A Brief History of Women in Chemistry at Oregon State University – The Beginning to 1960

This post is contributed by SCARC student archivist Hannah Lawson, a chemistry major with a passion for art, conservation, and preserving history.

Before 1900

1892 photoIn the early days of Oregon Agricultural College, an education in the basics of chemistry were a requirement for all students. Prior to 1900, no chemistry degrees were awarded, as there was no specific program for chemistry. While nearly half of the students enrolled at Oregon State University were women, few were science majors. Several women earned degrees in sciences related to agriculture, however the majority of women who earned Bachelor’s degrees in the 19th century at Oregon Agricultural College focused their studies in home economics. Many women became interested in chemistry through courses offered in the home economics program, in which basic reactionary chemistry was taught in the context of household solvents and reactions.


The schools of pharmacy and chemistry became separate departments in 1909, under which time John Fulton was the Department Chair. With a dedicated building and more funding, the department of Chemistry at Oregon State University could now focus on expanding their resources to attract new chemistry students and faculty. Female involvement in the chemistry department at this time was limited to chemistry courses and instruction through household science programs. Only a few women graduated with higher degrees in science at this time, although many were indirectly involved in chemistry through agricultural chemistry programs or food science and technology. The women who were directly involved in the chemistry department through instruction, research, or stock room maintenance as staff or faculty often never stayed in the department for more than a few years.

The Chemistry Department at Oregon State University during these years was small and somewhat homogenous. Linus Pauling, Oregon State’s esteemed Nobel Prize-winning alum, graduated from Oregon State University in 1922. During his time at Oregon State, he taught a chemistry course for home economics majors where he met his wife of 58 years, Ava Helen.


Lillian Olsen

Lillian Olsen

The 1930s through 1960s marked a progressive time in the world of chemistry. New discoveries were being made due to the revolutionary new technology at the time, and with the advent of the modern analog computer, computational chemistry was expanding. While there were a few chemistry instructors and researchers who were women at this time, there were no female chemistry professors. Ruth Parkinson and Lillian Olsen were chemistry instructors during this time.

Ruth Parkinson

Ruth Parkinson

The 1930s through 1960s represented a turbulent time in American history, as it spans two major wars. However, this time is also representative of change, and the inclusion of women in the chemistry department at Oregon State University shows the changing attitudes towards women in STEM fields. As the field of chemistry expanded, as did the diversity of individuals within the field.

The chemistry notebooks of Mary Spike, who was a pharmacy major in 1934, showcase the nature of chemistry at this time. The material taught in her general chemistry classes were simultaneously in depth, yet lacking in more modern chemical knowledge, such as the neutron and radiation, which are common aspects of chemistry courses nowadays. Mary Spike’s scrapbooks are filled with materials and keepsakes from her sorority, Sigma Kappa. Ultimately, Mary Spike’s collection shows us that a female chemistry student is just like any other, concerned with academics, social life, and her future in science.

Marian Elizabeth Hills

Marian Elizabeth Hills

The first PhD in Chemistry at Oregon State University was awarded to Karl Klemm in 1935. The first PhD in Chemistry awarded to a woman came 25 years later, according to the commencement programs at the Special Collections & Archives Research Center, to Marian Elizabeth Hills. However, the first PhD awarded to a woman at Oregon State University was in 1941, to Chuang Kwai Lui, who earned her doctorate in Physics.


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A chance to celebrate history in a tasty way!

October 31st will be our 12th annual celebration of historic flavors in our “Taste of the ‘Chives-Recipe Showcase” event. This year we’re looking for inspiration from archived recipes for baked goods-breads, cakes, cookies, and the like-for a fun noontime hour of food sampling!

One good source of recipes is our 2008 Taste of the ‘Chives Recipe Booklet, featuring several dozen historic recipes like this:

Rice-Flour Drop Cookies

  • 2 Eggs, well beaten
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon melted fat
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • 1 ½ cups rice flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix together the ingredients in the order given, drop the batter by the spoonful on a greased baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes in a moderate oven.

