The Department of Public Speaking and Dramatics was established in 1920, as the first Speech Department in Oregon, and grew quickly during the 1920s. When higher education in Oregon was re-organized in the early 1930s, responsibility for speech degrees was transferred to the University of Oregon and several faculty moved to establish the program. However, the service department at Oregon State continued to offer courses in debating, extempore speaking, oratory, voice and diction, and radio speech and coordinated an extensive program of forensics and dramatic activities for students.
C.B. (Charles Buren) Mitchell joined the faculty of Oregon Agricultural College in 1920 to head the new Department of Public Speaking and Dramatics. As department head, he established and developed the dramatics and forensics programs at Oregon State. Earl W. Wells joined the department at about the same time (1921); he was instrumental in developing the forensics and public speaking program and coached orators who gained national prominence. Wells served as Speech Department Chair from 1952 until his retirement in 1962. Elizabeth Barnes also joined the faculty in the early 1920s (1922) and was the main force behind the theater program until her retirement in 1946.
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