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA, where Casselberry spent most of her childhood. In high school, Casselberry was an advocate for girls’ rights to wear pants to school. She graduated high school in 1972, and began her college years at Wilmington College in Ohio, before dropping out and returning to Oregon in 1974. Once in Oregon, Casselberry worked for a while until deciding to return to school, this time attending Oregon State University, where she studied Interdisciplinary Studies Political Sociology. Notably, Casselberry was very involved in the SAW (Society for the Advancement of Women) at OSU, and was one of the first two students to earn a minor in Women’s Studies. After graduating in 1979, Casselberry began volunteering through Linn-Benton Association for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and eventually took a job at the Rape Crisis Center, two organizations which soon merged to become what is today the Center against Rape and Domestic Violence (CARDV). Casselberry began working at Oregon State University in the early 1980s and has remained there since, totaling more than 30 years at OSU. She now works in one of the business centers as the Grants/Contracts Technician.

Casselberry has long been active in fighting for gay and lesbian rights, and was co-founder and treasurer of After 8, an advocacy and education group. The group was founded in Benton County in response to the passing of Measure 8 in 1988, an emotionally devastating measure for members of the gay and lesbian community. Casselberry’s acted in the demanding roles of treasurer and fundraising coordinator of the Political Action Committees, fighting a series of anti-gay ballot measures. Although After 8 is no longer active, the work of Jo and her co-workers has had a lasting impact on the community.

Summary: Jo Casselberry gives an overview of her life in this interview, beginning with her childhood and high school years, and then moving on to her college and post-graduation experiences, including more than 30 years’ experience working at Oregon State University. Casselberry expands on her campus involvement during college, and her part in the organization After 8, an advocacy and education group founded in Benton County after the passing of Measure 8 in 1988. She recalls her work as treasurer for After 8 and the organization’s goals and accomplishments, as well as her work as treasurer and fundraising coordinator for the Political Action Committees formed to fight each of the Oregon Citizen Alliance’s anti-gay ballot measures. In doing so, she also gives an overview of ballot measures 8 and 9 and how they affected her life, as well as discussing the general atmosphere of OSU and the surrounding community.

Karuna Neustadt Oral History Interview

Karuna Neustadt

Karuna Neustadt

Date: May 12, 2016
Location: Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
Length: 01:29:00
Interviewee: Karuna Neustadt
Interviewer: Esther Matthews

Interview Video

Bio: Karuna Neustadt was born in 1952 in the town of Brockton, Massachusetts. Brockton is a suburb of Boston, located about 30 miles outside of the city. Neustadt’s mother was an elementary school teacher, who was born in Germany, and her father was a personnel manager from Boston. Neustadt grew up in an idyllic suburban neighborhood. She had one brother and enjoyed a very close relationship with him. Neustadt graduated from high school in 1970 and decided to pursue a university education.

Neustadt enrolled at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa in 1970. After two years of study, she left Grinnell College and returned to Massachusetts. Back on the East Coast, she obtained a position as a teaching assistant and stayed in Boston for the next year. In 1973, Neustadt felt ready to return to college and enrolled at the University of Michigan. After about a year, she withdrew from the university and returned home to Massachusetts once again. In 1978, Neustadt realized she wanted to obtain an advanced degree in Counseling Psychology, so she enrolled at the University of Oregon. She quickly finished her bachelor’s degree and in 1981, Neustadt obtained her master’s degree in Counseling Psychology.

During her academic career at University of Oregon, Neustadt enjoyed several jobs including one with the local school district and another at a local nursing home. After graduation, Neustadt returned to the East Coast to support her domestic partner, who was completing her studies at the Divinity School at Yale. Upon graduation in 1983, Neustadt’s partner was transferred to a position at Oregon State University, and Neustadt accompanied her. After returning to Corvallis, Neustadt accepted a position as a social worker at a nursing home, and later obtained a permanent position at the Area Agency on Aging in Corvallis. Neustadt remained with the agency for the next twenty-two years.

In Corvallis, Neustadt became very politically active. In 1988, the Oregon Citizens’ Alliance (OCA) sponsored Ballot Measure 8, which repealed an executive order from Governor Neil Goldschmidt that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. In 1989, Neustadt co-founded After 8, an advocacy group focused on ending discrimination against all people, but with a particular focus on the LGBTQ community. After 8 was involved campaign and election support, voter education and legislative lobbying.

