Morning research run challenge: who’s name is on this bench?

This morning I nearly stumped Public Services Archivist Rachel Lilley!

Here’s what I sent her: “I actually have zero idea about this one – it’s a bench I used to pass on my way to work and have long wondered…”

By 10:41AM she’d solved it. Links are embedded in this post, and remember you can do your own historic OSU research online using Oregon Digital and ScholarsArchive!

And now — heeeerrrrre’s Rachel!

Found nestled in the boughs of one of Oregon State’s glorious rhododendrons, on the walking path between the Strand Agricultural building and Gilkey Hall, this bench is a memorial to Scott Donald Henderson. The plaque affixed to the bench’s backrest quotes from John Lennon’s peace anthem Imagine, and lists the years of Henderson’s birth and death (1964 and 1988, respectively). One would think that with these biographical details in hand, finding more information about Scott D. Henderson would be fairly straightforward. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you like a good “puzzler”), historical research can sometimes be trickier than we expect.

In this case, the wrench in the works comes in the form of Scott Perry Henderson. Scott P. Hendersonof Toledo, Oregon attended Oregon State University in the mid- to late-1970s, graduating in 1980with a Bachelor of Science in the College of Liberal Arts.

Scott Donald Anderson is listed as a Freshman in the 1983 Beaver and, curiously, as a Senior in the 1984 Beaver. In both years, he is pictured alongside his Delta Tau Delta fraternity brothers. He is not listed, however, in any previous or subsequent Beavers, nor is he listed in the 1984, 1985, 1986, or 1987 Commencement programs. There is, however, a Scott D. Henderson – of Beaverton – listed in the 1988 Commencement program, and this Scott Henderson happens to have also graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the College of Liberal Arts. Since Scott Perry and Scott Donald are the only Scott Hendersons who graduated in the 1980s, chances are high that the Scott D. listed in the 1988 Commencement is the Scott Donald Henderson memorialized on the plaque.

But wait! There’s one more twist! The February 1989 issue of the Oregon Stater – OSU’s alumni magazine – includes an “In Memoriam” listing for Scott Donald Henderson. While that listing states, correctly, that Scott D. was affiliated with Delta Tau Delta, it incorrectly includes him in the Class of 1980, Scott P.’s graduating class. If we assume the dates on the bench are correct, and Scott D. was born in 1964, he would have had to matriculate at OSU as a ‘tween to graduate in 1980.

All this is by way of saying that historical research can be messy. It can throw curveballs and heaters, and sometimes you just have to be patient and wait for the walk. Scott Donald Henderson passed away in Corvallis, February 29, 1988.

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