The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

Sort Interviews by Affiliation or Theme

Roy Arnold Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Adam LaMascus.

September 6, 2013


Roy Gary Arnold was born in rural Nebraska in 1941. Growing up, he attended a one-room country school and lived on his parent's farm. In high school, Arnold was influenced by his math and agriculture teachers to broaden and continue his education. To this end, he began to take correspondence courses through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and was involved in a vocational agriculture program. In 1958, he graduated from Lyons High School in a class of twenty-eight students.

With the support of a four-year scholarship sponsored by the Fairmont Foods Company, Arnold was able to enroll at Nebraska, where he studied Food Science. As an undergraduate senior, he served as president of Farmhouse Fraternity as well as the Nebraska Builders student service organization, the Corn Cobs student spirit group, and the Innocent Society, a senior men's honorary.

After earning his bachelor's degree in 1962, Arnold enrolled at Oregon State University to pursue a master's degree in Food Science. He stayed on at OSU to earn his Ph.D., focusing his research on heat-induced breakdown of thiamine, or vitamin B1.

Having fulfilled his doctoral candidacy in 1967, Arnold returned to Nebraska, joining its faculty in the Department of Dairy Science. In 1973, after having served as assistant dean for advising, Arnold was appointed head of the university's recently created Food Science and Technology Department. In 1980, he became the director and dean of the Agricultural Experiment Station at Nebraska, during which time he worked to expand the international scope of the program, among other initiatives. After two years as Experiment Station Director, he was promoted to Vice Chancellor of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which required an increasing focus on involvement in the legislative process. He was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1982.

In 1987, Arnold was offered the position of Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State University. Drawn by the diversity of agriculture in the Pacific Northwest, Arnold returned to Corvallis, where he remained for the final nineteen years of his career as an academic. In 1991, Arnold was promoted to Provost and Executive Vice President of OSU, working with President John Byrne and charged with overseeing the entire academic enterprise at OSU.

Arnold moved into this position in the wake of the passage of Ballot Measure 5, a property tax limitation initiative that ushered in an era of drastically reduced public funding for higher education in Oregon. As provost, Arnold was charged with implementing many of the reductions that were put in place. Once OSU had stabilized its funding base, Arnold was then empowered to push forward several new initiatives within the university. During his tenure, the University Honors College, the Ethnic Studies department, and a dual admissions/dual enrollment program with Oregon's community colleges were all formed.

In January 2000, Arnold was diagnosed with breast cancer and his illness forced him to step down from upper administration. Wishing to remain active, Arnold returned to the College of Agricultural Sciences where he served as Executive Associate Dean. During the final phase of his career, Arnold was instrumental in setting up the OSU branch campus in Bend. He also received several awards, including the Phyllis Lee Award in 2005 and, in 2006, both the Dan Poling Award and the Beaver Champion Award. Arnold retired from OSU in 2006 but later spent two years on the University Honors College Board of Regents and also served on the board of the Agricultural Research Foundation.