After 8 remained active until 2003. During this time, Neustadt helped to defeat several different ballot measures while promoting community education. Neustadt was instrumental in furthering the integration of the LGBT community in Corvallis. After fourteen years of activism, Neustadt passed the torch and retired to enjoy life in Eugene, Oregon, where she now resides.

Summary: The interview begins with Neustadt talking about her childhood and describing what family life was like for her. She remembers playing in the streets with local neighborhood children and staying out as late as possible—until their mothers insisted they come in. She discusses the rather authoritative parenting style of her father, which was balanced by her mother’s nurturing approach. Neustadt describes the difficulties of middle school and high school, recalling the awkwardness she experienced during that time in her life.

Neustadt proceeds to discuss her life after graduation. She moved to Iowa to attend a small liberal arts college, and although she enjoyed being young and single, Neustadt did not excel academically because she lacked focus. Aware of how much debt she was accruing, she decided to put her studies on hold until she was certain of her career path. Neustadt explains that eventually decided to pursue an advanced degree in Clinical Psychology and moved to Oregon to do so. She speaks quite fondly of her time in Eugene.

The interview then shifts to Neustadt’s discussion of her sexuality, and the expansive support of the women’s community in Eugene during her college years. Shortly after obtaining her master’s degree she moved from Eugene to Corvallis and co-founded an LGBTQ advocacy group called After 8. She describes the volatile environment in Corvallis that prompted her to establish such a group.

For most of the interview, Neustadt details the specific activities After 8 was involved in. Many of the stories are difficult, while others have a humorous tone. Neustadt recalls the times when the group received death threats, but also details positive events experienced by the LGBTQ community since that time, including the group’s annual Harvey Milk Dinners, which took place from 1989 – 1999.

The interview concludes with Neustadt’s reflection on the progress made and the work still to be done in regards to equality for the LGBTQ community. Neustadt ends by discussing how grateful she is for the support of other human and civil rights groups, who helped After 8 accomplish the goals they set out to accomplish.

Lorena Reynolds Oral History Interview

Lorena Reynolds

Lorena Reynolds

Date: May 13, 2016
Location: Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
Length: 00:21:59
Interviewee: Lorena Reynolds
Interviewers: Francesca Lee and Trinh Duonier

Interview Video

Bio: Lorena Reynolds was born in Rochester, MN. Because her parents were born in Canada, they returned to the country shortly after her birth, and Reynolds spent the first 10 years of her life in Vancouver B.C, Canada. Following this period, the family moved to Southern California where Reynolds completed high school. After graduating, Reynolds attended Lafayette College in Pennsylvania for a year and a half, then later transferred to the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she completed her undergraduate degree. Reynolds went on to pursue a law degree at the UCLA School of Law, which she obtained in 1997. After a brief stint in L.A., Reynolds moved to Corvallis, OR and established her own private practice in 2004, where she currently practices family law.

Summary: In the interview, Reynolds briefly describes her upbringing. She then proceeds to outline her career in law and how she has contributed to resolving legal marriage issues and asset distribution challenges for both in-state and out-of-state same sex marriages. In addition, Reynolds describes her involvement in assisting transgender clients who must navigate legal changes to their documentation. She explains that in Oregon, transgender individuals who wish to change their name or sex on legal documents are required to undergo surgery, which can present numerous challenges. Following this, Lorena describes the challenges her family faced when her brother Tristan came out as transgender. In trying to find his true identity, Tristan, who is nine years younger than Reynolds, had to come out multiple times, first as a lesbian, and then later as trans. This process put a strain on Tristan and his familial relationships. Lorena explains that when Tristan came out, there was no framework for transgender folks, so it was hard for both Tristan and the family to process and adapt to the change. Lorena’s brother created a video called “It Gets Better” with the help of his family, where each member of the family agreed to be interviewed on their experience with Tristan’s transition.

Sara Gelser Oral History Interview

Sara Gelser

Sara Gelser

Date: May 16, 2016
Location: Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
Length: 00:43:39
Interviewee: Sara Gelser
Interviewers: Brett Bishop and Brittney Nicole Aman

Interview Video

Bio: Senator Sara Gelser was born in Las Vegas, Nevada as Sara Ann Acres on December 20th, 1973. Gelser is the eldest of four, with three younger brothers. In middle school, she established a group called Teens for the Prevention of AIDS in collaboration with friends from the LGBTQ+ community. When Gelser’s family moved from Nevada to Oregon, rather than finishing high school, she decided to apply to college early, at the suggest of her mother. At sixteen years of age, she was accepted to and began her studies at Earlham College in Indiana.

