The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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George Arscott Oral History Interviews

Two life history interviews conducted by Chris Petersen.

December 5, 2014


George Henry Arscott was born in 1923 in Hilo, Hawaii. He grew up in nearby Ookala, where the Kaiwiki Sugar Company was based - Arscott's father worked for the company as an accountant and George attended elementary school on the plantation. In 1939, Arscott's family moved to the mainland, settling in Junction City, Oregon and establishing a poultry farm. George joined them the following year after completing his junior year of high school. He spent his senior year at a school in Eugene and graduated in 1941.

In January 1942, Arscott enrolled in the Eugene Vocational School's radio-repair course, a choice that he arrived at mostly because it was the only available spot in the school. He completed the three month course and then began working for the radio-repair shop in Lightning's, a Eugene sporting goods company. He remained there for three months, then received an offer to return to the vocational school as an instructor on a civil service salary. The offer came with the requirement that he join the Signal Corps Reserve and that he enter the active service after a year in the program.

Arscott agreed to the deal and, after receiving military training with a variety radar equipment, he was sent to Europe in May 1944. Shortly after arriving however, Arscott was infected with the measles and wound up in the hospital during D-Day. After recovering, he went to Normandy and spent three weeks there supporting the Allied invasion. After that, he returned to England, received a crash-course on airborne radar, and joined the Ninth Air Force. He returned to France later during the war and was in country when victory in Europe was declared.

In 1946, Arscott returned to Oregon and renewed his employment in the radio-repair business. Rather quickly however, he decided to take advantage of the GI Bill and subsequently began attending Oregon State College that fall, majoring in poultry husbandry. During his years at OSC, Arscott focused primarily on the management side of poultry operations, his long-term plan being a return to the family farm. Over time, Arscott found that he thrived in an academic setting, making the honor roll eight times. He also worked part time in the Poultry Husbandry department and was involved with the Nutrition Research Institute, which was comprised of nutritionists from across the college. He completed his OSC degree in 1949.

Arscott was encouraged by faculty members at OSC to consider graduate school rather than returning to the family farm, and in the fall of 1949 he enrolled at the University of Maryland to begin his pursuit of a master's degree in poultry husbandry. His master's research focused on a determination of the amount of vitamin B-12 needed for chicken eggs to hatch. He completed this work in 1950 and promptly moved into Maryland's doctoral program.

Before Arscott could finish his Ph.D., he was called into active service in the Korean War. From 1950 to 1951, he spent twelve months as a senior bomb navigation system mechanic for the Air Force, stationed at Mather Air Force Base near Sacramento, California. He returned to the University of Maryland in 1951 to complete his Ph.D. in poultry husbandry. This time around, he worked on unidentified nutrient factors. He also married Elizabeth Jane McGeary during this time.

In 1953, after completing his graduate studies, Arscott returned to Oregon State College, where he had accepted a position as assistant professor in the Department of Poultry Husbandry. In the early stages of his career, Arscott spent most of his time conducting research, studying the dwarf white leghorn chicken, alternative feed ingredients, and the effects of different nutrients on rooster fertility. Arscott also developed a relationship with the college experiment station, which allowed him to work more closely with industry. He was likewise involved with a poultry-themed radio show at KOAC that lasted until the mid-1960s.

In 1969, Arscott was named acting head of the Department of Poultry Science; a position that became permanent the following year. Arscott's duties as department chair included management responsibilities within the Agricultural Experiment Station, an arrangement that served to improve an already strong connection between the department and the poultry industry. Arscott's tenure as chair also coincided with the construction of a new poultry research building on campus, one which contained advanced research technology as well as the capacity to hold 2,400 hens and 100 roosters.

Under Arscott's leadership, the purview of the department expanded to include international activities. The largest of these projects involved the development of a poultry extension and training infrastructure in the Yemen Arab Republic, an initiative funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Nearly all of the OSU Poultry Science faculty were involved in this program at some point. Arscott himself traveled to Yemen in 1981 and he continued to work on the project until its successful conclusion in 1986.

Arscott retired from OSU in 1987. An active member of numerous professional organizations, Arscott received several awards for his contributions to poultry science, including Poultry Scientist of the Year (1985) from the Pacific Egg and Poultry Association, and induction into the Oregon Poultry Hall of Fame in 1990. In 1997 he was added to the Diamond Pioneer Career Achievement Registry by the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences, and in 2009 he was honored with the Poultry Pioneer and Legend Award by the American Poultry Historical Society.

In retirement, Arscott pursued numerous professional interests. In 1989, he traveled to Costa Rica for two weeks to volunteer as a poultry specialist, and he later visited the Dominican Republic several times as a poultry advisor. Subsequent trips included work in Peru, Egypt and Lithuania, where he provided expertise on breeding, hatching, feeding and processing poultry in a wide variety of environments.