The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Pat Reser Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

April 24, 2015


“The Labyrinthine Journey of an Influential Alumna”  April 24, 2015  Location: Reser residence, Beaverton, Oregon.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Reser discusses her family background and her upbringing in Canada, including her early interest in music and her ambition to become a teacher. Reser also notes her perceptions of the United States as a child and the adjustments that she and her family had to make when they moved to the U.S. during her teenage years. After describing her experiences at Portland's Cleveland High School, Reser then recounts the circumstances by which she enrolled at Portland State College and met her future husband, Al Reser, in an introductory English class.

In recalling this time period, Reser provides background on Al's life, his youthful drive to become a successful businessman, and the couple's decision to transfer to Oregon State College so that Al might have improved access to coursework and other resources in Food Technology. From there she reflects on her own undergraduate years in Corvallis, a busy period spent working to complete her degree in Elementary Education while also assisting her husband in his studies and preparing to give birth to the couple's first child. She likewise provides insight into Al's early experiments with a new sour cream-based dip line, work which began during his OSC years and later became a major commercial hit.

Reser next provides an overview of the years that followed her and Al's graduation from OSC. She comments on her professional work in education, her growing family, and her increasing interest in volunteer work. She describes her return to the Beaverton school district once her children were grown, and outlines her activities there as a teacher, administrator and specialist on learning disabilities.

Reser then shares a detailed and personal story of coming to terms with her husband's failing health and her own cancer diagnosis and treatment. In this, she emphasizes the ways in which the symbolic pilgrimage of labyrinths became an important part of her spiritual and emotional health. She likewise recounts her experiences walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain with family members, and her memories of learning that Al had passed away during her second journey on the Camino.

From there the session turns its attention to the evolution of the Reser family's connection with Oregon State University. Reser describes the steady development of the family's interest in OSU athletics, and their ultimate decision to make a major gift to the Athletic Department that led to the renaming of Parker Stadium to Reser Stadium. She also recounts her earliest involvement with the OSU capital campaign, including her enlistment as a co-chair of the campaign and the family's decision to make a lead gift to what would become the Linus Pauling Science Center. She likewise shares the story of the family's support for Austin Hall and her encounters with Ken and Joan Austin.

As the session nears its conclusion, Reser provides further insight into the forward development of the Campaign for OSU as it played out. She describes her work with fellow co-chairs Patrick Stone and Jim Rudd, and reveals that the campaign's billion dollar goal was first put forth by Beth Ray, OSU's First Lady. She then shares her memories of the creation of OSU's Board of Trustees and her election as the board's chair. The interview closes with Reser's thoughts on the future direction of the university, including her enthusiasm for on-going developments in the College of Forestry, the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, and the College of Liberal Arts.