Gelser chose Earlham, a Quaker school, because of its inclusivity towards the LGBTQ+ community, and its commitment to social justice issues. Gelser participated in student government, studying history and education with the intention of becoming a teacher. She earned her bachelor’s degree in History in 1994. That same year, Gelser moved to Corvallis, Oregon with her husband Peter, whom she met and married in college.

After starting a family, Gelser returned to school, earning a master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Oregon State University in 1999. Gelser worked on the Corvallis school board from 2001 to 2005, and was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in 2005, following the resignation of a Democratic incumbent. After being re-elected for four terms, Gelser was elected to the Oregon Senate in 2015, where she continues to serve. In this position, Gelser has supported bills that include nondiscriminatory outlines for business and insurance companies, stricter punishments for child abusers, standards for modified diplomas toward financial aid, medically accurate sex education, and resource-building for LGBTQ+ veterans.

Summary: The interview begins with Gelser discussing her upbringing and family life, traveling frequently between Las Vegas, where she was born, and her parent’s home state of Indiana, then moving to Oregon when she was a sophomore in high school. Gelser talks about applying to Earlham College in Indiana in 1990, and accepting due to their progressive environment and inclusive programming.

She explains that Earlham’s values aligned with her own, having worked with friends in the LGBTQ+ community in a Teens for the Prevention of AIDS group. She notes the misunderstanding of AIDS at the time and how it contributed to her interest in LGBTQ+ issues. She mentions LGBTQ+ issues weren’t discussed at home and weren’t tolerated at schools in the late 80s, and notes the contrast between her own and her children’s experiences with LGBTQ+ issues in school. Gelser’s interest in politics grew in her interactions with the community, through non-hierarchical methods she learned at Earlham, and her experiences advocating for a son with special needs. This eventually led her to join the Corvallis school board in 2001 and later to become involved in Oregon legislature from 2005 onwards.

Before participating in Oregon politics, Gelser attended OSU from 1996 to 1998, pursuing a master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, with a focus in History and Women’s Studies. She explains that she focused on Interdisciplinary Studies in hopes of teaching high school students, but eventually expanded out of teaching into politics because she began to note important patterns in history and their correlation to present issues. In her political experience in the Oregon House of Representatives, Gelser talks about legislation that she helped pass, such as improvements to the accessibility of birth control, better structures for supporting domestic partnerships, making public accommodations for same-sex couples, and Karly’s Law on child abuse. In addition to these priorities, Gelser stayed true to her roots in education, and headed a committee on Oregon education.

During her time in the Oregon Senate, Gelser talks about passing legislation on LGBTQ+ issues, including Senate Bill 946, a bill on veteran’s benefits for those discharged through Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a bill on preferred gender and name identification for students, and a bill concerning bullying in schools related to LGBTQ+ students. As for future pieces of LGBTQ+ legislation, Gelser mentions legislation on marriage statutes, clarification of language for couples in previous legislation, changes to identification for same sex couples, and talks about her experience with debating on the Senate floor over legislation about solemnizing marriages outside of churches. The interview concludes with Gelser talking about the untapped history of LGBTQ+ issues.

Mary Renneke Oral History Interview

Mary Renneke

Mary Renneke

Date: May 21, 2016
Location: Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
Length: 00:25:31
Interviewee: Mary Renneke
Interviewers: Suheng Chen and Hangyi Zhang

Interview Video

Bio: Mary Renneke was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1956. When Renneke was two, her parents divorced and she moved to San Jose with her mother, sister, and twin brother. She discovered her identity as a lesbian in high school in the early 1970s, supported by the covertly gay-friendly environment of women’s softball that has emerged during that era. Since childhood, Renneke has divided much of her life between Oregon and California, attempting to balance her love of sports with work and the pursuit of education. After working as a bus driver and trainer for many years, and earning her bachelor’s through OSU’s online education program later in life, Renneke now resides in Albany and works in Corvallis.

