The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

Sort Interviews by Affiliation or Theme

Ralph Cheek Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Janice Dilg.

October 15, 2014


“A Career Built on Recycling”  October 15, 2014  Location: Century Hotel, Tualatin, Oregon.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Cheek touches upon his upbringing in Spokane, Washington before discussing his early interest in the military and the importance of the NROTC scholarship that funded his attendance at Oregon State College. From there he reflects on his undergraduate experience at OSC, including his involvement with the Greek system, his academic progression, his duties as an NROTC member, his participation on multiple crew teams, and the circumstances by which he met his future wife, herself an Oregon State student. He also describes classroom technologies of the era, campus traditions - including his role as class thane at his fraternity house - and his memories of Corvallis in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

After touching upon his military service following his graduation from college, Cheek details his long association with Kaiser Aluminum. In this, he recalls his initial position at Kaiser as a scrap foreman, his early use of computers, his steady move up the ranks within the company, and the many geographic relocations that his career required of him and his family. Of particular interest are Cheek's recollections of family and work life in Japan and Germany, both locations where he was based for a number of years. Cheek likewise shares detailed memories of his collaboration with the Bonneville Power Administration and the major impact that power generated from dams on the Columbia River has made on multiple industries, including the aluminum industry.

As the session nears its conclusion, Cheek remarks on his retirement from Kaiser Aluminum, his involvement with IMCO, and his broader passion for the practice of recycling. The interview ends with Cheek's advice to students of today and his expression of pride in having created a scholarship fund in memory of his late wife.