The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

Sort Interviews by Affiliation or Theme

Bill Lunch Oral History Interviews

Two life history interviews conducted by Chris Petersen.

March 2015


“Political Scientist and Political Commentator”  March 13, 2015  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In interview 1, Lunch discusses his parents' backgrounds, including his father's experiences as a newspaper journalist and as a spy during World War II. He then describes the family's move to San Diego, his early education, and his first interests in politics, world affairs, and the news media.

From there Lunch recalls his undergraduate years at the University of California, Riverside, including his involvement with anti-poverty programs, his participation on the speech and debate teams, and his earliest work in radio. Lunch's decision to attend the University of California, Berkeley for graduate studies is the next topic of discussion, and in this Lunch notes his research on urban politics and political activists, his graduate mentors, and his meeting and marrying Caroline Kerl.

Lunch then describes the first chapters of his career in academia, noting his work with the public sector programs at the University of San Francisco, and his research on the nationalization of American politics while based at Sonoma State University.

The remainder of the session is devoted to Lunch's life and work in Oregon. He recalls his decision to move to OSU, his initial impressions of the town and university, the duties of his first position, and people who made an impact on him at that time. He also details the progression of his wife's career, first as an employee of Benton County and later as the university's legal counsel.

A major theme of the interview is the evolution of Lunch's parallel career as a political commentator. He describes the way in which he began this work, by volunteering to provide analysis of the 1988 presidential election. He then discusses the ways in which his commentary interests began to expand, at one point resulting in a year-long sabbatical leave devoted to covering Oregon politics from the state capitol in Salem. Lunch's sabbatical coincided with the implementation of Oregon's Ballot Measure 5 property tax-limitation initiative, and Lunch provides background on the impact that the measure made on OSU and on the state's system of education.

The session concludes with Lunch's memories of his years as chair of the Political Science department, and with his thoughts on the current direction of OSU, making special note of the university's budget model.

“Reflections on OSU and Oregon Politics”  March 23, 2015  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

Interview 2 focuses on two main themes: Lunch's work in television commentary and his thoughts on individuals who were important to OSU during his association with the university.

The session begins with Lunch's recollections of his involvement with two television shows, Real Time and Seven Days, both of which were current affairs programs produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting in the 1990s and 2000s. In reflecting on these television shows, Lunch describes the ways in which each evolved and, ultimately, ceased to exist. He also discusses the differing preparations required for an appearance on television as opposed to radio.

From there, Lunch notes the ways in which his commentary work was received on campus, and suggests that the positive reception that he received was in part because the work fit within the spirit of the land grant mission. He also details the resources that he uses to stay informed and offers his low opinion of much of what is published on social media.

The session next turns its attention to prominent local and regional figures, beginning with a post-mortem on the career of John Kitzhaber, who had resigned from the Oregon governorship about one month before the recording of this interview. Lunch describes Kitzhaber's fall as a sad story, pointing out the major impact that the governor had made in many areas, and especially with regard to health care in Oregon.

Lunch then discusses Mark Hatfield's influence on OSU, including the important role that he played in the expansion of the university's marine science center. He likewise discusses former Oregon governor Tom McCall and the history of the McCall Lectureship at OSU.

Other individuals singled out by Lunch as having made a crucial impact on Oregon State in the past three decades include two former university provosts, Graham Spanier and Bill Wilkins, as well as two OSU presidents, John Byrne and Ed Ray. In discussing Byrne and Ray, Lunch points out the very different approaches that the two leaders utilized to respond to the funding dilemmas that they faced.

The interview concludes with Lunch's memories of two former Oregon legislators and OSU faculty members, Cliff Trow and Tony Van Vliet.