Summary: In the interview, Mary Renneke begins by discussing her childhood with her sister and twin brother. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1956, Mary was introduced to sports at a very early age, inspiring her passion for athletics. At age ten, Renneke began playing softball on a women’s team, and as she grew older she discovered that the sport was often a safe place for lesbians. Renneke jokingly claims that in the 70s, at least 80% of women’s softball players were lesbians. She notes that because her sister was also involved in softball, she suspected early on that Renneke might identify as lesbian. However, Renneke remarked that because there was no social media at that time, being a lesbian was something she knew little about, and did not discuss with her family until she turned 30.

Because she enjoyed the community that women’s softball had to offer, Renneke continued to play softball into her 40s. However, she says she decided not to pursue a career in softball, either as a player or a coach, because there simply weren’t enough opportunities for women in sport in the 70s and 80s. Renneke briefly discusses Title IX, and the improvements it has made for women athletes. When Renneke was in high school and college, women’s teams were only just being introduced, and the teams she played for outside of college were self-funded. Although her tuition for community college in the 70s was a mere one-hundred dollars per year, she spent upwards of two-thousand dollars a season to play softball.

Renneke describes her life after leaving college, explaining that work was merely a means to an end, allowing her to support herself while continuing to play sports. During this time, one of Renneke’s friends was a student at Oregon State University, and convinced her to come to OSU to play softball. Although Renneke agreed, receiving a partial scholarship from OSU at the age of 24, she did not complete her degree at the university and instead moved back to San Jose to work as a city bus driver. After ten to twelve years of this work, Renneke says she missed Oregon, so she returned to Corvallis and opened a coffee shop with a friend.

At the age of 57, Renneke completed a bachelor’s degree through OSU’s online education program. Following this, she returned once again to California to become a job trainer for city bus drivers, but was laid off from this position during the recession. Renneke now lives in Albany and works at Natural Grocers in Corvallis.

Martha Cone Oral History Interview

Martha Cone

Martha Cone

Date: May 24, 2016
Location: Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
Length: 00:56:01
Interviewee: Martha Cone
Interviewers: Eugenia Rott and Jared Ziegler

Interview Video

Bio: Dr. Martha Cone, Ph.D. was a Post-Doc and teacher at Oregon State University for several years while simultaneously spending much of her free time advocating for women’s rights on campus. After achieving her Ph.D. at University of Texas – Austin, Cone moved to Delaware to work at DuPont & Company. Dr. Cone then moved to California, where she met women travelling to Women’s Land in Estacada, Oregon. After a little over a year, Dr. Cone moved to Corvallis where she wrote Letters to the Editor for the Barometer and was an outspoken activist for women’s rights. Unfortunately, decades later she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Unable to continue work fulltime after her cancer treatment, she decided to officially retire. Currently, Dr. Cone works as a Braille translator for science textbooks while living with her partner in a floating home on the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest.

Summary: Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1947, Dr. Martha Cone, Ph.D. begins her interview by speaking on her early life. Her father was an air traffic controller, a position that required the family to relocate frequently while Dr. Cone was growing up. She attended high school in San Antonio, Texas from 1961-1965; Dr. Cone describes this time in her life as devoid of discussion on LGBTQ issues, explaining many from this community were still in the closet including herself. After graduation, Cone matriculated at the University of Texas – Austin, where she studied Microbiology and ultimately earned her doctorate degree. Dr. Cone explains how she was married from the age of 19 until she came out at 27, when she left her marriage and moved to a forested 1900s utopian commune in Delaware. Following this, Dr. Cone moved to California with friends from Philadelphia, where she met some women who owned a big pink bus, “tricked out” with beds and a kitchen, and joined them on their journey to Oregon.

Dr. Cone details how this experience brought her to a women’s land commune near Estacada. Everything was done by consensus among the women, including farm work and class instruction. Dr. Cone lived at the commune for about a year and a half before coming to Corvallis in search of a job, and eventually accepted a position in the Oregon State University (OSU) Microbiology Department. Dr. Cone describes how in her time at OSU, she was a part of the ‘book scandal’ in the OSU Women’s Center, wrote a letter to the editor of the Barometer on the subject, and was even involved in a picket march. While working for the College of Science, Dr. Cone was good friends with a gay man and by a mutual agreement, they conceived a child together. The man is still very much involved in their daughter’s life.

Dr. Cone commented that when she first came to OSU, the gay communities were closeted and activism was just beginning to take place on campus. She became involved in activism for women’s college sports at the university, which often involved Title IX issues. Dr. Cone admits that her work experience at OSU was somewhat of a locker room environment because not many women worked in her department.

