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


Erwin Gale Pearson was born in McMinnville, Oregon in 1932 and grew up on his family's farm in nearby Carlton, Oregon. Always a strong student, Pearson enrolled at Oregon State College in 1950 where he majored in Animal Husbandry, intending to someday return to his family's farm. Instead, Pearson decided to pursue a career as a veterinarian and, from 1954 to 1958, he studied for his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, ultimately graduating second in his class.

Pearson had been enrolled in ROTC during his undergraduate years at OSC, and following the completion of his Cornell studies he was commissioned into the Army and spent two years in the Veterinary Corps, stationed at the Army Chemical Center in Maryland. After his discharge in 1960, Pearson returned to Oregon and began a career in private veterinary practice that included stints in Astoria, Woodburn and Stayton. As a member of the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association's political action committee, Pearson was also involved in the lobbying efforts that eventually led to the creation of the College of Veterinary Medicine at OSU in the mid-1970s.

In 1976, Pearson decided to return to academia, first by beginning work on a master's degree in veterinary medicine at OSU. Completed in 1979, Pearson's master's thesis focused on tansy ragwort poisoning in calves and ponies. Shortly after finishing his graduate program, Pearson joined the faculty at Cornell University, where he was heavily involved with field service work.

In 1981, Pearson returned to Oregon State University just in time to help oversee the College of Veterinary Medicine's newly completed large animal clinic. A full-time member of the Vet Med faculty for eighteen years, Pearson's primary responsibility was the instruction of OSU veterinary students in the college's teaching hospital, where he typically spent about 1,200 hours per year. He also continued the research investigations on tansy ragwort that he had begun while a master's student, and gradually established himself as an expert on the impact of different toxins on animal livers. Pearson also spent many years chairing the college's curriculum committee and was central to the creation and implementation of a new organizational plan that was put into place once OSU had secured funding for a full four-year program within the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Though he technically retired in 1999, Pearson spent several more years teaching a variety of Vet Med courses at OSU. Pearson is also an accomplished traveler who has visited more than sixty countries and all seven of the Earth's continents.