(Source: Farmer’s Bulletin #1195, Rice as Food)

Other offerings include: Pumpkin-Cornmeal Dodgers, Cheese Gingerbread, and Raspberry Cake.  Find these and others here!

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It’s Oregon Archives Month 2018!

OSU 150: Hops history open house: Oct 3rd 10:00-2:00 (SCARC foyer)

40082911160_14c5bb1059_oDid you know that Oregon State University has the first archive in the country dedicated to saving and sharing the history of hops and brewing? Visit the OHBA in the Valley Library to learn more about the history of research at OSU and hops throughout the state through a variety of photographs, memorabilia, oral histories, research reports, homebrew club newsletters, books, industry periodicals, and art from breweries throughout the state.

The Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives (OHBA), established in 2013, is the first in the U.S. dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing materials that tell the story of Northwest brewing. We document the regional hops and barley farming, craft and home brewing, cider, mead, and the OSU research that dates to the 1890s! Learn more about what you’ll find in the collections at https://guides.library.oregonstate.edu/brewingarchives.

4-H fashion revueLike, let’s do lunch! 1980s film showing: Oct 12 12:00-1:00 (Willamette East)

Like, let’s do lunch! Step back in time with News and Communications Service totally awesome film footage from the 1980s. Clips include DaVinci Days activities (1989), Art professor Harrison Branch talks with OSU Art students (1986), eavesdropping on curious campus conversations (1986), and aerial footage of campus (1983).

OSU Women exhibit reception Oct 17 4:00-6:00 (SCARC reading room)

Join us to celebrate, consider, and be curious about women’s work, words, communities, professional barriers, heartbreaks, contradictions, achievements, and perseverance. Learn more about the history of women at Oregon State University at the “Women’s Words : Women’s Work” exhibit opening and reception.

  • Treats, coffee, and exhibit tours 4:00-6:00.
  • Exhibit introduction and talk 5:00.

Glitter in the Archives! Using History to Imagine Queer and Trans Futures October 26 4:00-6:00 (SCARC reading room)

osqa glitterJoin the OSU Queer Archives (OSQA) for our annual crafting event using archival materials! Come learn about OSU and Corvallis area queer history and be inspired to imagine, create, and “craft” queer and trans futures.

The Great Beaver Bake Off Oct 31 12:00-1:00 Willamette Rooms.

Join us for the 12th annual archival recipe cooking event! Bring your favorite sweet treat to share. This year will be a baked good bake-off and tasting competition, so bring your best beaver spirit and dress up as your favorite baked good! Get inspired by historic recipes posted on our blog (bit.ly/2019OAMrecipes).

#dogaday: vintage dog photos all month long! Instagram @osuscarc

Missing your best canine friend? Celebrate archives this month with some of our very favorite historic dog photos.

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Great Beaver Bake-off Recipes!

Mark your calendars for October 31st noon-1:00 for the 12th annual Taste of the ‘Chives! Meet us in the Willamette Rooms on the 3rd floor of the Valley Library and bring your best baked treats.

Men making donuts at the Sugar Crest Donuts Company in Portland

Here are some ideas:

folk club recipe book


  • folk club babka and beer rollsfolk club fried rice and rye breadfolk club pineapple custard and coconut cookiesfolk club sunsets portuguese sweet bread
  • 20181011105235562_Page_0120181011105235562_Page_0220181011105235562_Page_0320181011105235562_Page_0420181011105235562_Page_0520181011105235562_Page_0620181011105235562_Page_0720181011105235562_Page_0820181011105235562_Page_0920181011105235562_Page_1020181011105658861_Page_01 20181011105658861_Page_02 20181011105658861_Page_03 20181011105658861_Page_04 20181011105658861_Page_05 20181011105658861_Page_06 20181011105658861_Page_07 20181011105658861_Page_08 20181011105658861_Page_09
  • Citations
  • Men making donuts in Portland, Oregon. P217:34:65
  • Oregon State University Folk Club. Gateway to Our Kitchens : The Oregon State University Folk Club Cookbook. Corvallis, Or.: Printed by Franklin Press, 1981.
  • Oregon State Fair Cookbook Featuring Award-winning Recipes from past Years. Salem, Or.: Oregon State Fair & Exposition Center, 1983.
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New and Updated Finding Aids for July and August

We completed or updated six finding aids in July and August 2018.

