The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Sue Borden Oral History Interview

July 28, 2015 – 10:00a.m.

Video: “The Creation and Growth of the SMILE Program” . July 28, 2015

Location: Borden residence, Corvallis, Oregon.
Interviewer:  Chris Petersen

1:25:55 - Abstract | Biography | Download Transcript (PDF)


Chris Petersen: Okay, today is June 28th—or July 28, 2015, and we are at the home of Sue Borden, and we're going to talk to Sue about her long experience, really, at OSU and in Corvallis, including her association with Mathematics and Oceanography and with the SMILE program that she directed for several years. But we'll start at the beginning. So you were born in Iowa, is that correct?

Sue Borden: I was.

CP: And which city? Was it Des Moines?

SB: I was in Des Moines, yes.

CP: Is that where you grew up?

SB: No, I went to elementary school in Clarinda, Iowa, which is in the southern tier of counties in Iowa, and then went to high school in Centerville, spent the war years with my grandmother. My mother and I went to live with my grandmother while my dad was in the Army, and that was in Sioux City, but that was before I went to school.

CP: What was your parents' background?

SB: Both of them were college-educated, my father ended up as a poultry specialist with Swift & Company in the Midwest, and my mother taught for a while and then was a legal secretary for a while, during the time I was growing up, and later. So I never had to think about whether I would go to college or not. It was a given; I was going to college. And then because we were in Iowa and it worked out well, I went to Iowa State. But then my parents moved, because my father lost his job with Swift and went with the federal government and was transferred to Salisbury, Maryland. But I stayed in Iowa and went to Maryland for vacations and ended up graduating from Iowa State in 1960.

CP: What were the sorts of things that you were interested in when you were growing up as a girl?

SB: I was interested in music a lot, and I still am and I still do a lot of music. So that was one thing. I read a lot. I was an only child so I had to make my own fun a lot of the time. But mostly it was music and reading and playing with friends. Not a particularly outdoorsy person. My parents were not, you know; they weren't fishermen and hunters or any of that sort of thing, and we always lived in town.

CP: How about math and science as a girl? I mean, this is something you pursued as a career; did that start early for you?

SB: Yeah it did, and I always enjoyed it in school. And I was good at it. But then I was pretty much good at most anything, so I was, you know, I liked math and science. I never took physics, it just didn't—and it was a relatively small high school, so physics and chemistry were offered in alternate years and somehow I missed physics. But I took chemistry and biology and all the math that there was, up through high school.

CP: Was that encouraged by any particular teacher for you, or is it—one of the things that we're going to try to develop here is a sense of women in math and science, kind of through the generations, and there's certainly the idea that it's often discouraged for girls and women, but was that the case for you at all?

SB: I don't feel that I was discouraged, but I don't think I was encouraged in particular. My mother insisted - and it was not uncommon among all my friends - I mean insisted that I take secretarial, like typing and shorthand and all of that in high school, which was outside of the college prep course that I took in high school. But I did that, mainly because she just insisted on that and said "you'll need that to get a job while you're going to school" or whatever. And it had done well for her, and so I did. And I did end up using it. I even used shorthand for a while; that skill kind of went by the boards fairly quickly, but I did use it for a while. I had a job one summer where I used that. But like I said, I don't think I was discouraged from taking those things, because I was in a college prep course, but not particularly encouraged about that.


CP: So education clearly was a point of emphasis in your family, it sounds like.

SB: Oh yes, oh definitely, yeah. And when I went to Iowa State I started out actually in home economics, which my mother just couldn't believe. But I quickly moved out of that. I did not see myself there. And I think I changed my major a record of seven times before I—and I still managed to graduate in four years, which was not an easy thing to do. But ended up with a major in math, a minor in chemistry and a minor in English, and the minor in English was so I could take literature courses and read.

CP: Yeah, so broad interests then.

SB: Yes. And I played in the band and I played in the orchestra and did a lot of that sort of stuff, and then also got into student government there, before I graduated. So I was busy in college.

CP: Tell me a bit more about that.

SB: About the student government?

CP: Yeah.

SB: I lived in, well, it was a new dorm in my sophomore year and I lived there and we had kind of a dorm committee, executive committee, and I was on that to help plan activities and settle disputes and all sorts of things like that. And then that led to representation for the non-Greek system on the student council, the student government for the university, which was not a university yet then; it was still a college, Iowa State College. And that was very interesting because it cut across, of course, the whole student body with the Greek system and the non-Greek system, and it was interesting. It was fun to help make policy for the student body and, again, settle disputes and advocate for the student position on things. I don't remember any specific issues that we dealt with but I do remember being very interested in it and the fact that I got to be around people that I otherwise wouldn't meet, necessarily.

CP: Well music is a theme that we'll talk about a lot over the course of this interview. Now, I know you played a clarinet; were there other instruments?

SB: Not really, no. I played piano for a while and clarinet was much more fun, so playing in the band was a lot more fun, more social, so I kind of let the piano go. I still play a little bit, not much. And I've just recently taken up the ukulele, just for fun. So basically clarinet. But I've played clarinet a long time. I was ten when I started playing clarinet.

CP: So it sounds like it was a pretty smooth transition to college then, for you?

SB: Yes, yes it was. In fact I was kind of a nerd in high school. I'm not one of the popular kids, and I got to college and I felt like I was home, like I was okay there. And so I really enjoyed my college years.

CP: And the band, I'm guessing, was an important social piece of that for you?

SB: Oh yeah, band and orchestra, very much. And there was a music honorary that I was also part of. That was fun, that was enjoyable because that cut across with choir, choral people and plus orchestra, plus band.

CP: Yeah. So in terms of classwork then, it sounds like you were sort of dabbling in a lot of different areas with seven different majors.

SB: Oh, I did.

CP: How did you sort of percolate towards math in the end?

SB: Well I hate to admit it, but it was the one I had the most credits in, and I could get out in four years if I majored in math, because I just kept progressing through the math sequence. But it was—and you know, it was something that intrigued me, and I intended to go to graduate school in math, and I did.

CP: So I'll ask again, sort of on this theme of women in science - I mean, again, the environment for you at Iowa State as a women in math, minoring in chemistry.


