Oregon State University Libraries and Press

Helen Berg oral history interview, November 8, 2008

Oregon State University
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Scholastique Nikuze: So, as I mentioned to you before, I wanted to ask you some questions that the university library archive wanted to know more about, and after those questions of course I would like to ask you more questions that are pertaining to my personal curiosity and things like that.

Helen Berg: That would be just fine.

SN: Okay. As I have learned that you have tremendously contributed to the City of Corvallis as well as to the OSU community, I wanted to ask you what has brought you to Corvallis to begin with?

HB: To begin with? My husband and I were young and had a brand-new baby. We came to Corvallis in 1957. At that time, I had my bachelor's degree, as you'll see on 00:01:00my resume, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a major in math. My husband was an engineer with CH2M Hill, which is a large local engineering firm. It's grown enormously since then. My baby was six weeks old, my first child, my son. I did not work outside the home until... now I'm going to have to get back to my resume, but I think it was 1963. I was looking for work, and a bachelor's degree in mathematics and a woman at that time was not a particularly employable 00:02:00combination. But the chairman of the Department of Statistics at Oregon State needed someone to do calculations, and this is almost a difficult concept now of what I did when I was young, but there were no computers, of course. Even little hand calculators did not exist. We had great, big computing machines. They were either, one brand name was Monroe and another was Marchant. They were large calculators, mechanical calculators. You had to plug them in to get some electricity, but they were not electronic. Anybody who did this kind of work had to do it in pairs, so there was another woman who worked with me because 00:03:00everything we did had to be checked independently by somebody else.

SN: To make sure that it was accurate.

HB: That it was accurate. And statistics, if you calculate simple statistics that everybody's familiar with, like the means and standard deviations, if you did that from raw data, and raw data has a lot of data points, these calculations were extremely tedious, but they had to be done. It was the only way to do it. So that was my first job. I worked half time in the OSU Statistics Department doing that. I worked with another woman who also had a baby, and she worked half time. So, we each worked half a day and took care of babies the other half.

SN: Okay. That's very interesting in looking at how gender comes in with the 00:04:00profession and the career and how some of those comes into play.

HB: Yes, and as is true now. When married people pursue employment and move to a new place, they have to weigh each person's, the applicability of each person's, profession and I'm sure that has not changed.

SN: At least I don't think. You said this part-time job was in 1961, about?

HB: You know I'm embarrassed here, but I'm going to look at my resume, because I know I have it on there. I believe it was 1963 that I began to do that with the Department of Statistics, but I have to... yes. And actually, I see here that 00:05:00that was not yet the Department of Statistics, it was the Agricultural Experiment Station. You better correct that. It was the Agricultural Experiment Station. At that time, the statistics expertise was in the Ag Experiment Station. And my title was, "statistical clerk."

SN: Statistical work.

HB: Clerk, c-l-e-r-k, clerk. It's not a word that's used very much anymore, but that was my title.

SN: What were some of the most interesting and the most challenging experiences working in this department?

HB: At that time?


SN: Mm-hmm [yes].

HB: Well, in the first place I had never had a course in statistics. I had majored in mathematics. If I had it was very elementary. So, I learned such techniques as analysis of variance. I learned how to apply the analysis to the data. Now of course I did not make the decisions about what analysis to use. My skill was in arithmetic really. That's the point I'm trying to make here. I could have done it without really having any expertise yet in statistics. Like 00:07:00any other human being, when you work in something you get curious about it, and so I started taking courses.

SN: That happened more as you go?

HB: Yeah. And I actually took statistics courses for the next 10 years until I got my Master's Degree in 1973.

SN: I feel that's really impressive, because there's the concept of motherhood and then there's education and there's a career and that's something as a woman and as a professional to be... I would also think about how to balance happen between being a mom and being career-oriented as well as balancing education.

HB: By this time of course I had my other child, my daughter. I have a son and a 00:08:00daughter. But as you say that, I think if you had asked me I would not have used the word career. I had a job at that point in my life. I had a job. My work was clearly different from that of the academic people for whom I worked.

SN: You feel that was just a job versus a career?

HB: Because I didn't see it as having any future at the time.

SN: As a temporary?

