The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Dick Smiley Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

November 21, 2014


“Supporting Agriculture in Wheat Country”  November 21, 2014  Location: Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center, Adams, Oregon.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Smiley discusses his upbringing and background in farming and ranching, his connections with Extension programs as a boy, and his educational experiences as a high school student and as an undergraduate at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. Smiley also touches upon his stints working for Brea Ag Services, and provides an overview of his graduate studies at Washington State University, noting his research and faculty contacts while in Pullman.

Smiley next relays the high points of his post-doctoral year in Australia and his subsequent world travels in the decades that followed. He then details his move to Cornell University, the school's similarities and differences from WSU, and his work there on turf grasses.

The remainder of the session focuses on Smiley's career at the Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center, an OSU branch Experiment Station located in rural northeast Oregon. In this, he describes being recruited for the position of professor of plant pathology and station director, the status of the branch upon his arrival, the compromises that were required of him as he moved into his first administrative position, and the agenda that he established for CBARC as its director. He likewise comments on the station's relative isolation and its sense of connection with OSU, his recruitment of station faculty, his management of the Moro branch Experiment Station, and CBARC's continuing engagement with regional agriculturalists.

As the interview nears its end, Smiley reflects on his research on nematodes and soils, shares his thoughts on the controversy surrounding genetically modified crops, recalls his past interactions with OSU wheat breeder Warren Kronstad and other influential colleagues, and describes the organization of CBARC as well as day-to-day life at the station. The session concludes with Smiley's thoughts on change in the Pendleton area, his perspective on issues currently facing the region, and his sense of the Land Grant mission today.