SB: Again, I didn't feel discouraged but I also did not feel encouraged. I remember going to the counseling center, and counseling centers in 1958 or so were kind of in their infancy. That was a skill that was just being developed, or an offering for students. But I went because I wanted an idea of what I should do with what I would be good at, what I should not try to do, you know, some direction. I wanted some direction. And so I took a battery of preference tests in the employ—kind of directed toward career development kinds of things, and they essentially told me I could do anything I want. And that wasn't helpful.

I just, you know, I just thought "ah, well then this is kind of a [makes exasperated expression]. Why did I bother with this?" It didn't tell me anything. Because I had considered medicine and veterinary medicine and engineering. I think now I probably would have done well in engineering. I think I would have. But it was definitely discouraged for women.

CP: Really?

SB: I did have a roommate who graduated in chemical engineering, and it was interesting; she graduated like fifth or sixth in the class in chemical engineering. She married a fellow in chemical engineering who was twenty-fifth or thirtieth in the class; they both got jobs in the Chicago area and he made almost twice as much as she did, with their first jobs. And that was the norm, that was how it was. But I chose to pursue the math and go on to graduate school and see what I could do.

CP: What sort of reaction did you receive when you talked to people about going to graduate school in math?

SB: Well, you know, again I wasn't discouraged but I wasn't particularly encouraged either. And I had, I can't name a mentor from Iowa State. There was no one who kind of took me under their wing and helped direct me into anything. I did it all myself, and I was not, I didn't have a mentor.

CP: What was your thinking about grad school? Why was that the direction that you thought you wanted to pursue?

SB: Well I didn't want to go to work, I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I thought, well, I need a master's degree to do most, at least a master's degree, and I hadn't really thought toward a PhD, but a master's degree. So I applied a number of places, and I thought I might like teaching and I got a teaching assistantship at OSU. And so I thought well, I might like that. And I did, I did enjoy that.

CP: Okay, so that was the draw then.

SB: That was draw.

CP: In Iowa your whole life through the conclusion of college, and then you begin anew in the Pacific Northwest.

SB: In the Pacific Northwest. By that time—another influence here—by that time my dad had been transferred to San Francisco. So my folks were going to be on the west coast and they wanted me to be on the west coast, so I applied most in the west for assistantships.

CP: Yeah. So you arrived in Corvallis in 1960 and you're still here; I'm interested in your initial impressions of the community especially, but also the college. I think it was still Oregon State College at the time.

SB: Yeah. Well, it was considerably smaller. Iowa State and Oregon State were essentially similar, I mean very similar, so almost the same. And the towns, Ames and Corvallis, were very similar too. The university was about seven thousand students, seventy-five hundred, maybe. And I'm trying to think what the population of Corvallis was. Maybe about twenty thousand, something like that. Not big. And they seemed very similar. And I met my husband here and he had grown up in Nebraska, and we found Corvallis to be kind of homey, kind of like the places we came from. So, except for the climate. The climate was way better here.


So I remember the first winter here being kind of depressing because it was so grey all the time and I was not used to that. And in addition I had a room in a house over on, well close to campus, and there were a number of women who roomed there and then we had a communal kitchen area, but the rooms were in the basement, so there wasn't a lot of light even when the sun shone. So it was kind of a depressing winter, but I had enough to do. Again, I played in the band, played in the orchestra, just moved right into that here on the OSU campus.

CP: Were you in the marching band?

SB: No.

CP: Okay.

SB: That was a bone of contention for me. In Iowa State I was not in marching band because women were not allowed in marching band, and I was always really kind of angry about that, because the marching band got to do a lot of fun things. They traveled and went to games in other cities and that kind of stuff. It was an old boys network that I couldn't get in. And I did not do it here. I could have, but I had my teaching assistantship to deal with and various things, so I didn't do that, but I did play in the symphonic band and the orchestra.

CP: Who was leading the program at that time?

SB: Which? The—

CP: Well I guess, was there more than one person with the—

SB: Well the band director was Ted Mesang, who was, he was quite a famous composer of marches for band that I had heard of, and so I was very pleased to work under him. The orchestra director was Jack O'Conner, and they were both, they welcomed me right in, so I was happy with that. Jim Douglass came right after Ted Mesang, and I worked under him too for quite a while. And then Jack—well there were a number of different orchestra conductors after Jack O'Conner. I'm trying to... Bernie Gilmore was one, and...

CP: It sounds like it was a positive experience, overall.

SB: Oh definitely, definitely, yeah.

CP: So you were a graduate student; one thing I want to ask about is, I believe at this time for undergraduate women there were still pretty strict rules about what you could and couldn't do and where you had to be at certain times of day and that sort of thing. Was that the case for a graduate student as well?

SB: No. Not when I got here. Now that was certainly true at Iowa State. In fact, on my freshman year at Iowa State I had to get special permission to come in late, because during the week you had to be in the dorm by nine o'clock, but I had an orchestra rehearsal from seven to nine. There was no way I could get back to the dorm by nine o'clock. So I had to have special permission from on high [laughs] to do that. I think we got relaxed to ten o'clock after that, and then it was midnight on weekends. But yeah, we had hours we had to keep and kind of formal dining where you have to sit, sit-down dining and family style; pass the food and use a cloth napkin and manners and all that kind of thing.

CP: Well what was the state of the Math department when you arrived? What were your impressions of it?

SB: Well there were a few women graduate students, which was nice. I was happy about that. They were reasonably friendly to me; again, not necessarily discouraging but not particularly encouraging either. No one ever mentioned to me working for a PhD. They just didn't. And I think if I had pushed the issue I could have found a major professor and someone who would have worked with me, but for the most part I had to be the initiator in all of that. Again, no real mentor amongst all those people. And again, they were friendly enough, didn't discourage me, but you know.

CP: So nobody really took you under their wing then?

SB: No, no, no one ever did. But it was different where, after I finished, I got a job with Oceanography, and that was quite different. Wayne Burt there actually did take me under his wing, and he kept wanting me to get a PhD in oceanography, and that was about the time I got married and I just had other interests at that point. I was sorry later that I didn't take him up on it, because I think he really would have helped me.