HB: It was just something that we needed to keep the family... I needed my salary. Now somewhere that began to change as I began to take courses and work towards my Master's. But, as you can see, it took me 10 years because I was 00:09:00never a full-time student in all that time, which, by the way requires some considerable patience on the part of faculty. They would have really liked me to go to school and get a master's degree in a couple of years. They were very patient with me over time.

SN: I think that's really important, too, you know the responsibility as well. How and when and why did you decide to get involved in politics?

HB: Okay, now that happened considerably later. It's because in 1981 I married the mayor of Corvallis.

SN: Okay.

HB: So that was my first introduction to politics.


SN: Okay.

HB: He served two terms, he served 8 years as mayor of Corvallis, and then he died in 1989.

SN: Okay.

HB: By this time, I was the director of the survey research center at OSU. By this time, I had been promoted quite a good deal within the university, and I worked another four years, but in the mean time I ran for the city council. I think to be honest with myself, I very much needed something to get engrossed in. It really helps when you're grieving to have something that takes you 00:11:00outside yourself, and it was something I had come to believe was important, and then I retired from the university in 1993. It's hard for me to believe that I've been retired 15 years. And then I ran for mayor and was elected in 1994. But it was my husband who gave me to understand how very important local government is. He had a favorite saying, which was, "If we can't make democracy work right here, we can't make it work anywhere." Which is very inspiring, and I did find it very satisfying. Now you understand all of that work in government, that is volunteer work, that is not something that is paid for. That was all volunteer work.

SN: As well as the mayor?


HB: That's right.

SN: Okay. I never knew that.

HB: At the local level. That's often true. At least it's true in Oregon for every city except for Portland and Beaverton, and don't ask me why.

SN: What were your most gratifying experiences as a mayor, and what were some of the challenging?

HB: I think the most gratifying thing for people in local government is the feeling that you have an organization that works well and really serves people and people feel it's responsive. The city of Chicago used to have a motto, that: "Chicago's the city that works." I used to like to think-I still think that 00:13:00Corvallis is the city that works. It's a cooperative effort, of course, between the elected officials and then all those wonderful professionals who work for the city, who are employees, and then the citizenry. When it's working well, it is just very satisfying because it really improves the quality of life.

SN: What would you think would be the most challenging experience?

HB: The most challenging experience was the process we had. Let me get the date right. I believe that the riverfront was finally approved the second time in the year 2000, but there had been a bond measure in 1998 that had provided the 00:14:00funding for the riverfront, but then it was so controversial it took 2 years later. The citizens put a measure on the ballot to change the planned riverfront, which did not succeed. That whole several-year process. I remember trying to chair a public hearing which we had to have at LaSells Stewart Center, in Austin Auditorium, in order to have enough room.

At least hundreds of people came, and the emotional level on this issue was so high that people value. I will expound on this a little bit because it was one 00:15:00of the largest decisions we made. In order to keep my sanity, I started to go to the library and look up what other cities had done with their riverfronts and how it had been driven, and I discovered riverfronts anywhere become extremely controversial, and I decided it's because a riverfront tends to be a relatively small area of land but it's got about 100 different values attached to it. Some people wanted it to remain a natural area. Some people very much wanted it to be the social center of the city, and other people a commercial one. There are all these values, and you can't leave any of them out.

On the other hand, some of them begin to conflict, and that then has to be resolved. I felt it was a wonderful public process, but Corvallis is not unique 00:16:00in that. Now, that's the most challenging thing that I experienced as mayor. Maybe it's not the most important, and one project we did, that I thought Corvallis did especially well, was to develop a vision statement. We did that before...Let me think when that would've been... I would think we might have done that in, let's say, 1998 or 1999. We called it the Vision 20/20. I always liked that because that's perfect eyesight. That was a very large community project. We had meetings all over the city. We had all different ways in which 00:17:00people could express their opinions about what we wanted to be as a city. It opens with 13 statements about what we want to be, and my favorite is, "We want to be a good place for all kinds of people to live and be well and productive." I think those were the three things to be. I think I don't have the exact words, and it's too bad I don't have that with me, but it is in my papers that I gave the library. And there's also a sustainability statement in there, which is rather before its time.

