The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Henry Sayre Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Janice Dilg.

August 5, 2014


“Reflections of an Influential Art Historian and Administrator”  August 5, 2014  Location: Sayre residence, Bend, Oregon.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Sayre recounts his upbringing in Colorado, including his love of the outdoors and, in particular, of skiing. He then discusses his undergraduate years at Stanford, including a memorable trip to Greece, his passion for literature and decision to major in English, and the continuation of his interest in the visual arts, which had been instilled in his childhood. Sayre likewise speaks to the culture of the 1960s in the Bay Area and notes his own involvement in the anti-war movement, his stint as a music reviewer for a local magazine, and his associations within the Bay Area music scene.

From there, Sayre recalls his early career in academia, including his first teaching position at Wake Forest University, his move to Corvallis, a brief period teaching at the University of Washington, a more permanent position at Oregon State University, and the evolution of his interdisciplinary approach to instruction.

Sayre next shares his memories of OSU and its Art Department in the early 1980s, the development of his own teaching and research responsibilities, and his friendship with department chair Berk Chappell, whom Sayre had known as a boy. He also discusses the university's financial difficulties in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as well as struggles within the College of Liberal Arts to be taken seriously campus-wide and the subsequent importance of the implementation of the Baccalaureate Core at OSU.

The interview then turns it attention to Sayre's involvement with the creation and unfolding of the OSU-Cascades campus in Bend, Oregon. He discusses his first role as chair of the curriculum committee for the proposed campus, the development of a physical plant in Bend, and the budget ramifications of 9/11 and the 2008 market collapse. Sayre also notes his rationale for moving into administration, his belief in the need for a four-year campus in Bend, and his excitement with the forward momentum of the OSU-Cascades enterprise.

The final portion of the session is devoted to Sayre's work as an author. In this, he describes the back stories behind his authoring A World of Art and the PBS television series that was spun off of the book's publication. He also provides details concerning the creation of his award-winning children's book From Cave Paintings to Picasso, and shares his thoughts on the current state of arts education. He notes his involvement with the Oregon Arts Commission and the Cascade Festival of Music, before sharing some final thoughts on growth at OSU and advice that he would give to students of today.