CP: How did you go about identifying a research topic as a masters student? Because it seems like it's often directed by a mentor, but it doesn't sound to me like you had somebody who was doing that for you.

SB: Well I did have, I had Harry Goheen, was my major professor. And now I can't remember now how that happened, that he became my major professor. But he was the one that just suggested what I do, and so I did.

CP: And what was that?

SB: It was the foundations of trigonometry. It was kind of based on, I'm kind of not getting the right word here, kind of like geometry, premises that you develop and then develop corollaries to those and then eventually build up the field of geometry. Well this was trigonometry, doing the same thing. And you know, I look at that thesis now and I don't even understand it any more. I don't know quite what I did but it seemed to satisfy people. But again, I had no real burning desire to do anything in math. I think I could have found a topic in oceanography. I really do. But math just didn't, it didn't quite do that for me.

CP: You did some teaching during this time, is that correct?

SB: Yes. I taught pre-college classes as a graduate student.

CP: Is that something that came pretty easy to you?

SB: Yeah, I enjoyed that a lot. And I seem to, you know, I think I was good at it. They hired me to do it again later, so...

CP: So you did a fair amount of computer programming as well, in the early '60s.

SB: I did, I did. That was with Oceanography.

CP: My notes say you went to the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory during one summer? I assume your parents were in San Francisco, so that was the connection there.

SB: Yeah, and I went there one summer while I was a graduate student. And I had to have a security clearance there, I applied for that, and then they had a bunch of us graduate students who had done that, and we couldn't actually go clear into the facility; they kept us in a building that was sort of outside the gate of an administrative building. And we learned FORTRAN, computer programming and that kind of thing, until our security clearance came through. And then they were going, well it never came through till the summer was over, so we never got inside the place. And all I got to do was FORTRAN and learn a little bit about computers, which was really nice. It was really fun.

CP: You did more for Oceanography as well, as a grad student. I'm interested in - we have a concept these days of what it means to be a computer programmer, but I gather it was quite different in the early '60s. What did it actually mean to be programming a computer?

SB: Well of course nobody knew much of anything. What they had was an IBM 1620 in a huge room in the back of the Food Technology building, and the only way you could get data into it was punch cards. So we had to devise something. They wanted to somehow organize the oceanographic data that they had so that they could see trends and all of this kind of stuff, and it was all kind of paper and pencil. And I said, "well, at least we can put those things on punch cards and print them out so you can see them." So we did that, and we got keypunch operators and put this data in, and this was, you know, it was the data off the Oregon coast at three or four different lines that went perpendicular to the coast at five or ten mile intervals out there.


And nobody—this was brand-new stuff, nobody had this kind of information about the ocean there, so that was pretty exciting to be on the cutting edge of all that. And all we were doing was taking data and listing it so that they could see it. We really didn't do anything with it. It was just looking at it. But from that data they were able to draw contour maps of what the water conditions were out in the ocean off the coast. So I didn't do any analysis; I just got it together and put it out for them. And they were just so grateful for that. So I mean it's come such a long way since, of course. Everything's remotely sensed now and it all just feeds right in, and computers make the contour maps.

CP: Did Oceanography have its own computer? Or was this sort of like a central university machine?

SB: You know, I'm not sure. I don't think it was—I think it was a university machine that I had to schedule time on.

CP: You had to reserve time on it?

SB: Yeah, I think so. I don't think they had their own. But it sort of started the ball rolling and showed people what they could do, or started thinking about what they might be able to do.

CP: So it sounds to me like sort of the initial entrée into Oceanography happened when you were a grad student in math, you were doing the computer programming. You mentioned you wound up working in Oceanography. You want to tell me how that kind of came together?

SB: Gee, I wish I could remember exactly. I just sort of fell into it. And that's where the English background kind of came in, because what I was doing for them in addition to the computer thing was working on proposals; editing and compiling information from different sources in different proposals, because they were constantly grinding out proposals for funding. And I got to help write the initial Sea Grant proposal, which was kind of fun.

CP: Oh yeah?

SB: Yeah, they kind of assigned me over to the dean's office, dean of, was it the Graduate School or was it the dean of Science...I think it was the graduate school. It was John Byrne before he became president.

CP: Yep. He was the dean of the Graduate School for a while I think, yeah.

SB: Okay, then it was the dean of the Graduate School. That's where the Sea Grant proposal came through, his office, and so I worked for him in his office on that project, getting the proposal together and finding, you know, editing and all that kind of stuff.

CP: Yeah. My sense of Oceanography at this time is it's starting to really gain momentum from being kind of a small unit to becoming what it is now, one of the best in the world.

SB: Oh yeah, it was basically a department in the College of Science and then it kind of became its own entity and its own school now. That was amazing, and the worldwide attention that it got, especially establishing the Hatfield Marine Science Center, that attracted some really big guns from around the world to study there.

CP: Which is fifty years old this year, Hatfield.

SB: Yeah.

CP: Do you have memories of those early years at Hatfield?

SB: Yeah, I mean going over there - I was never assigned there - but going over there and having meetings and meeting with some of those big bugs that came from Woods Hole. Woods Hole was like heaven for oceanographers and there were some Woods Hole people who came and stayed there and helped develop it. So it was a big deal.

CP: Yeah. Well I'm interested in knowing more about your interactions with Wayne Burt and John Byrne. We talked about them both a little bit already but these are two of the guys that really built Oceanography into what it is now.

SB: Oh they did, yeah. And like I said, Wayne Burt kind of took me under his wing and did, in fact, offer to fund me as a graduate student. And like I said, I'm really sorry I turned him down. I think I could have done a lot there. I'm not sorry with the life I've had anyway, but it could have, you know, that could have been a real turning point for me.


CP: What do you remember about him as a man?

SB: He was a very forceful person but he was kind. But it was kind of, I mean I held him in such reverence, I think, because he was such a figure there that, I mean anything he wanted I would do. I mean if he had a say about certain proposals and things and, "well what do you think, should we do this?" "Oh yeah, I think we should," you know. And so I would—he was very, like I said, very forceful. And he had an assistant who probably knew as much as he did about what was going on there, and she was very friendly toward me and we would often go have lunch and talk about things and all of that. And she was kind of my entrée to him.