For a whole community to be able to come together on 13 things that they value 00:18:00highly, obviously another one was education. Then the rest of the vision statement was expounding a little bit on each one of those. By the way, public health was certainly one of them, a community with good and accessible healthcare. Now I suppose it's now probably kind of passé. Vision statements are always passé long before the date that they have on them, but I think it was a very good process because it helped us in government to focus, to be sure we were focusing on what was really important to people but it also gave the community an opportunity to discuss that.

SN: I think that's really impressive, because you put in effort in something 00:19:00that the people actually want and what the people value versus what may be perceived what people want. I think that's really important, is that connection between the government and the people that govern them, in a sense.

HB: Thank you. That is what I value. Can you ask Larry Landis for a copy of that vision statement that's in my papers that I gave them? Also, Corvallis City Hall would be able to give me one.

SN: I think that it would be really good to actually look through these statements. Also as a new person here in Corvallis, it would be really important for me to understand what the community values.

HB: Yes. I think anybody who lives here would be interested in that.

SN: Sometimes I wonder about the dynamics of the city, even looking through some 00:20:00of the newspaper articles about the different issues that were raised and some things that are promoting, like sustainability, environment, and resources that you mentioned earlier and I was thinking, oh okay I can really see why this is really important to the city and you can also see that being reflected also as a person who came here as a person who came here, which was one of the things that I think probably attracted me to the city.

HB: Is that right?

SN: Yeah, just that. It's not so much. For example, I heard a rumor, I didn't necessarily read about it, that you supported to keep the big store chains from coming to the city, things like the Home Depot, like the big store.

HB: Do you know that I'm the one who broke the tie on the Home Depot and voted 00:21:00for it?

SN: Oh really?

HB: Which did not make me very popular with some people.

SN: I was thinking some things like that, it's just the community resources, using the natural and sustainable community resources to really, I guess, around the community, and I guess the effects of big fortunes also when they come to the city, there's advantages and disadvantages.

HB: It's interesting you should use that example, because there were people who felt I had betrayed my environmental principles, but people were going to Albany in droves and everybody that drives to Albany, to get to the Home Depot is putting carbon into the atmosphere. I think you could also make a sustainability argument. I'm quick to say it was a land issue, and we have a comprehensive 00:22:00plan. Every city, every county in Oregon is required to have them. The question really at that time was, did they comply with the comprehensive plan, or did they not? And I felt they did. I'm just arguing what may be kind of a fine point there, but environmental issues do tend to be looked at all the way around to be sure that one is not overlooking something that actually will make it worse. Recently Corvallis did something that I think they should be very proud of: the Public Works Department that has made an arrangement with a private company. They're going to buy solar panels, and I believe it's, I can't remember how many 00:23:00acres, out next to the sewerage treatment plant, they're going to cover it with these solar panels and that will provide half the power that's going to be needed in the waste water treatment plant.

SN: So, it's killing two birds with one stone. Even the controversies behind the energy in today's century, I suppose. That's really important.

HB: Did you move here from a city that is concerned with environmental issues or not?

SN: I was living in southern California before I moved here, so big air pollution issues, and you can just experience the symptoms day to day as you go about your day.

HB: Yes. I have relatives in southern California, I know. We do have I think 00:24:00less pollution up here than there, but we still all need to cut it.

SN: Yeah. It's always good to be conscious of it. Then another question: what are the political figures that you most admire and who has had a significant influence on you?

HB: In politics?

SN: In politics.

HB: Well, first, right now, I think I'm with the whole rest of the world in admiring Barack Obama. It was a magnificent campaign and the organizational skills and the ability to communicate and respond to people's values, these are things that claim to make him a great president as well as a great campaign. It 00:25:00was a remarkable campaign, but the same organizational skills: the ability to choose competent people, to look ahead. He even looks ahead when it comes to things like when to visit his grandmother or what puppy to buy. He's a very thoughtful, thorough sort of person. Right now, I'm admiring him very much. But I certainly also, well, I was born in 1932, which was the year that Franklin Roosevelt was elected president. When he died I was 14 years old. No one else had ever been president. It was just unbelievable that anybody else's name would come after the title president.


SN: Yeah.

