Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center

CH2M Hill, Inc. Oral Histories, 1961-1984

Scope and Content Note

The CH2M Hill, Inc. Oral Histories consist of audiocassettes, interview notes, draft transcripts, photographic slides and prints, and project files.

The collection's sixty audiocassettes document the twenty-eight interviews that project historian Jennifer Lee conducted with seven individuals integral to the history of the CH2M Hill engineering firm. Audiocassettes are extant for all interviews conducted by Lee. The project was initially proposed in April 1980 as "Oral History of Ch2M Hill Founders." At the time, Lee was an employee of the Horner Museum, which served as the administrative organ for the project.

From May 1980 to December 1983, Lee conducted interviews with the three living original founders of the firm (Holly Cornell, James Howland and Thomas Burke Hayes) and with Clair Hill, whose company merged with CH2M in 1971. All told, Lee completed four interviews with Cornell as well as four with Hayes, four with Hill, six with Howland, five with sanitary engineer and eventual partner Archie Rice, two with sanitary engineer and eventual partner Ralph Roderick, and three with custodian Jewell "Bud" Smith. The interviews sought to capture the history of the firm as well as the life stories of the seven participants in the project. Topics discussed included early life memories; military service and World War II; education and first jobs; CH2M Hill staff; locating the firm in Corvallis; Smith's recollections of life as an African-American in Corvallis; specific projects of note; the merger with Clair A. Hill & Associates; the rise of computers in engineering; the changing role of women in engineering; and the future of CH2M Hill, Inc.

As part of the interview process, photographic portraits were taken of all seven of the project participants and as a result the collection contains twenty slides depicting Cornell, Hayes, Hill, Howland, Rice and Roderick, and five prints of Jewell "Bud" Smith, all circa 1982. In addition, four photographic prints were obtained from the firm's offices - three portraits of Ralph Roderick and one group portrait of the CH2M Board of Directors, circa 1968.

Over the course of their preparation, the project staff, headed by Lee, generated copious research and interview notes in anticipation of specific interview sessions. These notes were in part developed from an ample collection of materials gathered on the history of the firm, including newspaper clippings, annual reports, corporate timelines and other assorted reproduced documents. Background materials of specific interest include a 1963 Master's thesis written by Lowell Vern Smith and titled "An Examination of Factors Relating to the Development of a Consulting Engineering Firm" and photocopied "Presentation Books" detailing the careers of Hill, Cornell and Rice.

Draft transcripts - usually at least two drafts - were created for each interviewee. The collection holds these drafts as well as finalized transcripts for all of the interview subjects. Finalized transcripts also have been cataloged as monographs and are available in both the OSU Libraries general books collection as well as the Special Collections & Archives Research Center's History of the Pacific Northwest book collection.

All materials described in this collection were originally housed in the Horner Museum Oral History Collection (OH 10). In 2013 the materials were separated out and described as a collection unto itself.


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