Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center

J. Kenneth Munford Collection, 1866-2000

Biographical Note:

Alumnus J. Kenneth Munford was a member of the Oregon State University faculty from 1939 until his retirement in 1977, with breaks for military service and further education. A native of Banks, Oregon, Kenneth Munford came to Corvallis in 1930 as a freshman at Oregon State College. After graduating in 1934 with a degree in education, he served as principal at the Harding Elementary School in Corvallis (1935-1937) and the junior high school in Newburg, Oregon (1938-1939) and taught classes at both schools as well. Kenneth Munford and Helen Marjorie ("Marge") Vannice were married in 1939.

In 1939, Munford became an English instructor at Oregon State College, a position he held until leaving for military duty in 1941. After receiving a Doctor of Education degree from Stanford University in 1948, he returned to OSC as an editor in the Office of Publications. He became Director of Publications in 1956 and spearheaded formation of the OSU Press in 1961. Active in the OSU Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi since his initiation in 1934, Munford also served as chapter President (1963-1964), correspondent for the chapter newsletter, and later President of the national headquarters (1968-1971) of the honorary society. In 1986, Munford was awarded Phi Kappa Phi's Distinguished Member Award.

Munford's interest in John Ledyard began in the mid-1930s while teaching a fifth-grade Oregon history class. He wrote an article for the Sunday Oregonian and with the encouragement of a Portland, Oregon, publisher, he quickly wrote a book, John Ledyard: An American Marco Polo, which was published in 1939. Through the years, he began to see that there was much more of historical value in the Ledyard story than had been revealed in his 1939 book, so Munford began preparing an annotated version of the Ledyard's journal. He began collaborating with Sinclair Hitchings, Keeper of Prints at the Boston Public Library, and John Ledyard's Journal of Captain Cooks's Last Voyage was published by the OSU Press in 1963.

Munford retired from Oregon State University in 1977, but continued to be an active writer and supporter of local history. In 1978, he was awarded the Oregon Historical Society's Henry Clinton Collins Award "for his writings on local and statewide history."

In 1983, Munford began writing a weekly column on local and regional history for the Corvallis Gazette-Times. Thirteen years and 561 columns later, his last column was published on January 15, 1996.


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