The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Russ Youmans Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Mike Dicianna.

May 7, 2015


“Connecting the Academy with Rural Communities”  May 7, 2015  Location: Youmans residence, Corvallis, Oregon.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Youmans discusses his upbringing in east central Illinois, providing details on his family background, his education, and the important role played by the family farm. He then remarks on his transition to university studies at the University of Illinois, making mention of his involvement in Navy ROTC, fraternity life, 4-H, and the track team. Youmans next recalls his commission into the United States Navy, his decision to return to academia, and his master's and doctoral studies at Purdue University, a period that included two years living in Brazil.

From there, Youmans describes his move to Oregon State University, his work with the Pacific Northwest River Basins Commission, and colleagues at Oregon State who were engaging with rural community issues during this time.

The primary focus on the interview is the work of the Western Rural Development Center (WRDC) during Youmans' years of affiliation. In this, he outlines the history of the WRDC's creation, it's mission, and the many projects with which he was involved as director of the center. Of particular note are Youmans' recollections of the WRDC's involvement in issues of rural health care, economic development, and leadership education, as well as the center's collaboration with the Americorps program and its volunteers.

As the session nears its conclusion, Youmans reflects on his retirement from OSU, the relocation of the WRDC to Utah State University, changes in the social problems that the WRDC is now trying address, and his own activities in retirement. The interview concludes with notes on Youmans' family and a few closing thoughts on the continuing evolution of rural communities across the country.