  • Two of the guides are updates to reflect current descriptive practice and incorporate additions to the collections
  • Two of the guides are for collections that were only minimally described and are now fully processed
  • Two of the guides are for University Publications (PUBS)

Finding aids that have been updated to reflect current descriptive practice and incorporate additions:   

President’s Commission on the Status of Women Records, 1971-2010 (RG 159)

These materials were generated and assembled by the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (PCOSW), an independent commission established in 1972 at Oregon State University with responsibility for advising the President and other administrators on issues of concern to women on campus.  The records in the collection document the activities of the Commission in its research and advisory role. 

E.E. Wilson Photographic Collection, circa 1855-1953 (P 101)

This collection consists of images of Wilson, a Corvallis native and Oregon Agricultural College (OAC) alum, as well as his family and friends, the OAC campus, Corvallis, and other locations around the Pacific Northwest.  The collection also includes images of the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco and photos of Siletz tribe members.  Digitized images from the E.E. Wilson Photographic Collection can be viewed in Oregon Digital.

Collections that were only minimally described:

Te May Ching Papers, 1947-1988 (MSS Ching)

This collection consists of teaching and research records created and assembled by Te May Tsou Ching, professor of seed physiology at Oregon State University from 1956-1988.   The materials document Ching’s career via correspondence; research materials including project files, laboratory notebooks, specimen photographs, and bibliographic records; teaching materials; administrative and programmatic records from the Crop Science Department; and records from her involvement in various professional activities and organizations.

Home Economics Club Records, 1937-1974 (MSS HomeEcClub)

These records document the activities and operations of the Oregon State University Home Economics Club.  The record are comprised of constitutions, correspondence, financial records, meeting minutes, reports, newsletters, materials from state and national organizations, and scrapbooks.

University Publications:  

Oregon State College Preview and Promotional Booklets, 1938-1960 (PUB 010-24j)

These annual publications provide a preview for incoming students and the new academic year and promote Oregon State College to potential new students.  All of the publications are available online in Oregon Digital.

Staff Newsletter, 1961-2009 (PUB 008-22a)

The Staff Newsletter consists of the weekly publication for Oregon State University faculty and staff published from 1961 through 2009 as The Staff NewsletterOSU This WeekOSU This Summer, and LIFE@OSU.  The newsletter includes articles, announcements and news of campus-wide interest.  The Faculty Senate minutes were published as an appendix to the newsletter during the 1960s and 1970s.  Most of the issues ofOSU This Week and OSU This Summer for 1987-2008 are available online in Oregon Digital.

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“Plywood Jungle: 20th Century Transformations of Tropical Hardwoods”

This post is contributed by Maddie Connolly, a SCARC Student Archivist, and a senior majoring in archaeology, and minoring in French and history. Her Honors thesis focuses on redware ceramics in medieval England that were excavated from a witch’s house!

brock1Dr. Emily Brock recently completed a two-month stint as resident scholar in the OSU Libraries. Brock came to OSU to conduct research in support of an upcoming book on the 20th century roots of the plywood industry. Her interest in the history of plywood originated in 2013 when she worked as a Fulbright scholar in the Philippines, where she observed the country’s significant involvement in plywood production and exportation. Her research was especially exciting for the Special Collections and Archives Research Center as she made use of several natural resources collections that have not otherwise been heavily used.

