Monthly Archives: July 2013

What were students studying 99 years ago?

A collection delivery from the Hyslop Crop Science Field Research Laboratory included a few items from OAC alum Casey Strome. I’m perpetually delighted by these little glimpses into academic world of woebegone days!

The collection isn’t processed for viewing, but you can always email us if you are interested and we’ll let you know when it’s ready.

Friday Feature: Karl and Mike’s Excellent Adventure

Last Friday, July 12th, Karl McCreary and Mike Dicianna embarked on an excellent adventure to evaluate the Governor Douglas McKay papers and Mike has written this post to share the story.

The OSU Special Collections and Archives Research Center is presently negotiating with McKay’s family for acquisition of a rather complete collection of papers, photographs, ephemera and correspondence. The McKay collection is full of exciting items from this famous Oregon Agricultural College (OAC) alumni’s life.

Douglas McKay is a 1917 Graduate from OAC. He was student body president his senior year. When the United States entered World War I, McKay enlisted in the army and was sent to Europe, where he attained the rank of second lieutenant in the 361st Infantry Regiment of the Ninety-first (Pacific Coast) Division. On October 3, 1918, during the battle for Sedan in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, a severe shell wound removed him from combat; it was for that injury that McKay was awarded the Purple Heart.

Upon returning to Oregon, McKay lived with his wife and children in Portland where he sold insurance and worked as a car salesman. In 1927 he moved to Salem and purchased his own car dealership, which he called Douglas McKay Chevrolet. After living in Salem for five years, he was elected mayor. During WWII, McKay again volunteered for military service, and at age 48, was assigned to Camp Adair, near Corvallis as the gunnery range officer.

McKay served as an Oregon State Senator from 1934-1943, and was elected Governor in 1948. McKay left the governorship in 1952 when President Eisenhower appointed him Secretary of the Interior. After one term in Washington DC, he returned to run for U.S. Senate against Wayne Morse; his bid was unsuccessful. McKay retired from political life and the car business in the late 1950’s. He spent his last years in Salem with his wife. McKay died on July 22, 1959, after an extended illness.

The McKay collection is important to OSU Special Collections and Archive Research Center on many levels. Most importantly as an alum, his connection to OAC would be highlighted here since the collection includes numerous items from McKay’s years as a college student. Period photos, ephemera, and correspondence are poignant windows into university history during the pre-WWI years.

Re elect Karl

Secondly, the researcher value of the documents, records and scrapbooks is stellar. Historians looking at the post-WWII years in Oregon and issues of natural resources on the national front, will have the opportunity to work with these papers in our reading room — we’re all about access! And again, Karl and I feel that this collection would have the greatest exposure and prominence here at Oregon State. Of course, you understand that we are biased.


Friday Feature: talking about history

As we march forward towards our big 150 sesquicentennial at OSU, SCARC is ramping up efforts to highlight our collections and build new ones. A team of staff and students are working to collect approximately fifty in-depth videotaped interviews with prominent alumni, faculty, staff and supporters over the next two years to add to our already robust oral history collections. 

The project is being sponsored by the OSU Vice-Provost’s Office, OSU Relations and Marketing, OSU Libraries and Press, the OSU Foundation and the Oregon Stater alumni magazine.

Most recently, interviews have been conducted with Major General Julie Bentz, Robert Lundeen, and Andy Landforce. We’ll let you know when the interviews are processed and available, but in the meantime I tempt you with these short bio pieces! But you can find more alumni stories on OSU’s YouTube page.

Major General Julie Bentz

Born in rural Oregon, she is the daughter and sister of two Army National Guard veterans. She followed in their footsteps, and upon enrolling at OSU, joined the ROTC, and upon graduating in 1986 with a BA and BS in Nuclear Engineering, accepted a commission as a Lieutenant in the Oregon National Guard. Julie’s first posting was in Germany, where she dealt with the fallout from the Chernobyl disaster. She has served at various posts throughout the US and Europe, where she specialized in nuclear health and nuclear security. She received an MS and PhD from University of Missouri. She worked at the Pentagon during the 9-11 attacks, and helped train nuclear safety during the first Gulf War. As of 2013, Julie is an adviser to President Obama on nuclear security, and was also promoted in June, 2013 to the rank Major General. She is the first woman to reach the rank of General in the Oregon National Guard.

Robert Lundeen

Bob was born and raised in rural Oregon in 1921. His father was an OSU (though at the time called Oregon Agricultural College) graduate, and worked in the lumber industry. Bob graduated from OSU (called Oregon State College at the time) in 1942 with a BS in Chemical Engineering. His class was the first group of American university students sent off to World War II. He served in China as a weather forecasting officer for the US Army Air Corps, eventually attained the rank of Major, and won a Bronze Star. After returning from the war, Bob began working for Dow Chemical Company in 1946. He spent almost 12 years in Hong Kong in charge of Dow affairs in China, and also briefly as the director of their Latin America division. He eventually served as the company’s Vice-President and Chairman of the Board. After retiring from Dow in the ’80s, he became the CEO of Tektronix, and was responsible for saving the company. Bob and his late wife, Betty, had three children, and donated extensively to the construction of the Valley Library at OSU.