And my memories of Byrne, of course first he was a geologist, marine geologist, and I remember he did this - it was in the Hatfield Center for years, I don't think it still is there now - did a contour map of Crater Lake, of the water conditions in Crater Lake. And it was done in sort of three dimensions on a big board at the Hatfield Center. I was always impressed with that, and that was my first introduction to contouring, and I thought that really is visual, that really helps you see things. And so when they took that data that I was helping them to print and do and made contour maps of it, it made sense to me, how you could see. And the Astoria data you could see the influence of the Columbia River as freshwater came out and then it dug a kind of a trench out there. So as you went deeper, things changed. I mean it was really something that appealed to me in the way that data was used. So I think maybe a computer science and oceanography combination would have really intrigued me at that time.

CP: Were there other people on campus that were important to you at this point? Either inside Oceanography or elsewhere?

SB: No, not in that context. Probably the music people, because I kind of maintained that section of my life, as well.

CP: What was the culture of music like back then? Was it appreciably different than it is now? Was it more ingrained into the campus life or community life, or is it about like we recognize it now?

SB: When I came, it was just like it had been at Iowa State. It was an extracurricular activity. It was not a course of study, so to speak. There were a few courses, but you couldn't major or even minor in music, and I don't think you could here either, at that point. So it was totally a recreational activity for people, and it's always remained that for me; it's kind of an outlet from whatever else I was doing, and that's fine. I'm happy with that.

It became more of a course of study, and you can now major in music education and minor in music and that kind of thing. So it became much more formalized as the years went on. And in fact, after I'd played in that orchestra for probably twenty-five years or so, they really didn't want amateurs playing, and so I didn't play anymore, even though I think I could have, but I didn't. And the band was less that way but the orchestra was trying to become more professional, or semi-professional, and that was when they began hiring people from all around for first-year positions and that sort of stuff.


CP: And this is the Corvallis Symphony Orchestra or the OSU?

SB: Yeah. The Corvallis OSU Symphony, which was a...

CP: Conjoined—

SB: They didn't really have an OSU orchestra. It always involved townspeople, because they just didn't have enough people to sustain it. But now it's different than that; it's more of a professional or semi-professional group.

CP: Where did the orchestra perform? Because the LaSells Stewart Center didn't exist at that point.

SB: It didn't exist then. It was in Gill Coliseum.

CP: Not the best place to play.

SB: Not the best place to play but they had a kind of a, well sort of like a band shell, kind of a shell-like thing that they could spring down from the ceiling. And they'd put up a stage and then bring this shell down over, and then they had these horrible folding chairs that were on the floor, and then people could sit up in the stands, as well. But it was not the best place in the world to play, no. When the LaSells Stewart Center came into existence we just all breathed a sigh of relief - they had decent chairs and they had nice seats, and it was very nice. And the acoustics in there are nice.

CP: Was the bandstand still around in front of the library? There was a little band shell there.

SB: I don't think so. Of course the library wasn't the library; it was Kidder Hall that housed the library.

CP: Yeah. There used to be a bandstand in that quad but I'm not sure when it was removed.

SB: Yeah, I think that was gone. I don't remember that.

CP: Well, so you were in Oceanography until 1967 and then you went away from academia for a while to raise children, I'm guessing. Was that a difficult switch for you?

SB: No, not really. I mean in that generation, that era, that's what you did. Women, if they didn't have to work, they didn't, and they raised their children. So that was kind of just what I expected to do. But I still had the music.

CP: Right.

SB: I think music got me through small children, two year olds.

CP: Well, I want to talk about this—so you were one of the people who got the Corvallis Community Band started, am I correct about that?

SB: Yes, correct.

CP: Why don't you tell me how that happened?

SB: That was in 1976. A friend of mine, Dan Eden at Parks & Rec approached me because I had played in a number of things—I guess I was still playing in the orchestra at that point—and he said "do you think we could get together a band to play for the bicentennial?" In 1976. And I said "oh, you know, we could probably cast around," and I said "we need to find somebody at OSU who could get us a director and we need to have some collaboration with them," and he did that. He found—they suggested a graduate student who could direct and we got, I don't know, maybe twenty people, twenty-five people and we got together. I can't even remember where we rehearsed. It was probably Benton Hall.

And in the parade for the bicentennial we rode on the back of a truck, a flatbed truck, and played. And then we gave a concert in Central Park that we had worked on, and several of the people that played in that said "we should just keep doing this, this would be fun." And Parks & Rec got behind us and found us rehearsal space, and so that was it. That was the beginning. And we had—the first fellow was Curt Newell and he left at the end of the summer. He had a job somewhere. And then I think we got Scott James, who was at Crescent Valley for many years. And then after him Steve Matthes, the one who is currently the director. He's stayed all these years. And so that was it, I was one of the first eighteen or twenty that played in that band.

CP: Yeah, and it's still thriving, I mean they play every week during the summertime, and it's a big group of people.


SB: Yeah. It's about sixty-five, seventy who play. We've had as many as a hundred in the summer with college kids who come back and that kind of thing. We play all year long actually, not just in the summer.

CP: Most visibly in the summer, maybe.

SB: Yeah, most visible to the public in the summer. And I don't think there's another band, at least not in the Northwest, who does what we do, which is rehearse at seven and play the concert at eight. And you got to have a core of people who kind of know what they're doing in order to pull that off, because we sight read probably half of the music that's in the concert, and if you don't have good sight readers there, that can fall apart. But I think we did reasonably well for that. We do rehearse some of those pieces during the year, especially the ones that have soloists.

CP: Yeah. So you're still actively involved, it sounds like.

SB: Oh yeah.

CP: Almost forty years later.

SB: Oh yeah.

CP: Are there any others from the original eighteen still around?

SB: I think Sheryl Eckey, I believe, is still playing. She's a tuba player. I'm not sure there's anybody else from that very first year, but some that have been there a very long time. So we must be doing something right, because people keep coming back.

CP: Another question about music, and again sort of about spaces, you played the clarinet in a presentation of Oliver! that was held at the Mitchell Playhouse. This is a space now that we recognize as being a gymnastics training facility, but it was very different once upon a time. What was it like to perform in the Mitchell Playhouse? What was that environment like?

