Oregon State University Releases Major Oral History Project Featuring Interviews with Hundreds of Faculty and Alumni

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Oregon State University has released the largest oral history project ever conducted at OSU. The product of more than four years of work, The OSU Sesquicentennial Oral History Project consists of more than 400 hours of fully transcribed video and audio recordings with well over 200 alumni, faculty, staff and current students. The entire collection is available online at http://scarc.library.oregonstate.edu/oh150/index.html

The project team, which was housed in the OSU Libraries Special Collections and Archives Research Center (SCARC), traveled near and far to collect regional perspectives on Oregon’s Land Grant university. In addition to a great many interviews captured in Corvallis, Portland and the Willamette Valley, project staff traveled to Bend and Newport as well as Pendleton, Hood River, Sutherlin and Klamath Falls to record the stories of a wide variety of alumni and faculty, particularly those associated with OSU’s branch campuses and Extension and Experiment Stations. The oral historians likewise visited locations out of state including San Francisco, Denver, Norman (Oklahoma), Houston and Washington, D.C. to meet and interview a selection of high-profile Oregon Staters.

The completed collection consists of more than 100 interviews with OSU alumni from every decade beginning with the 1930s; over 100 additional interviews with OSU faculty, both current and emeritus, representing all of OSU’s colleges; another 20 interviews with OSU staff (current and retired); and 10 more with current OSU students (undergraduate and graduate). A total of 111 majors, departments or thematic points of emphasis are represented within the collection.

Included among those interviewed are three OSU Presidents (Ed Ray, John Byrne and Paul Risser); an assortment of prominent OSU athletes (Terry Baker, Yvenson Bernard, Dale Story, Joy (Selig) Petersen and four individuals connected with the 2006 and 2007 College Baseball World Series-winning teams); and internationally known alumni including National Geographic editor Chris Johns, groundbreaking clergywoman Katharine Jefferts-Schori, NASA astronaut Don Pettit, and National Medal of Science recipient Warren Washington. The collection also features interviews with 24 OSU Distinguished Professors as well as the three individuals who served as co-chairs for the $1 billion Campaign for OSU. Likewise included are interviews with a retired carpenter, a greenhouse worker and union activist, an E-campus student located on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and the head of the OSU Motor Pool.

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“Our ambition was to provide as full a portrait of the university and its history as we could,” said project director Chris Petersen, senior faculty research assistant in SCARC. “I’m quite certain that there are pockets of OSU that are not especially well-represented in the finished product, but my hope is that anyone associated with Oregon State will see at least a piece of themselves somewhere within the collection.”

A total of 276 interviews have been made available on the custom-built project website, each of them fully transcribed and contextualized with biographical sketches and abstracts for all those who participated. In total, more than 3.4 million words of transcription have been released on the site. Some of the collection’s most significant topical strengths include the Advancement of Women, Athletics, Entrepreneurship, Environmental Sustainability, Extension and Experiment Stations, International Studies, Journalism, Military Service, Multiculturalism, Oceanography, and Public Service. OSU’s Land Grant heritage and mission are documented throughout the project. Specific interviews focusing on Sea Grant, Space Grant and Sun Grant at OSU are included as well.

Commissioned in anticipation of OSU’s 150th anniversary in 2018, the oral history project was sponsored by the OSU Office of the Provost, University Marketing and Relations, OSU Libraries and Press, the OSU Foundation, the OSU Alumni Office, and The Oregon Stater alumni magazine. All told, thirty-eight people contributed in some form to the creation, development and online representation of the project.

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