The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Erwin Pearson Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

July 8, 2016


“A History of Ups and Downs for Veterinary Medicine at OSU”  July 8, 2016  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Pearson discusses his family background and upbringing on a farm, his decision to attend Oregon State College, and his memories of studying Animal Husbandry at OSC. In reflecting on his undergraduate years, Pearson also comments on campus life and his social activities as a student in the mid-1950s, as well as his experiences in ROTC. From there, Pearson shares his memories of studying for his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, and the two subsequent years that he spent in the Army Veterinary Corps.

Next, Pearson traces his career in private veterinary practice, noting stops that he made in Astoria, Woodburn and Stayton over the course of about eighteen years. He likewise shares the details of his decision to study for a master's degree at OSU and to become board certified in internal medicine, work that ultimately led to his receiving a faculty position at Cornell University.

The remainder of the session is devoted to Pearson's return to OSU as a faculty member, and to a recitation of his institutional memories of the College of Veterinary Medicine from the early 1980s to present day. Major topics discussed include the lobbying and legislative efforts that brought the college into being; Pearson's heavy engagement with OSU Vet Med students as a lead instructor in the college's teaching hospital; colleagues within Vet Med who made an impact on Pearson and on the direction of the college; and major research projects with which Pearson was involved.

The interview likewise includes Pearson's memories of the near dissolution of the college in the early 1990s as a result of budget cuts; the lobbying effort that saved the college; the administrative tumult that plagued Vet Med for much of the 1990s; and the work of Kelvin Koong and others in securing state funding for a full four-year veterinary program at OSU in the early 2000s. Pearson then shares his perspective on the crafting of the curriculum for this new program, and also describes the impact that a $21 million gift made on the college in 2005.

The session concludes with Pearson's thoughts on the current direction of the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, and on the broader direction of the university as a whole.