Brock’s research on the development of the plywood industry focuses on the American presence in Southeast Asia in the first half of the 20th century, and on the subsequent rise of American-style multinational corporations in the region. One specific focus is on the role that the international plywood industry plays in stripping away the natural context of harvested trees, thus encouraging apathy on the part of consumers towards the origins of source materials. This apathy in turn has worked to diminish reverence for the incredible biodiversity of Southeast Asian tropical hardwoods forests, an unusual turn in light of modern ecological awareness movements.

Timber production in Southeast Asia increased significantly following the diminishment of the presence in the Philippines at the onset of World War II. The timber industry of the era was one of the most lucrative in Southeast Asia, where most countries at the time were struggling economically following years of occupation by neo-colonial powers and, later, destruction wrought during the war. The need to clear agricultural lands for food production, much needed for war-torn countries, accelerated deforestation in the region.

During the war, plywood was developed and marketed as a cheaper alternative to expensive and inefficient traditional wood sources and also to metal resources that were scarce during the war years. Initial uses for plywood as a metal substitute included medical and military contexts including, for example, leg splints and instrument panels in motorboats, ships, and aircraft.

Lauan wood, a genus of tropical hardwood which makes up a significant portion of Southeast Asia’s tropical forests, was one of the most common types of wood used to produce plywood in the early years of the product’s development. Contemporary “lauan” plywood, despite being marketed as such, is not actually made of lauan wood because, like many tropical hardwoods indigenous to Southeast Asia, lauan species have become endangered as a result of the success of the plywood industry. That said, tropical hardwoods are favored for plywood production because they are cheap, there are no knots in the wood, and they do not have growth rings.

Plywood is composed of thin layers of wood held together by glue. It is considerably cheaper and more efficient to produce than are traditional wood products and it enables the use of scrap material, since the actual kinds of wood used in plywood production are less important to its functionality than are the number of layers and the types of glue used to create the product. Put differently, the material characteristics of plywood are not dependent on the species of wood used but rather on the production process. The combination of the international production line and the relative insignificance of wood types leads consumers to conceptualize plywood as distinct from its source materials. Consumers tend to prioritize indications of how plywood will behave over information about what makes it up.

The price and quality of plywood dropped as the industry expanded out of Japan and the Philippines into other regions of Southeast Asia, including Korea, Taiwan, and eventually Indonesia. Manufacturers began sneaking durian wood into the inner layers of their plywood, which became an issue because durian wood smells just as bad as it infamous fruit and, when used in building materials, the smell lingers and permeates the structure. This issue came to a head rather quickly as product came to be used in the construction of residential homes. Brock points out that problems of this sort are made possible as a result of the extreme disinterest of consumers toward the source materials used in plywood production. Indeed, the major draw of plywood is that one does not have to know exactly what it is made of to know how it will perform.

residentscholar_logoThe Resident Scholar Program supports researchers from around the world in their use of the Special Collections and Archives Research Center’s holdings. Applications to the program are accepted from January to April; more information can be found on the program website.

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World War Two and Transformations of Wood and Forests

This post is contributed by Maddie Connolly, a SCARC Student Archivist, and a senior majoring in archaeology, and minoring in French and history. Her Honors thesis focuses on redware ceramics in medieval England that were excavated from a witch’s house!

macicaKatie Macica recently became the 29th researcher to complete a tenure of work sponsored by the OSU Libraries Resident Scholar Program. Macica is a PhD candidate from Loyola University, Chicago.

Macica’s research focuses on the impact of World War II on regional industrialization. Specifically, she looks at how war-time industries coincided with and influenced local economies throughout the war as well as how policies and practices in place before the war affected the circumstances within which war-time industries were established and managed. She is particularly interested in the role and development of local Pacific Northwest industries throughout the war effort. To this end, she came to OSU to utilize maps and documents from SCARC’s collections that pertain to economic and industrial development during the first half of the twentieth century.

