History of the Knudson Lecture Series

The Collins Pine Company established the Gene Knudson Lectures in Molecular Genetics in 1983 as a way to honor Gene Knudson for his many years of service to the company as a director. Knudson was intimately involved in the planning progress to develop programs in molecular genetics and materials science at Oregon State University. Creating this lectureship was seen by the University as a fitting way to pay tribute to Knudson and to help develop programs that would be beneficial to the entire state of Oregon.
Past lecturers have included:

  • Richard Lenski (2016)
  • Francis Martin (2013)  Event Poster
  • Peter and Rosemary Grant (2010) Event Poster
  • Susan Lindquist (2007)
  • Mario Capecchi (2005)
  • Victor Ambros (2003)
  • Russ Doolittle (1999)
  • Rich Roberts (1997)
  • Bud Ryan (1996)
  • Edwin Krebs (1995)
  • Sharon Long (1994)
  • Bruce Alberts (1993)
  • Nina Fedoroff (1992)
  • Paul Berg (1990)
  • Roger Beachy (1989)
  • Harold Varmus (1988)

Gene D. Knudson Biography

Gene D. Knudson was born in 1916 in Washtucna, Washington (near Pullman), to Andrew Christian and Eta Chapman Knudson. He graduated from high school in Weston, Oregon. He graduated with honors from the School of Forestry at Oregon State College in 1939 and then served in Europe as an artillery officer during the Second World War. He was awarded the Bronze Star and the French Croix de Guerre with silver star.
Knudson started his career in 1949 as chief forester of Willamette Valley Lumber Company, as Willamette Industries was then called. He earned successive promotions to logging manager, vice president for raw material supply, and executive vice president, and in 1970 became president and chief operating officer. He became chief executive officer in 1974, and was elected chair of Willamette’s board of directors in 1976. He retired from his position as CEO in 1981, and from the board chairship in 1984.
Knudson was a well-liked and respected chief. In 1984, in a letter to then-Forestry dean Carl Stoltenberg, Cathy Baldwin Dunn, corporate communications manager for Willamette Industries, wrote that Knudson was “universally loved and respected…a man of his word, a straight-shooter; extremely modest; highly intelligent yet a very practical thinker; …he likes people and knows how to manage them.” He was similarly esteemed by his peers in the wood-products industry.
Knudson served on the Oregon State Board of Forestry from 1961 to 1968; in 1961 he was influential in transferring the state’s forestry research program from the Department of Forestry to Oregon State University and placing it under the direction of the Dean of the College of Forestry. He was a member of the Forest Research Laboratory’s statutory Advisory Committee.
He served in leadership roles in many industry-related organizations, including the Oregon Logging Congress, Associated Oregon Industries and its legislative arm the Oregon Forest Industries Council, the Industrial Forestry Association, the National Forest Products Association, the Western Forestry and Conservation Association, and the Forest History Society.
For 25 years, he was on the board of Keep Oregon Green, a fire-prevention organization. He joined the board of Portland’s Western Forestry Center (now World Forestry Center) in 1973 and was president from 1983 to 1985. He was a member of the Society of American Foresters.
Knudson had strong ties to Oregon State University and built many warm relationships over the years with people at OSU. He was named a trustee of the OSU Foundation Board of Trustees in 1975 and joined the board’s fundraising committee in 1980. He served as the board’s president from 1981-83. He also served on the steering committee of the FourSight! Campaign, a major University effort to raise funds for four areas of the University including funds for materials science research programs.
A founding member of the OSU Presidents Club, Knudson gave generously to support several University programs including the Valley Library renovation, the OSU Research Council, and teaching and research in the College of Forestry.
Knudson received OSU’s Distinguished Service Award in 1985. In nominating him for this award, Dean Stoltenberg said, “Mr. Knudson has made generous and significant contributions through his behind-the-scenes sharing of managerial skills with public and non-profit organizations. And although not as widely recognized, his quiet, generous sharing of personal resources has inspired many others to give similarly…To every organization he has served, Gene Knudson brought leadership, respect, integrity, performance, and commitment.”
Gene Knudson passed away on April 9, 1998.

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