The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Russ Yamada Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Mike Dicianna.

August 17, 2015


Russell S. Yamada was born in Nampa, Idaho in 1946, and grew up in Newberg, Oregon. A second generation Japanese American, Yamada's parents met during World War II, when his mother's family was interned in Adrian, Oregon, near the Oregon-Idaho border. Yamada's father joined the United States military in January 1942, just before a ban on Japanese American enlistees was put into place. He spent four years in war-time service, receiving his discharge in January 1946.

Yamada had numerous family and experiential connections to Oregon State College as a boy, and in 1964 he enrolled at OSU, studying General Science with a pre-dental focus. A member of Kappa Delta Rho fraternity, Yamada was also a member of Encore, a group that volunteered as ushers for concerts held at Gill Coliseum.

In the fall of 1968, after completing his undergraduate studies at OSU, Yamada moved to Vancouver, British Columbia to begin dental school, where he eventually met his future wife. After completing his studies in 1972, he worked in a small town north of Prince George, B.C. for a year and then relocated to Nanaimo, B.C. where he and his family remained for six more years.

In 1979 Yamada embarked upon further professional training at Tufts Dental School, where he specialized in endodontics, a discipline that deals with injuries to teeth. After graduating in 1981, he and his family returned to Corvallis to establish the town's first endodontic practice. Yamada ran this business until 2008, at which point he began working for Kaiser Permanente in Salem, Oregon. He retired in 2014 after having worked in the dental field for over forty years.