SB: Oh, that was a very tiny pit, tiny orchestra pit. But it was, you know, I didn't think anything about it; that's what it was. But you know, it was a nice little theater, actually. And it was kind of dark and dingy down there, but that was fun. I think that may have been the first pit orchestra I ever played in, was that one. So that was quite an experience, because obviously in a pit orchestra you have to play music in keys that singers like, and that is not necessarily keys that clarinet players like. And so I had to learn to play in keys I didn't like, and that was a challenge. But all of those things are learning experiences. And I love the music from Broadway musicals anyway. They're all most memorable and fun to play.

CP: So this period of time where you're not at the school is also a period of time of significant turmoil nationwide, and I'm interested in what it was like here in Corvallis in the late '60s and the '70s. This was the Vietnam era. Did the community change significantly, in your recollection? Or was it not so much?

SB: Yeah, it didn't change for me very much, and I didn't see much of that. I know there was turmoil on the campus a number of times, but not when I was there. But I heard about it, read about it and always have had some connection to the campus. But I just, I don't remember it affecting me very much at that point, but I had little kids and my attentions were there. So I wasn't really involved in politics and all of that kind of stuff.

CP: The fabric of the community didn't seem to change much?

SB: I don't think so, I really don't.

CP: Well you went back to teaching in 1979; I'd gather probably the kids were old enough at this point for you to start thinking about other options? This is something you'd always sort of intended to do?

SB: Yeah, because I did enjoy teaching as a graduate student, and I had a friend who was teaching over at Linn-Benton and she said "well, we could probably use some more instructors, why don't you apply?" So I did and taught there for a number of years. That was fun. I liked the students. And the classes there were small; they were twenty, twenty-five at most. And that was interesting. I always had fun doing that.


CP: One thing I'm interested in is, at Linn-Benton certainly, and also you taught some algebra classes in continuing education with OSU, so these are students that are taking kind of fundamental math, and math is something that a lot of people have real hang-ups with, as I'm sure you would recognize.

SB: Oh yeah, and those were the ones I got, yes.

CP: How did you approach that? How do you get people past the hump with math?

SB: Well I think you just have to kind of keep being encouraging, going "you can do this." You know, people do this. And they keep saying "well why do I have to do this?" Well, I said "it's a way of thinking, you need to—it clarifies some thinking, and if you take these things a step at a time," you got to, you know, keep trying to hold their hands through it. And I did always try to have some kind of word problems, which of course everybody hates, but they at least give some relevance to why you're doing what you're doing. And you kind of have to contrive things in order to get them to the level of basic algebra or basic trigonometry or something. But I always tried to keep those going in the forefront, because most of these people who were so math-phobic seemed to need to see some relevance somewhere. And some of them will just say "well, I just have to get through it." And okay, well we'll do the best we can. And I tried not to be, tried to be sort of friendly about it, not too "you got to do this and this is how it is and suck it up and do it" kind of thing, even though sometimes that's what I wanted to say.

CP: Well from what I can gather and in my notes, it sounds like there was a formal kind of re-affiliation with the Math Department beginning in 1994, the OSU Math Department, is that correct?

SB: Mhmm.

CP: How did this come about?

SB: Again, they were looking for - I had friends who were teaching for OSU. In fact, some of the same ones who also were teaching at LB and said "well they need some more part-time instructors." So again, I just came and talked to them and they hired me. Since I was one of their graduates I guess they thought I was okay. And so I eventually taught there rather than LB. I didn't do both. And taught basically pre-calculus classes, algebra, geom—or not geometry, algebra, trig and some of those sorts of things; first term calculus I did teach a couple times.

CP: How had the department changed in your perspective over those, it was about twenty-five years from your first introduction to it?

SB: Yeah, well it was bigger. It was bigger and they were, at that point, charged with all of these pre-calculus classes that they had to teach for people that weren't their own majors, and that kind of thing, and that's why they these part-time instructors to do that. And the classes got bigger and bigger and bigger and they were large lecture classes of a hundred and twenty-five, which was kind of daunting. I mean how do you teach algebra in that context? But you know, you just kind of keep at it and hope that you don't lose too many of them. I think you do, because they just, some of them come and just sit there with their—well they didn't then have their phones. I think they would now be texting and fiddling with their phones and all that kind of thing.

But you know, and I usually just started out in the first of the term and said "you know, if you really just don't want to be here, then don't come, because I'm going to try to teach you something here and if you aren't going to be receptive to it, there's no point in your sitting there or fiddling with whatever, daydreaming, you know. Just don't come. I mean you have that option in college. High school you don't, but college you don't have to come. And you don't have to be disruptive. If you're going to be disruptive just leave." So we seemed to get along alright.

CP: Did you engage with the department in any other way besides teaching these classes? Was there—


SB: Not really, not really. That was pretty much the role they put us in, so we weren't involved much otherwise.

CP: Well it sounds like a big change came up about 1988 with the creation of SMILE. Is that when it was created, 1988?

SB: Yes, fall of '88.

CP: How did the program come into being?

SB: Well this came into being through the office of the vice president. It was Mimi Orzech was one of the assistant vice presidents of the university at the time, and I think she had – well, I think maybe even a year before that - had determined, or in discussion with other administrators, had determined that the university needed to be doing something to encourage math and science, particularly in minority populations, and that perhaps there was money out there to help do that.

And so she started looking for money and she was just really disappointed that she couldn't get enough out of one source. She just thought she'd go to somebody like Intel and they'd give her a bunch of money and then we'd do this. Well they gave some money but not enough, so she had to put together—she and a friend from the OSU Foundation—thought that, well, they'd have to put together funds from several places in order to start this. And so that's what they were doing, and they got some funds and said "we need to find somebody to facilitate this," because they really weren't, that wasn't their expertise by any means.

Well at that particular time when they were looking for someone, I had applied to become the director of the math lab in the Math Department, that does all the testing and various things. And I didn't get it and I was pretty discouraged by that, and I don't know if I want to keep doing this, you know, work for the department when I was rejected for this kind of thing. And I don't know how Mimi heard about me, but she called and asked me to come in and talk to her about this possibility. And then we just started brainstorming about how this would work, and she hired me and we started.