At the outbreak of World War II, the Pacific Northwest region of the United States was relatively isolated geographically from the war effort and from contemporary military and industrial centers of production. The region was home to a significant forestry and forest products economy, which Macica noted underwent a period of internal change at the start of the war, as characterized by a move toward sustainability practices and away from complete extraction. The start of the war came on the heels of the New Deal-era environmental movement which increased awareness about the impact of extractive industries like forestry, agriculture, and mining — the region’s major local economies at the time.

Initially, the forest products industry weakened as its workers were pulled by the draft or moved on to jobs in other industries that were considered more necessary for the war effort. By the end of the war, however, forest products from the Pacific Northwest were in use throughout the war zone. Macica’s research focuses on the shift of the Pacific Northwest forest products industry from relative insignificance to an indispensable source of production and resources for the war effort.

As the war dragged on and metal resources for aircraft, ships, and storage and housing facilities dwindled, the demand for forestry products increased. Wood was used in place of metal wherever possible, particularly in certain components of military aircraft and ships, and as molds, scaffolds, trusses and other construction materials. Its strong forestry economy enabled the Pacific Northwest to ultimately become a hub of shipbuilding and aircraft construction during the war, as easy access to plentiful forest products and to ample hydroelectric power from the Willamette and Columbia rivers facilitated military industry and sped the construction process. Wood products were also commonly used in place of metal in the construction of military storage facilities and housing for military workers.

In her resident scholar presentation, Macica emphasized, despite the enormous demand for Pacific Northwest forest products, the extraction of forest resources did not reach its peak during the war years. All-out exploitation was, for one, prohibited by the National Park Service, which refused to allow the destruction of national parks in order to harvest materials for the war industry. Environmental conservation efforts inherited from the New-Deal era also helped to limit the exploitation of national forests to supply the war effort.

Shipyards in Portland, Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver, and aircraft production centers in Seattle made up the bulk of the wartime industrialization of the region. These industries were drawn to the region primarily because of its abundance of forest products, but also because local waterways were being harnessed to provide hydroelectric power and house shipyards.

Macica’s research indicates that wartime industries in the region literally laid the groundwork for continuing industrialization in the Pacific Northwest after the end of the war. The shipbuilding and aircraft construction industries relied on pre-existing local economies and natural resources, which enabled regional development to continue without interruption in the post-war years, since industrialization was not dependent on outside financial support or resources.

residentscholar_logoThe Resident Scholar Program provides research support for visiting scholars from around the world. New applications are accepted every year between January and April.  More information can be found here.

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Activism and Social Justice through the Archive

This post is contributed by Natalia Fernández, Curator and Archivist of the Oregon Multicultural Archives and OSU Queer Archives.  She was recently asked to speak at Emporia State University’s School of Library & Information Management (SLIM) graduation, which took place Sunday August 12, 2018 at the Oregon Health & Sciences University auditorium.

What was it like to be asked to be commencement speaker at Emporia’s School of Library & Information Management (SLIM) graduation ceremony?

It was such an honor to be asked to be a commencement speaker! I accepted the invitation almost immediately.

What inspired your message in the speech you gave?

My work and professional experiences inspired the message I gave in my speech. In preparation for writing the speech, I did my research of course. I listened to a number of commencement speeches and read articles regarding “what makes a good commencement speech.” The main themes that emerged were to be emotional/passionate, use humor if possible, and that personal stories make the best speeches. I also noticed that many speeches included some local references, and of course, a commencement speech typically has life advice and lessons learned. To include some local references, I asked the program director for some examples of the graduates’ accomplishments to share as part of the speech. In addition, I decided to focus the first part of my speech on the Emporia State professional values of service, leadership, integrity, and mentorship. I knew I wanted my ultimate message to be about activism and social justice within the profession, so to transition, I stated that the commonality between all of those professional values is action. I then shared my journey of activism and social justice throughout my career thus far, and reflected on words of wisdom expressed in a 2010 lecture by the archivist Randall Jimerson entitled “Archivists and the Call of Justice.” I wanted my speech to be a call to action to the new graduates; I concluded by stating, “I am archivist activist. When I look at you, I see fellow activists.”