HB: My mother was a great admirer of his wife, Eleanor. She was very active during the time that her husband was president, but she was also very important in the founding of the United Nations. She was one of the first ambassadors to the United Nations. She's responsible, in a very large part, for the United Nations...is it called the Bill of Human Rights? There's a United Nations document in which "building human rights" is in the title. During the Second World War, when I was a child, she used to write a daily newspaper article called "My Day." My mother always read that, and she used to read it to me. 00:27:00Those are people I admire very much. There were not very many prominent women in national politics during the years I was growing up, so that's what makes Hillary Clinton so important because she was probably the first one who was really able to organize a national campaign and be a totally viable candidate for president. I do feel now, as I think most of the country does, that I really do believe I think most of the country does, that I really do believe Barak Obama will be a better president than she could have been, but she certainly is outstanding among the women in the senate and among women governors. Of course, 00:28:00in the meantime we had great leaders, and I cast my first vote for a man named Adlai Stevenson. Of course, we were all thrilled when John Kennedy was president, although that was very brief.

Now I'm trying to think about women in the state of Oregon. We had Barbara Roberts was the first and only woman governor of Oregon.

SN: Oh okay.

HB: We have had Vera Katz was speaker of the Oregon House and subsequently mayor of Portland. We've had some outstanding women politicians in Oregon. Of course, as a woman I notice the women more than the men. We have been much blessed with 00:29:00great men governors of Oregon, too. In particular John Kitzhaber who, by the way, his absolute greatest interest was health insurance and developed the Oregon Health Insurance Plan, which he had to have special permission from the federal government for and is particularly good.

SN: And the health insurance, isn't that currently something that's also under controversy, or...?

HB: Well, we do insure more, I hope I have this straight... we do insure more children in Oregon than we would if we only relied on federal funding for that. 00:30:00None of this is to say... I believe the solution is national healthcare. I'm very much in favor of healthcare.

SN: That was going to be one of my questions later.

HB: Absolutely. I feel so strongly about health insurance. It is an absolutely necessity. I believe it is a right. How can we not have an obligation to treat people who are sick? But I know that we're not, in this country, we're not quite there yet, politically. But the idea of insurance to insure something that I think is our right. I mean, should we have insurance to be sure our civil rights are protected? I don't think so. We need to know that they are always guaranteed. Insurance, health insurance, is now so expensive that it is a major 00:31:00component that people think about when they take a job. It is horrible to be without it and terribly frightening to be without it, and you almost can't get it as an individual. So, the fear of losing your job is even greater. People seem to be afraid of a national healthcare system, but this is how I look at it: there's a whole industry, a whole insurance industry that is supporting all the people who work in it. Now, if the government did it the government could have that money. It should be a non-profit enterprise.


SN: Right. But currently it's definitely a very profitable business.

HB: Very profitable. Big enough to have full employment legislation for people in the insurance industry. Really, it would be very bad for them, and they'll have to be employed someplace else. But, the idea of it, that it's something that there's a profit to, I don't really think is what healthcare ought to be.

SN: It should be in a healthy population.

HB: Yes, and don't you think it would be if we had a national organization that had some funding to put into that? We would be as highly motivated as ever to keep people healthy. And the most important healthcare is the small children, 00:33:00because it affects them their entire lives if they don't receive adequate healthcare.

SN: That's true. As you can see in different countries, I guess, coming from many places, that I was born and raised in Africa, you know like the under-five mortality rate. It seems like if someone doesn't make it to a particular age, you can just see the impact now, the economic impact of the general population impact and if someone experiences health issues of the young individuals due to a lack of healthcare options or different things, or lack of resources in general can really impact them.

HB: Absolutely.

SN: Impact their productivity as a human being, and I thought that's really important as well.

HB: We have an alarmingly high infant mortality rate in our country, considering 00:34:00our industrial wealth. We don't do so wonderfully. What country in Africa?

SN: I was born in Rwanda.

HB: I'm asking because years ago we had a student stay with us when he first came to OSU, and he was from Nigeria. And like your parents, I'm judging just from your name, he was highly educationally oriented. He came to OSU, he subsequently got a Ph.D. and worked for the United Nations. I was always very proud of him.

SN: I'm also very inspired to work for the United Nations.

HB: Yes. Let me tell you about an experience I had when I was teaching, because I did teach in the Department of Statistics for some years. A woman who had been 00:35:00with what is the United Nations Health Organization, the World Health Organization, and she explained to us the connection between young infant mortality and retirement. People thinking of, having to, because of economic reasons, thinking about how many children they have to have so they themselves can be taken care of in their later years. What we use social security for. What a huge impact this and the education has.