CP: Wow. So it just came out of the blue for you.

SB: Kind of did, yeah. It kind of did. But it was interesting because she and I both - she was kind of a Jewish grandmother and, well she isn't that much older than I am, come to think of it. But anyway, she had done a lot of organizing of kids' things and stuff, as a mother and also through the Jewish community. And I had Campfire group and I had worked with kids, because my kids were grown up. So we kind of came from that mindset; we could organize activities for kids. But it was always my contention, and she agreed with me, that if we're going to talk science and math, then kids had to do hands-on science and math and not just go to school for another after-. I mean they aren't going to do that. It has to be a club kind of atmosphere, like the Girl Scouts or the Campfire girls, or somebody.

So that was our concept, was to have an after-school science club and concentrate on minority kids. And we didn't want it to be remedial, so the kids that we were going to target needed to be working basically at their grade level, or approximately that; not needing necessarily remedial help, but good kids that could do things. And we decided we needed to start—high school was probably too late, so we needed to start at the middle school level, so that's what we did. We started with four middle schools and we found teachers at those—well first we had to talk to principals and talk them into the idea—and we found teachers who were willing to work with the kids for an hour after school and start these little groups. And it was so successful the first year, the teachers were just ecstatic about it. They just said it was such fun to have a bunch of kids who wanted to do something in science and didn't have to.


CP: How did you decide which middle schools to approach?

SB: Well we were looking for minority communities, and in Oregon—rural minority communities—and in Oregon that means basically Native American or Hispanic. So we had two Native American communities and two Hispanic communities that we started with. We had Chiloquin by Klamath Falls and, what was the other Native American group...

CP: I know it popped up in Pendleton at some point but I don't know who—

SB: Well Pendleton came in the second year. I guess it was Siletz, because it was close to here. Siletz, Chiloquin, Woodburn and Ontario.

CP: So you were doing some traveling.

SB: We were doing some traveling. And learned a lot of interesting things. Oh no, it wasn't Siletz, it was Warm Springs the first year. I remember going over there and talking with tribal people and trying to come at it from sort of a mother's standpoint, and I didn't understand Native Americans as well as I maybe do now, but I probably didn't have quite the right approach with them. But they were tolerant of us and thought maybe we could be helpful, so that was where we started. And actually was was Madras, because the middle schoolers from Warm Springs went to school in Madras.

But anyway, so the second year we actually expanded to four more; Nyssa over by Ontario, and then Pendleton and Willamina and Siletz, and where else...does that make eight? Yeah, Nyssa, Pendleton, Willamina and Siletz. And that rolled along pretty well and that was when we then began—we decided we had to start doing special training for teachers, so we had teacher workshops on campus. But again, all this took money that we had to keep finding. Mimi kept getting money.

CP: So it was just bits and pieces of funding from here and there?

SB: Mhmm.

CP: Was any of it coming from the university, or was it all private funds?

SB: All private funds, or federal, except for her salary, and I think mine. I think maybe I was being paid by the university, but that was about all the university put in. I mean, she had other duties as well as heading up SMILE.

CP: Were the two of you traveling together for a lot of this?

SB: Yeah we were, that was fun.

CP: She was an influential person in a lot of respects. I'm interested in knowing a little bit more about her.

SB: Definitely, yeah. She was really a no-nonsense person. I can't think what her—she has a PhD and I'm trying to think what it's in. An educational field, I believe. But she just was kind of a really down-to-earth person and had this—we got some money one time from Nike, and well actually for quite a while from Nike - and we asked them one time for some items to give to kids when they would come to campus. And they ended up giving us a bunch of keyrings that said "just do it" on them, and she said "that's my motto, is just do it." And she would always just forge ahead and do things and ask permission later, and got herself in trouble a few times for doing that, but—

CP: Yeah, I gather that she did a lot though, to promote women on campus, as well.

SB: Yes she did, yes she did. Women and minorities. I think she was responsible for getting the Educational Opportunities Program going on campus. And she, I think, got a lot of respect from the minority community on campus for the help that she gave. So she was the logical person to get this program going. Yeah, she had a lot of influence on that, and on me.

CP: It's interesting to hear about this program in its infancy. There was no model for it; it sounds like you were sort of figuring it out as you went along.

SB: We were.

CP: How did you develop the curriculum that was going to be passed along to these clubs?


SB: Well then we hired another person that had more experience with that, because I really didn't, and that was Molly Bloomfield. And she had teaching experience in math and science and she was good at curriculum development. So she started putting these—I mean at first the teachers just did what they knew to do. They just tried out things that they did in their classrooms and then we started giving them more ideas and giving them training.

The interesting thing about all of that, particularly offering the training, was that we'd bring them to campus and then we'd ask people from different departments and areas to make a presentation and things, and we got collaboration across the campus when that was not the culture. At that point in the university it just wasn't. I mean, people stayed kind of within their own little areas and didn't really talk to one another all that much; didn't cooperate. But what we were doing required that. And they were happy to do it. In fact, some of the different department people talked to one another about helping these kids do this and that and another thing, and it was really fun for that to happen. And then that has, of course, mushroomed, and that's the thing now. I mean there's so much collaboration among departments and among the schools and within schools and all of that. But that wasn't the case when we were first starting And I'd like to think we had some influence on that.

Also one of the things that we wanted to do with the kids was to get them on campus at least once a year, because most of them had never been on a campus; their parents had not gone to college, they didn't have any idea what that was like and whether they could visualize themselves in that way. And so we brought them to campus and had some activities for them. And one of them was an engineering activity to build something, hands-on again, and Len Weber from Engineering was the one who said he'd try and put together an activity. And we got together this little kit of sticks and rubber bands and I forget what all was involved, but the idea, what he was trying to get them to do was to build a catapult that would throw something. I forget what we even had to throw. Little marshmallows or something, into a cup. But he didn't tell them what it was and we would get little groups of kids and give them this kit of things and they said "now we have to build something that will do this, that will throw," and they have given them some ideas in a little talk before that. But it was so funny, those kids, you know, they were all yakking with each other and scratching their heads and nothing was happening for a long time and then all of a sudden catapults started to appear with each of these groups of kids.

