The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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John Bliss Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Mike Dicianna.

August 21, 2015


“Researching the Intersection Between Communities and Forests”  August 21, 2015  Location: Peavy Hall, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Bliss provides an overview of his family background and upbringing in Madison, Wisconsin, commenting in particular on his memories of growing up during the Vietnam War era and of his participation in the counterculture. He then recounts his undergraduate studies in Cultural Anthropology and the path that he took to entering the Peace Corps. From there, Bliss details the two years that he spent as a Peace Corps volunteer in Afghanistan and the ways in which his experience of deforestation in Afghanistan led to his pursuing further academic study in Forestry.

Bliss next describes his master's degree work at Wisconsin and, in particular, his thesis research on the use of early computers to classify forest cover types. The six years that he spent as a forester and silviculturist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources are the next topic of discussion, followed by a review of his Ph.D. research and his first attempts to marry his training in Anthropology and Forestry. Bliss closes out this section of the interview by touching upon his first faculty position at Auburn University and noting the research that he conducted there on the socioeconomic impact of the forestry industry in Alabama.

The session then turns its attention to Bliss' move to Oregon State University and his work as the first Starker Chair in Private and Family Forestry. In commenting on this period of his life, Bliss reflects on the creation of the chair by the Starker family; his observations on the social and political differences that define community engagement with forests in the Northwest versus the Deep South; his involvement in creating unique experiential learning opportunities for OSU Forestry students interested in social problems and community dynamics; and his move into an administrative role as Associate Dean for Graduate and International Programs within the College of Forestry. Bliss likewise comments on his association with the University of Queensland; the increasing internationalization of OSU's College of Forestry; the college's standing with respect to other Forestry programs world-wide; and the potential importance of cross-laminated timber in building the skyscrapers of tomorrow.

The interview concludes with notes on family and the importance that Bliss places on striving for balance in life.