Andy Landforce

Andy was the Associated Student Body President in 1941-1942. He graduated from then Oregon State University (at the time Oregon State College) in 1942, and was amongst the first class of American university students to be shipped off to World War II, where he served in both the European and Pacific theaters as the white commanding officer of the otherwise entirely African-American 3533rd Quartermaster Truck Company. By the time he was discharged, he had achieved the rank of Major. Upon returning, he became the first extension agent in Wallowa County, a job he held for seven years. In 1957, Andy returned to Corvallis and became the first Extension Wildlife Management specialist at OSU. He retired in 1977. Andy and his late wife Evelyn had multiple children  

OSU History: an intern’s reflection

When History major Buddy Martin started his internship with the Special Collections & Archives Research Center spring term 2013 he wanted to learn more about campus history, hone his research and writing skills, and hang out with archivists. His project was a formidable task: to create a short “OSU History Highlights” presentation on OSU’s nearly 150 year history for SCARC staff to add to our outreach toolkit. This blog post is a reflection on his work and some of his “lessons learned.” 

Any historian and/or history buff who is worth his/her salt will tell you of the importance of something that is old.

View from Reference desk to Delivery desk in the Kidder Library.The desk was blocked off in 1941 when the new wing was added. Picture from 1918.

A document meticulously maintained, an old black and white photo carefully stored, or an artifact vacuumed sealed to preserve it. A picture (or document, or artifact, take your pick) tells a thousand words. I learned these things almost intimately during my time in the archives this past spring term. But there was one key element that I wasn’t told — I had to actually read and understand those thousand words.

When I started my internship I knew nothing about OSU. Sure I knew that it was established in 1868 (I have a sweatshirt with that very thing printed on it), the school colors were orange and black, and the school mascot was, in fact, a beaver. But my knowledge ended there. As far as I was concerned, I was attending an old land grant university in Oregon. But as I began to work on the university’s history a new level of the understanding opened up to me. Sure, I had to read the near illegible scrawl of long dead presidents and scribes but I could start to see how the school changed over time. I recognized names dotted on the buildings around campus and learned interesting factoids about the buildings I had classes in. I could even imagine how drastically different the campus was only a hundred years before. All these things opened up to me during my short time working in the archives.

The Agricultural Engineering students and their two professors assemble in front of Weatherford Hall to depart for the Chicago World’s Fair. Picture from 1933.

However, at its most fundamental level, history is the study of human beings. How they lived and the decisions they made may seem trivial to some, but to me they reflect people living today. I came across a deal between President Kerr and the Pinkertons (a private detective agency) to “discover” any students suspected of illegal drinking. The detective found no evidence of drinking, of course, but it was actually something an irritated president Kerr claimed was still happening under his nose! Despite their bickering this exchange is interesting because it details the lives of the students and the internal workings of a campus.  What was even more fascinating to me was that these students’ lives were, for the most part, rather mundane. They counted down the days until winter break, they complained about the food, and in one instance there was petty theft (over a matter of $30). To me this serves to humanize the students and put into perspective their lives in comparison to my own.

Oregon Agricultural College students, circa 1915.

And in the end is that not one of the fundamental goals of historians?

Friday Feature: The Order of the Spoon

When one of our student workers, Megan, shared the story of “The Order of the Spoon” with me, uncovered as she was writing a finding aid for the collection, I knew it had to be shared with the blogoverse!

Order of the spoon ticket for George W. Peavy

The Order of the Spoon, or Ordo Cochlearis, was an organization founded to foster sound scholarship and promote graduate study, including teaching, writing, and research, among doctoral degree holders on the faculty of Oregon Agricultural College (then known as OAC).

Established by the Triad Club in 1927, the organization became a separate and independent entity in May of 1929 and the majority of the PhD faculty were members. The Order took its name from the history of scholarship; it was derived from the custom of medieval scholars to wear a wooden spoon as the insignia of their calling. The group’s committee officers held titles of Chief Spoon Bearer, Assistant Spoon Bearer, and Ladler.

On the day of an Order meeting, members often met at one campus location, dressed in hoods and gowns (academic regalia), each carrying a spoon that was their totem. The group then paraded with much fanfare and frivolity to their location of their meeting, at which members took part in a banquet while speakers gave presentations on the state of scholarship at the College. New members – new Doctors residing within the “realm” of Oregon Agricultural College – were inducted into the Order at these meetings.

This 0.35 cubic foot (2 boxes) collection contains materials pertaining to the establishment, organization, and proceedings of the group; membership eligibility and lists; and meetings and banquets held by the Order. Of special note is a large spoon, the presumed emblem of the Order.

Additional materials pertaining to the Order of the Spoon are part of the Mathematics Department Records (RG 136) and the M. Ellwood Smith Papers. The Special Collections & Archives Research Center holds the personal papers of many of the members of the Order of the Spoon, including Othniel R. Chambers, George W. Peavy, William Edmund Milne, Francois A. Gilfillan, Willibald Weniger, and Clair V. Langton, as well as the Triad Club Records.