The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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The Extension Tradition in the Columbia River Gorge

Two life history interviews conducted by Chris Petersen.

August 9, 2016


Billie Kay Stevens was born in 1951 in Meridian, Idaho, where she was raised on her parents' dairy farm. She attended the University of Idaho from 1969-1973, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Home Economics. After a three-year stint as a public school teacher in Wyoming, Stevens relocated to Prineville, Oregon, where she worked as a 4-H Extension agent for nine years. During this time, she assumed leadership responsibility for a wide variety of programs related to home economics and the creative arts, and also started a new Young Homemakers Program. While in Prineville, she also earned her master's degree in Adult Education from Oregon State University.

In 1985, Stevens transferred to the Mid-Columbia Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Hood River, Oregon, where she remained on staff until her retirement in 2009. As a 4-H Extension agent serving Hood River County, Stevens was instrumental in numerous family community development activities as well as 4-H youth outreach including babysitting clinics, teen leadership camps, and the annual county fair. Stevens also played a role in expanding the branch's outreach to the local Latino population through sponsorship of Mexican dance events and soccer tournaments.

Alexander William Macnab was born in 1953 in The Dalles, Oregon, and grew up on the family wheat farm in neighboring Sherman County. The valedictorian of his high school class, Macnab attended Oregon State University from 1971-1975, majoring in General Agriculture. Following the completion of his studies, Macnab returned to his roots, working for four years as a ranch hand at the 4 Kernal Ranch near Moro, Oregon. In 1979 he was hired as the OSU Extension Agent for Sherman County, a time period during which he also completed his master's degree in Education at OSU. In 1983 he transferred to the Wasco County branch of the OSU Extension Service; twenty years later he returned to Sherman County before retiring from his formal position as an agent in 2011. He remains active with Extension in the region, focusing now on dryland cereal crops as well as community and economic development.

During his years as an Extension agent, Macnab made significant headway in encouraging sustainable plowing techniques and investigating alternative crops for the region. He also engaged with the Rajneeshpuram compound during the years of its settlement near Antelope, Oregon. Macnab wrote a local newspaper column for several years during his tenure as an agent. He has likewise given numerous presentations on the history of the region, speaking on topics as varied as the history of wolves in the area and the disastrous Christmas Day Flood of 1964.