What does social justice mean to you as an archivist?

In my speech I stated that in the journey toward social justice, as information professionals, we each have a role to play as part of the work that we do. One of the many beautiful aspects of our profession is that activism can take many forms. Through my work as an archivist, I collaborate with communities who have been traditionally marginalized, in both the historical record and in historiography. My contribution toward social justice is to assist communities in sharing their stories with the archive as a form of empowerment, a way in which community members can add their voice to the historical narrative. In addition, through my instruction, exhibit curation, and reference services, I have the power to highlight certain materials and assist patrons in discovering stories they might not otherwise have used. I am able to guide researchers, students, and community members to repurpose and reinterpret archival materials in new and interesting ways, and host community events to inform and share traditionally untold stories. I closed my speech by stating that it is incumbent upon all of us as information professionals to reflect upon our role and ask ourselves how we can be more pro-active to the cause of social justice as we serve, lead, and mentor others. When we fully commit ourselves to our professional values is when we can truly say that we are employing our power as information professionals, our expertise, and the love we have for our communities as we strive to promote a better society for all.

What role does mentorship play for you in your work as an archivist?

Mentorship is vital in our profession. I have been incredibly privileged to have an amazing support system of colleagues, both within the OSULP and beyond. In my speech I encouraged the graduates to open up as many opportunities as possible for others, and to build mentoring actions into their daily work. And, I reminded them that part of being an effective mentor is by they themselves having a network of mentors who can assist and guide them. Throughout all of our careers, we will always be both a mentor and a mentee. We will always have worthy experiences to share with others, and there will always be more to learn from others as well.

What do you remember about starting your career?  What do you think has had the greatest impact on your career?

When first starting my career (this job in fact), I remember feeling overwhelmed and having quite the case of imposter syndrome. For me, it was a combination of my amazing colleagues and the wonderful communities with whom I work that had the greatest impact on my career. I have learned, and continue to learn, so much from colleagues who have been generous with their time and who are willing to share their professional experiences with me. In my commitment to serving the communities with which I work, I always have to remember it is not about my intentions, it is about the impact that I have. In order to most effectively center my services on the community’s needs, I strive to ensure that community members direct me in how to best serve them.

What words of advice do you have for new archivists and librarians?

I have so many words! But I’ll be brief. My words of advice are to remember that in our commitment to being leaders in our profession and our communities, our job is to use our positions of power to be advocates for those who lack power. As information professionals, we have a lot of power as stewards and providers of information. I want to assure new archivists and librarians that they are qualified, ready, and capable – they are leaders and activists. And, while there will always be unknowns as part of our jobs, and life in general, one thing for sure is when starting a career as a librarian or archivist, it just the beginning of many amazing journeys that are yet to come!

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Exceptional Opportunities for Ambitious Young Women: Secretarial Science at Oregon State University

Rachel Lilley is the Public Services Assistant in SCARC, where she splits her time between providing front-line patron service in SCARC’s Reading Room, and assisting in the management, processing, and preservation of archival collections.

The School of Commerce – proclaims the promotional booklet The College Girl at O.A.C. – offers “training which leads to exceptional opportunities for ambitious young women.” Statistics gathered by the School bear out this claim: between 1917 and 1922, the number of women graduating from the School of Commerce had more than tripled – from 9 in 1917 to 33 in 1922 – testament to the “increasing importance of women in the business world.”