SN: Very interesting. It's a different comparison sometimes, because reasons why 00:36:00people make different choices. It's overwhelming sometimes when you think about it. For me it is, I'm inspired I guess to really promote health and to make wellness and to really make a difference out here in the world. Sometimes it feels so overwhelming with different issues and also.

HB: Yes. As a professional, undoubtedly you will keep that broad view. You will then have the opportunity, I think, to concentrate on some specific things and then have the satisfaction of having an impact that you can see and that you can feel. I think at this stage of your education, it is still relatively general. Maybe it is a little overwhelming. But I think as you proceed through your 00:37:00career, you're going to find places where ways in which you can be particularly, you can be the expert and you can make a difference.

SN: Be more focused.

HB: Yes.

SN: Just going back a little bit to the politics, you talked a little bit about our elected president Barack Obama. I wanted to know what activities or what role you played in the last election?

HB: Well, I volunteered at the Beaverton Obama Campaign headquarters.

SN: What were some of your tasks?

HB: I did some phone banking, and then I did some going out to places to register people to vote. We went to the Millikan transit center. We had such a 00:38:00good time there. It's where people were getting off buses and off on the MAX, so this was a, you know, the Obama campaign had an organization like this in every city in the United States, so this was ours. I live near Beaverton. So, I was a volunteer, so you go and get trained on how to do the telephoning. At first the telephoning was to everybody. We would work from a list of registered voters. At first, we were calling all different kinds of people and just asking them on a scale of 1 to 5, between Obama and McCain, where did they stand. Three would be undecided you see. If they were a 1 we would try to get them to volunteer. And 00:39:00if they were undecided we would say, well, what are some of the issues that are important to you and see if we could influence them a little bit. That's morphed into at the end all the 1's we kept calling them back until they told us they'd gotten their ballot in. The registering was lots of fun. We took a card table and three chairs so we could sit there and sit with the person who was filling out the registration, and then we had a sign up front.

But we were not allowed to, when we were registering people, we were not allowed to campaign for Obama. We were just registering people. I don't think, well, some of them were young and didn't know that they could register even though they were 17 at the time because they were going to be 18. There were a couple 00:40:00of people for whom English was not their first language, but we had the registration forms in Spanish. Some of them did not understand that they could register, and they really could. You had to have either the last 4 digits of your Social Security number or a driver's license or an I.D. card. Anyway, it was lots of fun because we met a great spectrum of people and all the enthusiasm was very nice. I'd never told these people that I was a mayor or anything. It was just something I did as a private citizen.

SN: That's a good way to get out there and really apply your passion.


HB: Don't you think it feels better to be working on a campaign when you really care? It gives you something to do. When I was running, I always spent the last couple of days going door to door, not really thinking it would make much difference, but you can't just sit and be nervous. You have to be doing something. So, it helps me. Of course, I have over the years done phone banking and getting out the vote for all kinds of candidates that I've believed it. This is not the first time. It just always feels better to be doing something rather than just waiting to see what happens and you realize that the contribution you're making is small, but at least it's in a positive direction.

SN: Right.


HB: I hope I don't get you in trouble for being partisan here, but it would be hard for me to talk about politics if I weren't.

SN: No I don't think so. Now, I'm going to ask you a few questions that I generated that were generated, I guess, from my own interests in your career and your work. We talked a little bit about some, even reading some of your resume, I saw some publications that were gender-based.

HB: That's right. In fact, my only review of publications are in that field. This is because in 1973, right after, actually right before I got my Master's Degree, but when I was finished with the work, I went to the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana and I worked there 2 years. They didn't have a 00:43:00Department of Statistics, so I worked in the Department of Economics. I had a half-time position at the Department of Economics and a half-time position in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research and that's in my resume so you can get what that was. There were some very nice things about the University of Illinois. It is a very well-funded university. Because I had two half-time jobs, I had two offices: one in each of these places.

They had a huge computer. Of course, by today's standards, that would seem like a dinosaur. It was a huge computer. They gave me every help I had asked for. The 00:44:00attitude at the University of Illinois always was, well, if you're here you must be good. You know, that's a wonderful model, because that's really the way people felt. It's so well-funded because I think many of their graduates didn't go to Chicago, and make a lot of money. I don't know. One of the faculty members in the Department of Economics was Maryann Barber, and she, you will notice, is my co-author, and she's quite prominent in the economics department to this day.

