The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Brent Lawrence Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

December 28, 2015


Brent C. Lawrence was born in 1958 in Portland, Oregon. After spending his early years in Umatilla and Eugene, Lawrence's family settled in Lake Oswego, where Brent lived during his school years. Exposed to the piano at an early age, Lawrence also developed an interest in languages as a boy, eventually developing a proficiency in French and Spanish. Lawrence also spent his summers with an uncle in Texas, an experience that exposed him to ethnically diverse communities and instilled in him a life-long interest in multiculturalism.

Lawrence was a mediocre student in high school, but did well enough to gain entry into the University of Oregon in 1976. It was during his years in Eugene that Lawrence began to wrestle with his identity as a gay man and entertain the idea of coming out to his family. A counselor at the university suggested that Lawrence instead consider electroshock therapy, which he refused and which led to his subsequent transfer to Oregon State University.

Lawrence arrived at OSU in spring 1977, where he connected with high school friends who had since become involved in the OSU Greek community. Lawrence subsequently pledged at Chi Phi fraternity and decided against revealing his sexual orientation. During his junior year at Oregon State, Lawrence participated in an exchange program at the University of Alabama, and experience that both invigorated his interest in multicultural issues and inspired him to perform more ably in the classroom. During his senior year at OSU, Lawrence became the first chairperson for the Minority Affairs program at the Memorial Union. In this capacity, he helped to organize cultural awareness events and served as a liaison between the Greek system and communities of color. For his work at the MU, Lawrence received the university's Outstanding Program Award at the conclusion of his tenure.

In 1980, Lawrence completed his OSU degree in Business Administration, minoring in Behavioral Sciences. Not long after, he came out to his family, a process that would continue over several years with his circle of friends. In 1982, Lawrence was accepted into the Thunderbird School of Global Management, a business school with a strong international perspective. While there, he served as president of the campus' Gay and Lesbian Student Union, a group that remained largely underground due to the hostile attitudes that prevailed at the time.

In 1983, after completing his Thunderbird MBA in Latin American Studies, Spanish, and International Marketing and Finance, Lawrence began a career in the software industry, including two years spent as a production manager for a division of Nintendo. In 1990, he began a six-year stint as an independent consultant, focusing primarily on team development. In 1996, he accepted employment as a senior business consultant for a company based out of Chicago and, in 2002, he became a project manager for a software start-up that developed products related to the study of psychometrics.

In 2005, Lawrence and his partner moved to New Zealand, where Brent spent seven years working for a psychological testing firm, and where the couple eventually received dual citizenship. The couple returned to the United States in 2012, settling in Gold Beach, Oregon, and in 2015 they were married.