Women working on office equipment (HC0882)

Women working on office equipment (HC0882)

The four-year, curriculum was designed to “meet the needs of students who wish to prepare themselves for responsible secretarial positions or for such positions as office manager, assistants to public officials, and research assistants.” While courses preparing women for the “secretarial field” were the most popular, women could be trained for “positions in the baking world, advertising, business, and civil service work” as well. Early lower divisions course offerings included Stenography, Applied Stenography, Rational Typewriting (typing by touch), and a Reporters’ Course. By 1933, Office Procedure and Office Organization and Management had been added as requirements, and upper division courses included both a seminar in Secretarial Training, and something akin to a modern-day internship, in which students studied the “application of actual problems in college offices.”

School of Commerce class in Bexell Hall (P016)

School of Commerce class in Bexell Hall (P016)

At the height of the Second World War, Secretarial Science offerings had expanded again to include lower division courses in Typing of Army and Navy Correspondence and Forms, and Army and Navy Applied Stenography. To the upper division offerings were added Office Procedures of Army, Navy, and War Industries, Merchandising and Selling, and General Advertising. Training in Secretarial Science was seen as vital to the success of the war effort, and this was heavily emphasized in literature about the major / department.

Demonstrating new IBM machinces in OSC business office (P082)

Demonstrating new IBM machinces in OSC business office (P082)

According to the November 1941 issue of the Oregon Stater, in fact, “degree-granting departments such as education, forestry, pharmacy, science, and secretarial science have all felt the impact of the defense effort in one way or another.” In response, every effort was made to “encourage former students to return and complete their courses and to have new students start in these fields so that the future supply of technically trained men and women may be assured.”

Designed as a companion to the exhibit Women’s Words, Women’s Work: Spaces of Community, Change, Tradition, Resistance at Oregon State University, the exhibit Exceptional Opportunities for Ambitious Young Women: Secretarial Science at Oregon State University was researched, designed, and installed by Rachel Lilley, with gracious assistance from Anne Bahde and Tiah Edmunson-Morton.

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The Fight for Wilkinson Hall

Continuing in her work with the William Taubeneck papers, this post is contributed by SCARC student archivist Hannah Lawson, a chemistry major with a passion for art, conservation, and preserving history.

Wilkinson Hall, which resides on Orchard Avenue, is home to Oregon State University’s Department of Geosciences; the Geology and Geography programs. It was dedicated to William “Doc” Wilkinson, a former professor and chairman in the Department of Geology. It is the so called ‘phoenix’ of the Earth Sciences Department at OSU for good reason: the plans were struck down and halted time and time again, only to rise from the ashes due to the perseverance and passion of the Geosciences faculty.

In the 1940s and 50s, the Geology Department at Oregon State University was one of the most revered in the state. It began to languish in the late 1950s and early 60s. While other geology departments at other campuses were getting upgraded buildings and facilities, the department at Oregon State were being pushed and prodded into the smallest, most forgotten rooms on campus. William “Bill” Taubeneck, a geology professor at the time, described the geology facilities at Oregon State as “the most primitive in the West.” By the 1960s, the same facilities shared by 4 professors and 30 students in 1930 were now shared by 11 staff members and nearly 140 geology students.

Wilkinson Hall

Original designs for the Geosciences building from 1969

Wilkinson, along with Taubeneck and a few other members in the Geosciences faculty, began pushing for the construction of an Earth Sciences building in the 1960s. Both the Geography program and Geology program were in desperate need of defined spaces. The plans for this new Earth Sciences were revealed to the Geosciences Department in 1969. Bill Taubeneck was instantly dissatisfied with them. The original plans for this Earth Sciences building had no spaces for geology labs, and multiple ill-designed offices and classrooms. Taubeneck argued that there needed to be space for hundreds of rock specimen per student, as well as maps, photos, and fossils. Taubeneck also noted that poor facilities made it hard for Oregon State University to attract new geology professors and researchers, who could not conduct their research without a new building designated for the geosciences. A new Earth Sciences building would be integral for the future of geology at Oregon State. From that point on, Taubeneck was the chief crusader for the re-design, as well as the construction itself.

