The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Ron Wrolstad Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

December 14, 2015


Ronald Earl Wrolstad was born in 1939 in Oregon City, Oregon, and grew up on a turkey farm near Molalla, Oregon. After attending elementary school and junior high in a two-room school house, Wrolstad spent his high school years at Molalla Union High School, graduating in 1956. Wrolstad then enrolled at Oregon State College, and after a period of study in Science Education, he settled on Food Science and Technology as a major. While an undergraduate, Wrolstad was a member of the Food Technologies Club and the Rally Committee, and he served as house president of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity during his senior year.

A strong student, Wrolstad graduated from Oregon State in 1960 and moved directly into graduate studies at the University of California - Davis. Originally intending to pursue a master's degree in Food Science, Wrolstad was instead persuaded to switch into Davis' doctoral program in Agricultural Chemistry. Wrolstad's research focus during this time was on black pepper. He concluded his work in 1964 and moved on to Bedford, England for a year of post-graduate work at the Unilever Research Laboratory.

In 1965, Wrolstad returned to his alma mater when he was hired to join the faculty of the OSU Food Science and Technology Department. In his early years at Oregon State, Wrolstad conducted research on the color of strawberry jam and on butter flavor, often working collaboratively with the Horticulture department and the Agricultural Experiment Station. In the 1970s, Wrolstad turned his attention to fruit juice adulteration, ultimately becoming a trusted authority on the subject and receiving funding from both public and private sources to act as a check on fruit juice producers. Later on, Wrolstad's laboratory made important contributions to studies on the phytochemical composition and antioxidant properties of fruits and vegetables. Wrolstad likewise contributed to OSU's tradition of research on the maraschino cherry when, in the 1990s, his lab investigated the use of radish extract as a natural colorant for the cherries.

Wrolstad retired from OSU in 2004. The next year, he was recognized by the Institute for Scientific Information as one of the 250 most highly cited agricultural scientists of the past twenty years. In 2012, he was appointed editor of the journal Food Chemistry and, that same year, he published a textbook, Food Carbohydrate Chemistry, that was based on lecture notes that he had developed over the course of his teaching career at Oregon State. The author of over 180 publications, Wrolstad also holds two patents.