The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Jean Starker Roth Oral History Interviews

Four life history interviews conducted by Maia Fischler.

September - November 2007


“Oregon Born”  September 17, 2007  Location: Starker Roth residence, Corvallis, Oregon.  Listen to Audio | Download Transcript (PDF)

In interview 1, Starker Roth focuses on her upbringing in Corvallis. In doing so, she shares a variety of details about the make-up of the town and the community life that she experienced as a girl. She also discusses her parents' backgrounds and personalities, her father's career, trips that the entire family took during her childhood, and memories of holiday activities.

The session winds up with Starker Roth's recollections of her grade school and high school years, her participation in 4-H, the importance of religion to her family, and changes in Corvallis life that were ushered in by the Great Depression.

“Building a Career”  October 10, 2007  Location: Starker Roth residence, Corvallis, Oregon.  Listen to Audio | Download Transcript (PDF)

At the beginning of interview 2, Starker Roth describes the year that her family spent in State College, Pennsylvania, where her father was on sabbatical. She then turns her attention to the roots of her interest in home economics, her social life as a teenager, and the gradual development of Corvallis as a city.

At various points throughout the interview, Starker Roth reflects on her undergraduate experience at Oregon State College, noting the social frustrations that she felt while living at home and the more positive progression of her academic training in home economics.

The primary focus of the session is Starker Roth's work experiences following her graduation from OSC in 1942. In this, she speaks of her years as a teacher, Extension employee, and war support staffer, discussing the specifics of each of these jobs including her moves to multiple locations in western Oregon as dictated by changes in her employment. She likewise recounts her memories of life during wartime, including her social involvement with United Service Organizations activities, and her family's broader engagement with the war effort.

The interview concludes with Starker Roth's recollections of her four years living in Astoria and of a short period of time that she spent in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“Home and Family”  October 31, 2007  Location: Starker Roth residence, Corvallis, Oregon.  Listen to Audio | Download Transcript (PDF)

Starker Roth begins interview 3 by recounting the first time that she met her future husband, Kermit, as well as their courtship and eventual marriage. As part of this discussion, she shares details about Kermit's background as well as their wedding day and honeymoon.

The session then moves on to the couple's settling in Portland, Kermit's work at Hyster, and the family's decision to move back to Corvallis. Starker Roth next describes a few memorable trips that she enjoyed with her husband, the structure of the family business, and Jean's involvement with a handful of early real estate acquisitions.

A major focus of the interview is Starker Roth's experience of motherhood and family life. She recalls family recreational activities and holiday celebrations, as well as the various interests that Jean's children pursued as youths. Starker Roth likewise shares her thoughts on her strengths as a mother and the ways that she changed as her children grew.

The session concludes with the story of Kermit's sudden passing from a heart attack suffered in 1979.

“Lasting Legacies”  November 13, 2007  Location: Starker Roth residence, Corvallis, Oregon.  Listen to Audio | Download Transcript (PDF)

Interview 4 begins with Starker Roth's memories of her and her family's immediate response to the death of Kermit Roth, including Jean's dual obligations to continue planning her daughter's wedding and to assume full control over Kermit's former business interests. From there she describes her increasing involvement in various real estate investments, as well as her support for a number of community initiatives, especially at Good Samaritan Hospital. She likewise notes the creation and endowment of Kermit E. Roth Gateway Park in Corvallis.

Starker Roths' philanthropic efforts are the primary emphasis of this session, and over the course of the interview she touches upon her association with and support for OSU Extension, the OSU College of Health and Human Sciences, and the Osborn Aquatic Center. She also reflects on her work with the E. E. Wilson Foundation, the Benton County Museum, and the OSU Foundation, as well as her love of OSU's sports teams.

The interview ends with a lengthy discussion of the life paths followed by Jean's children, social and political issues that have been particularly important to Jean, and her sense of gratitude for having lived a full and active life.