In part because of this unsupportive environment, and the general discrimination against women prevalent in the science department, Dr. Cone says she decided not to try for tenure. She instead took up a post-doc position working in a lab for 10 years until the professor left, and Dr. Cone was unable to attain grants for the project on her own. After being diagnosed with breast cancer, and ultimately using all of her sick leave, Dr. Cone officially retired. In 2002, she took advantage of an opportunity to learn how to transcribe textbooks into Braille, an activity she actively participates in to this day. At the time of the interview, Dr. Cone shared that she planned to move to Portland to live in a floating home on the Columbia River with her partner.


Robin Frojen Oral History Interview

Robin Frojen

Robin Frojen

Date: May 25, 2016
Location: Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
Length: 00:36:21
Interviewee: Robin Frojen
Interviewers: Madeleine Selfors and Kevin More

Interview Video

Bio: Valerie “Robin” Frojen was born on October 14, 1966 in Los Angeles, CA. Two months later she was adopted by Colleen Baker Frojen and Robert Charles Frojen. She has two brothers named Jon Collin Frojen and Antonio Ezkauritza. She attended a Catholic all-girls middle and high school, where she found respite from bullying experienced in elementary school. Frojen pursued higher education in Syracuse, New York from 1984-1988. Yearning for a new path in life, Robin moved to Scottsdale, Arizona to enroll in culinary school. In 1990, she completed culinary school which opened several doors for her in the culinary world. Frojen and her first wife had a son together in 2000, Colin Lee Frojen-Andersson. She subsequently remarried, to her current wife Searainya “Sea” Bond-Frojen.

Robin is a confident, easy-going woman with much to brag about, but you would never catch her doing so. She is a humble food-lover who cherishes her time caring for her family, friends, and especially her students. She has been living in Oregon since 1993 and currently holds the position of Director of the Dairy Center on the Oregon State University Creamery. If you can’t find her on the job, you can catch her in her backyard barbecuing a few steaks with her wife, son, and closest neighbors. A role-model for many, Robin shares her triumphs, struggles, and meanings of her many tattoos in her interview for the Oregon State Queer Archives.

Summary: Robin Frojen was born in Los Angeles in 1966. In the interview, Frojen begins by describing the difficulties she faced in her youth, not caring for traditional gender roles or expectations, which led to bullying throughout her early life. Frojen cites a notable incident that occurred in elementary school in which she did not receive any valentine cards from her peers. Frojen continued her education at a Catholic middle school and high school. Ironically, the nuns at Frojen’s institution were incredibly progressive when it came to their acceptance of diverse personalities and sexualities. Her high school has more recently become a visible beacon, having graduated their first transgender student. Frojen recognizes this is an incredible accomplishment, especially for a Catholic school. Frojen maintains a close relationship with the high school and its faculty members.

Frojen remembers her childhood outside of school affectionately, speaking about her parents with admiration, and recognizing how hard her father worked to provide for her family. Frojen describes her mother as a strong and supportive force, particularly when Frojen came out to her family at 22. Frojen explains that the way in which she came out to her family was not ideal. Afraid her sexuality would ruin her relationship with her family, Frojen agreed to have a good friend break the news to her mother over lunch. Frojen admits that her mother suspected she was a lesbian, so was not shocked by Frojen’s coming out. Her mother had refrained from asking her daughter outright, because she valued integrity and honesty and did not want to put Frojen in a position that would require her to lie. After Frojen came out, her mother proceeded to call all of their immediate family members to break the news and affirm her love and support for Frojen.

After moving around the country, from coast to coast, Frojen eventually settled down in Corvallis, Oregon in 1997. In Corvallis, she rediscovered her love for food and made the courageous decision to pursue a degree in chemistry and food science. Frojen is now the manager of the Oregon State Creamery. Corvallis’s welcoming community has been an amazing city to reside in for Frojen and her family. It has allowed her to become active in different communities throughout Corvallis. She has helped with the LGTBQ+ community by attending diversity panels held by Kathy Grieves. Frojen also helps with NAMI, a program that helps families deal with mental illness.  Robin always expresses that she is available for anyone who needs help and lives by the motto, “Work hard at being yourself, not someone else.”



On May 3rd OSQA hosted a 2016 Pride Week event for the HST 368 and the general public in which we conducted an oral history interview with OSU Alum John Helding – be sure to check it out as well!

An OSQA Oral History: John Helding

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