It was just really exciting to see. Or something like a catapult. They weren't all the same. And a pencil was one of the things that they had and most of them used the pencil to write down something but a couple of them actually incorporated the pencil into the thing they built. And it was just, that was so exciting and we were all so excited by that, and the kids just had a wonderful time and were able to build something to do what we asked them to do. And I think they were just dancing, the kids, they were so excited about actually doing it. So that kind of became what we did when they brought them to campus; we had a major project like that, that they had to do. And we got more elaborate about it, gave them some pre-activities to do at home to give them some ideas about how to do this.

But the basic thing was, take this kit of stuff and make something. I think that turned out to be really the thing that kids wanted to do, the hands-on kind of thing. I think we really hit on something. And I know we got flak from Science Education because we weren't scientific about it. You know, we didn't research this ahead of time, we just were seat-of-the-pants doing it. But it turned out later, this was long after I retired, one person in Science Education was working on a PhD, studied what we did to determine if it really enhanced education for these kids, and she concluded that it did, that it was the right kind of approach.


CP: Was this the person from Rhode Island?

SB: No, no it wasn't.

CP: That's somebody different.

SB: That was, yeah, she started her own program in Rhode Island, and I don't know if that one's still going or not, but she should have been long retired now.

CP: Yeah. So she came to OSU to see what you were doing and then went back to Rhode Island and started something similar.

SB: Right. She was here because her husband was here on a sabbatical, but she was a science teacher and she heard about us, so she came and she kind of actually worked with us for the whole year. I mean she went on the travels with us and all of that, and then went back and started her own SMILE program, yeah.

CP: You mentioned there was some hesitation from some of the communities you visited initially. OSU didn't have the best reputation with communities of color at that particular time.

SB: No, it didn't, but I think because we personally went there, and we were kind of ordinary people and not administrators, I think that helped a lot. And we were focusing on their children and that we wanted them to at least know of these possibilities of going to college and taking the science, because that's another thing we found; at most of these rural schools they're small so they don't offer a lot of classes, and they have maybe two tracks of classes for kids and most of the minority kids were into the lower track. They didn't have them take four years of math and they didn't take four years of English and they rarely took any science. I mean they had to take some because they had to meet the state standards, but I think we were able to encourage them that these kids—and we would go there for Science Night where parents were invited and we talked with parents about "be sure your kids take these courses, because then they have these possibilities open to them; if they can manage to go to college they can. If they don't have some of this, they can't."

But then that's when we figured out we had to do a high school group, because we had to keep these kids going through high school and give them some career counseling, college counseling. And we had to go younger because middle school was too late and sports were really taking their attention at that point, but we needed to excite them earlier. So we started a fourth, we had elementary, middle and high school groups in all of these communities.

CP: These eight communities still?

SB: Yeah, still the eight communities. And we operated with those eight for quite a while and then we started getting inquiries from other places; "can we do this?" And about the time I left is about the time it began to expand to some more spots.

CP: Did you ever identify a stable source of funding?

SB: No. Never did, never did. It always was a patchwork of various things. But one thing that happened, also about the time I left, and has been beneficial to them I think since, is the National Science Foundation had put in a requirement for grants, for science grants, that they had to have an outreach portion. And SMILE was perfectly positioned for that, so they could write us into their grants for something; teacher workshop money or various kinds of—the activities that we were doing and that would fit with. And then they would contribute somehow to the topic, for instance, for when the kids came to campus and that kind of thing. Then we got some Space Grant money and we did a thing about bouncing lasers off to the moon or something like that, that they were able to get some money through that to help us put that on. So it became a big collaboration kind of thing, but always a patchwork of funding. It was a nightmare for the bookkeeper to determine what to charge to whom.


CP: Yeah. So what did you find you were spending most of your time on as you were directing this? Was it the seeking out money or was it trying to expand the curriculum, or what were you doing?

SB: For me, towards the end, it was the seeking out money, because we had curriculum people at that point that took care of that. But that and also then organizing the logistics of how we were going to do everything, and setting dates and all of those kinds of things. I had wonderful people who worked for me who were very good at what all they did.

CP: And was this—did the program continue to be organized in Mimi Orzech's office, or her successor?

SB: It was for a while and then we became—well let's see, when she retired and I became the director I think that when we moved—the program has been moved several times; first it was in Academic Affairs, it was there for a long time, then it was in Precollege Programs, which was still, that was under Enrollment Services and that kind of stuff. I think now it's in the School of Education. I'm not—that all happened after. I think Precollege Programs is where it was when I retired. But it's moved around several places.

CP: Did the program become sort of a recruiting tool for some of these students? Did you find that they were more inclined to come to Oregon State? Or did you see a correlation there?

SB: Oh yes. Yeah we always, from the beginning we've had students who've come to Oregon State and we've tried to do some kind of summer orientation program for them too, as well. We've tried to keep statistics about how many stuck with the program, how many actually went to college, and our best statistic was the graduation rate. It was like ninety-some percent graduation rate out of kids who had been with SMILE over the long haul. And quite a few of them went to college, not always at Oregon State and not always in science, but they went to college.

One of our very first graduates I had a call from him, oh it's been maybe a year ago; he is now with—he's from Warm Springs, he's with the Public Health Service, he said, with the uniformed Public Health Service and lives in Philadelphia, I think. He travels for the Public Health Service. And it was just really gratifying to hear from him, and he was just so complimentary about what all we did for him and all of that. He had a mother who was pushy too, I have to admit, but that was very gratifying. And another thing that happened a couple places, I think, former SMILE students became SMILE teachers in the schools where they had gone to school. So they had gone to college, become teachers, and they were doing SMILE classes.

CP: Now was the program providing a stipend for these teachers, or was this volunteer?

SB: Yes, yes they did. And basically, well it wasn't much, but basically what they did was...let's see, did we provide the stipend or did...we paid the school district the amount that they would need for the extra staff - the health insurance, PERS, the extra expenses that they would have for paying a teacher to do this. That was it. The school district paid them but then we paid the school district to cover some of that expense. And most of them—districts were pretty happy with that because if they hired the teacher for more hours then they had more of those benefits payments that they had to do, and if we could cover that they were more likely to do it.

