The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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An Oral History of the Francois Gilfillan family

An interview with Nan Jensen and Ellen Johnson conducted by Anne Bahde and Trevor Sandgathe.

November 1, 2013


“Remembering 'Doc': Francois A. Gilfillan through the Eyes of His Daughters”  November 10, 2013  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In a free-wheeling interview, sisters Nan Jensen and Ellen Johnson share their recollections of their father, Francois A. Gilfillan, and their mother Violette. The duo also discusses their lives growing up in Corvallis, including their time at Oregon State College, as well as the experiences of their siblings Mary and Margaret.

The bulk of the session focuses upon the life of F.A. Gilfillan including mention of his early years and his professional career, including his various academic appointments and his formation of the Junior Engineers' and Scientists' Summer Institute (JESSI). Gilfillan's personality and interests are also discussed, with particular focus given to his facility with languages and his fondness for rare books, gardening and calligraphy. Family trips and the family's emphasis on education are recounted, as are family encounters with Margaret Bourke-White, Linus Pauling and Bernard Malamud.

The sisters also reflect upon their own experience growing up in Corvallis and attending Oregon State College. Of particular interest are their thoughts on being the daughters of the college President and, later, of taking a history of science class that was taught by their father.