Several issues quickly arose, which postponed the development of building plans. Construction was continually put on hold by the State Emergency Board. The most devastating issue was the moratorium placed on all construction on Oregon state college campuses, which was placed by the State Legislature in March of 1970. The building was originally scheduled for construction in May of 1970. Oregon’s economy was both declining and inflating, which sharply increased the estimated cost of the proposed Earth Sciences building. Additionally, student riots across the state were causing property damage to campuses, which made legislatures hesitant to fund new buildings.

Hollis Dole, right, with Eldon GIlbert ("Oregon Stater," December 1975)

Hollis Dole, right, with Eldon Gilbert (“Oregon Stater,” December 1975)

Taubeneck was fortunate enough to have quality friends and associates in high places, which would benefit him in his fight for Wilkinson Hall. A particular ally was OSU alum Hollis Dole, who served as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Mineral Resources. Hollis would ultimately act as a mediator between Taubeneck and influential legislators in Oregon’s government. A series of letters between Taubeneck and Dole show the collaboration and friendship between the two. Dole kept Taubeneck informed of hearings in Washington, as well as pressed his fellow politicians about the issue of the Earth Sciences building at OSU, while Taubeneck continued persuading at the grassroots level. Both pushed continuously for the Geology Department, a program they were equally invested in. In late 1970, Taubeneck brought Rep. Stafford Hansel and Sen. Lynn Newbry through a tour of the Geology facilities located in the Education Hall, Benton Annex, and the now demolished WWII Quonset hut, and how these spaces created tension for students and teachers, as they restricted access to supplies and laboratory equipment. In short – the Geology Department and its’ professors were unable to provide their students with the proper education in the buildings they were divided by and housed in. They needed a space specific for them and their unique needs. Hansel and Newbry assured Taubeneck that the building would begin construction in March the next year, but in February of 1971, Taubeneck was told by Dean Popovich that the proposed Earth Science building was a lost cause.

In a letter to Gov. Tom McCall, Taubeneck expressed the inadequate conditions of the Geosciences Department. McCall, a proponent of higher education and proper management of natural resources, was empathetic to the needs of Oregon State University’s geology and geography programs.  While the decision to vote upon and release the funds would ultimately be made by the Ways and Means Committee, having the governor’s approval was a large step forward for the fate of the Earth Sciences building. McCall mentioned to Taubeneck that a reduction of the estimated cost of the building construction would be necessary for the final approval.

William Donald Wilkinson (President's Office Photographs, 1947)

William Donald Wilkinson (President’s Office Photographs, 1947)

The obvious requirement for a new building motivated Taubeneck and the Geosciences Department to push even harder for state approval. The plans were redesigned with guidelines from the Geology Department (who were not initially consulted during the original plans) with downgraded fixtures and the removal of two floors. The final budget came several thousand dollars under budget, and was approved in May of 1971. Construction of the building began shortly thereafter in the following summer, and the building was completed in December of 1972. The dedication ceremony, which came two years later on April 20th, 1974, officially named the hall after “Doc” Wilkinson, whose dreams of a Geoscience building were finally realized, nearly 5 years after his death.

Hollis Dole was the main speaker at the dedication ceremony. He remarked in his speech, It’s a New World, “On this campus a new building rises to remind us that nothing stands still, that change and challenge are as much a part of life as breathing and eating. May we accept the changes and the challenges and go forward boldly to claim a better life in the future than any we have known in the past, and do to so with the confidence and spirit befitting the great nation we are.”

The entirety of Dole’s speech highlights the energy crisis in the United States during the 1970s. It parallels the story of Wilkinson Hall, which is fraught with the unpredictable nature of politics and bureaucracy. However, the fight for the Geoscience building shows us that it can only take a single, committed person to change the course of Oregon State University history. It shows us how far a professor will go for his field and his department. William Taubeneck was a man who truly cared about the education of his students, and is a prime example of excellence within Oregon State.

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