CP: So just after you retired, it sounds like, was when the program received the Presidential Award?

SB: Yes.

CP: You want to tell me about that?


SB: Well that was, that was really something. I've got a whole folder on it, but it was—and I'm not sure how we even got nominated for it, but there it was and we were invited to Washington D.C. to receive the award, among other people who had received them, and we were treated quite nicely there.

CP: This was the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.

SB: Correct.

CP: It was presented by the Clinton Administration, or Clinton himself. Was he present?

SB: Clinton was not there. Neal Lane was the—and I think he was head of the National Science Foundation at the time, was the one that presented the awards, but it was in the Presidential Press Room that we got to, you know, that they presented the awards and things. And Eda Davis-Butts, who was the director who followed me, she and I went and she accepted the award, but I got to be there.

CP: Yeah. That must have been so gratifying to have this confirmation of something that you built out of nothing.

SB: Yes, absolutely, I mean we were just flabbergasted. Got a lot of good press coverage too, so that was good for us.

CP: So it sounds like the program has continued to grow in the years since you've retired.

SB: Mhmm.

CP: Do you have a sense of where it's at right now?

SB: I know it's still going and I know that it has expanded to more locations. They have very few staff anymore, not like we had at the very top of the thing. And I'm not sure how they do it; they still have the Challenge Weekend days on campus for kids. We also ran a science camp up at the 4-H center for the elementary kids. I don't know if that has continued. But I get things on Facebook every now and then about what they're doing, and that just looks like kind of the same thing going on. I'm just not sure how it's organized anymore. One of the people that Mimi and I hired is now directing it, Ryan Collay, so he's been there a long time, came through the fire with the rest of us.

CP: Well I know that one thing you've been active with in retirement is the OSU Retirement Association. You want to tell me a bit more about that organization and what you've done?

SB: Well I've been on the board now for, I don't know, five or six years. That's a group of retirees who want to stay connected to the university and has a number of different purposes. One is social, basically to have activities when you can socialize with colleagues and that kind of thing, and also a service to the university; I was head of the Volunteer Committee for quite a while and we would find events to help with at the university. The main one that's still going on is the career fairs that they have over in the Alumni Center, and we act as registrars and kids come in to sign up for the career fairs. The retirees really enjoy interacting with students, so that's one of our favorite activities, never have a problem recruiting enough people to do that. Help with the flu clinics, and there are training days for staff that we help with. Just lots of different things that people help with.

And then they have their own activities. They have a few tours, they go on winery tours, we went over to Newport and toured the new NOAA facility, and that was very interesting. And the Coast Guard before they kind of got shut down, and just things around. And we always get to tour new buildings when they're put up on campus. In fact there's one tomorrow I think, there's a tour tomorrow for that. We were also kind of the ALL, Academy for Lifelong Learning, in town. It was kind of an outgrowth of OSURA. They're a separate entity and have been almost since the beginning.


CP: Very active group.

SB: They're a very active group and it was really kind of a similar thing. But its purpose is a little different, but they're very closely related.

CP: Well as we wind up here a little bit, I'm interested in getting your perspective on change in this town. You've been here for...

SB: A long time.

CP: Fifty-five years?

SB: Yeah.

CP: Thoughts on Corvallis?

SB: Well it has, of course, grown considerably. It's not the sleepy college town that it used to be. I get a little disturbed at that—there's such anti-big box people. That bothers me a little bit, that I have to go to Albany to get things sometimes, although, I don't know, we've just kind of gone with it. I'm not necessarily happy with that. A lot more traffic than there used to be. That bothers me sometimes. But I'm always amazed at names in the paper of people doing this and that, and I don't know them. When the town was smaller I knew most people that were doing anything. I don't anymore. But I think we still have kind of a small town flavor, even though it's, what, fifty-five thousand or something like that.

I'm a little disturbed by all of the apartment building that's going on and whether they haven't overdone it. But we've been in this house since 1969, and the town has kind of grown around us. We were on the edge of town at that point. But it's still a good location, close to bus lines and shopping and various things. So yeah, it's just busier, bigger and busier.

CP: And a question that we're asking everybody for this project is to get their impressions of where OSU is heading. It's changed so much just even the last few years, but as it heads towards its 150th anniversary.

SB: Oh my goodness, yes. It's much more of a world-class university than it was when I came. And that can only be a good thing. I don't know how they attract all the money they do, but they do. And I think the student body is huge now, comparatively speaking. And yet, except for the parking, which is always an issue now, I think they seem to manage the student body pretty well, and that people seem to be getting what they need here. I don't know this to be true but I don't imagine anybody gets out of here in four years anymore.

CP: Fewer and fewer, that's for sure.

SB: Fewer and fewer, because of the offerings of various things that you have to take, the requirements and so forth. When I came, the four-year degree was prevalent; that was the main thing. But I don't think that's true anymore. But we kind of try, living here where we do, we kind of try to stay away from the campus when most of the students are there, because that's, you know, it's not our lifestyle and that's not what we do. We stay at this end of town, pretty much. But you know, I think it's making good progress. They've done wonderful things with the athletic facilities, and that's attracting people, attracting more attention nationwide. We're big fans of the women's basketball team.

CP: It's a good time to be a fan of them.

SB: Yeah, yeah. This may be the heyday year coming up.

CP: Yeah, we're all hoping.

SB: Yeah. And so we've maintained our—my husband graduated from OSU as well and we've maintained our ties there, but we actually don't go to campus very much. Mainly because we can't find a parking place and we kind of avoid that. But maybe someday they'll get a handle on that.


CP: Yeah. Well you're not the first person to bring that up.

SB: Oh, I bet not. That's a real bone of contention. I'm glad we ended up out here and not in College Hill area or areas close to campus where that is far more of an issue than it is for us.

CP: Well Sue, thank you for this, this has been a lot of fun for me. I appreciate you sharing your memories of this town and of your association with the university and the beginnings and flourishing of SMILE. It's been a lot of fun, I appreciate it.

SB: Yeah, thank you, I've enjoyed talking about it.



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