The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Ilene Kleinsorge Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

February 10, 2015


Ilene Kay Kleinsorge was born in 1949 in Emporia, Kansas and raised on a cattle ranch outside of nearby Cottonwood Falls. Kleinsorge attended a Catholic school for one year in preparation for her first communion, and attended public school in Cottonwood Falls for the rest of her education. She completed high school aspiring to be a pediatrician, but was unable to afford further education. Married to her high school boyfriend a few months after graduating, Kleinsorge gave birth to her first child at age of 19.

As a young mother in need of an income, Kleinsorge initially worked in a sewing factory before enrolling in an office machines class in Emporia. This additional training led her to work as a bookkeeper for a cable television company. After her second child was born in 1971, Kleinsorge began study in a nursing program and from 1973-1980 she was employed as a licensed practical nurse working in the emergency room at Newman Memorial Hospital in Emporia. In the late 1970s, struggling with depression and personal problems, a colleague at the hospital advised Kleinsorge to return to school, which led her to begin a degree in Accounting at Emporia State University.

In 1981, at the age of 32, Kleinsorge completed her bachelor's degree in Accounting and began working as a staff accountant at local firms. Faced with a hostile office environment and a general disinclination toward the practice of accounting, Kleinsorge decided to pursue a career in higher education. In 1983 she began studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. At Kansas she conducted research on a dissertation concerning managerial accounting techniques and methodologies in long-term patient care. During her third year, she also worked at a local consulting firm, in part to help cover her eldest child's college tuition.

In 1987 Kleinsorge finished her Ph.D. and was hired as an assistant professor of Accounting at OSU. Tenured in the late 1980s, Kleinsorge gradually moved into an administrative role within the College of Business, first as chair of the Department of Accounting, Finance and Administration, a position that she held from 1995-2001. She also became director of the college's graduate program in 1996, continuing in that role for three years. Finally, in 2003, Kleinsorge was named Dean of the College of Business, serving in this role until her retirement in 2015.

As Dean, Kleinsorge sought to reconnect OSU's business programs with the university's technical offerings in order to inspire innovation. She also oversaw the revision of curricula within the college, created discipline-specific majors, and established a competitive professional model. She likewise continued to develop graduate programs within the college, culminating with the creation of a doctoral program in Business Administration. Kleinsorge also helped to integrate apparel, interior and graphic design majors into the College of Business, facilitated the launch of the Austin Entrepreneurship Program, and established a college-specific Career Success Center.

One of the most tangible outcomes of Kleinsorge's tenure as Dean is its home facility, completed in 2014. First envisioned in 2008, the building, called Austin Hall, was supported by lead donations from the families of Ken and Joan Austin, and Al and Pat Reser. Costing more than $50 million, the 100,000 square foot facility includes seventy-six faculty offices and classroom seating for 700 students.