She has a daughter who lives in Portland and so she comes to visit from time to time and I saw her just recently. She's still at it. She's still speaking. She's still publishing, and she's 80-something. But she didn't know any statistics. She certainly needed help with anything that had to be calculated on the big computer. By this time, I was computer programming. That's how we got together 00:45:00and if she was, of course the academic, the scholar in the field. But one of the nice things about being a statistician sometimes scholars in other fields need a statistician, and so you get insight into their field: what the variables are, what the considerations are, what kind of tools they need, and so a consulting statistician has a very broad academic exposure and it's one of the nice things about the field. That was, we were principally collecting large quantities of data, like one of them was based on all the countries in the world that we could 00:46:00get some data on but also some progression analyses, and it was a great opportunity for me and I think it really was helpful to her in those early years, so, it was very nice.

SN: And through your career have you, I guess, experienced some gender-based challenges.

HB: Oh yes. Of course. I mean, given my age, you know that I have. Now my parents, my father was a college professor, he's a mathematician, and my mother was a remarkable woman. She had a Master's Degree in math from the University of Chicago, and she got that in 1920, about the time she got the right to vote. Think of that. My mother was born in 1893. So, she was 27 by the time she got to 00:47:00vote, which is amazing. Anyway, so I had a very... I come from a very education-oriented family. It was always a great interest in my education, but it was with the goal that I would attend a good life. It wasn't with the goal that I would have a career. Not in those days, that's for sure. I graduated college in 1953, and that was before very many professions were open to women. I never thought about... I majored in math. I don't know. That's kind of what you did in my family. Also, it required relatively few credits, so I took all kinds of electives. I was particularly fond of comparative literature. So, I had what was then known as a broad education, but I was not thinking about earning a 00:48:00living. My life didn't work that way then. I needed very much to earn a living, so I took my first job probably because it was the only thing I had any skills at, which I think often happens. But you know what I think, I think as I watch my children, my children are now middle-aged and have made various career choices, I think that when we get out of school and we start to work place. After that, of course that's one decision. What you major in is a decision. Then we make a lot of smallish decisions and most people by the time they're 50 are in the profession they want to be in and in the job they want to be in. I really believe in that.

SN: For me I would think oh maybe the next 3 years I will have that career job 00:49:00that I want.

HB: I think you will.

SN: I think that I always wanted. But I think I can see that really takes time and experience as well. If you have a job and you have different experiences, I think that shapes where you end up.

HB: You will mature in that regard. Yes. But obviously that first choice is important because it gives you a good start. There's nothing about my career that's efficient. There's nothing about my career that was well-planned.

But by the time the last few years at Survey Research Center I was doing what I was good at, what I wanted to do, and I was doing some teaching. Maybe I should say something about teaching. I taught mostly first-year graduate students. A 00:50:00very large class of people that almost all of whom did not want to be taking statistics. Then I would have 5 or 6 graduate students who would work with students in smaller groups. That's how that was organized in those days. It gave me a huge improvement in my ability to do public speaking. I got over all the fears people have about public speaking because I was doing it, essentially, 3 times a week. It helped me learn how important it is that if you're going to be talking to people that much that you've got to know where they are, what they're hearing, what they're having trouble hearing, and you realize that there's got to be communication. I always thought it made it much easier later when I had to 00:51:00chair huge public hearings because it was kind of that just as those students weren't any too sure about statistics, that people would come to public hearings aren't really too sure about going [laughs]. Of course, the big thing I always tell people about being in public office or public speaking, which is this is not a performance. It's a communication. You're there in order to impart information and to absorb information, and it's not a performance. Once you realize that there is no more nervousness. I'm very grateful for the opportunities I had to teach. I did get to work with quite a few graduate students on their theses in my years in the Department at the Survey Research 00:52:00Center. I still have all those theses. I cherish them.

SN: Looking at some of the things that you have mentioned earlier, like... also as I was reading about you I noticed that you promoted some diversity programs here in the community, active in human rights issues, affordable housing, also sustainable environmental resources. What has inspired you to go into these types of work?

HB: Let me start with the sustainability because that's the most recent, probably. In 1970, there was a former governor of Wisconsin who established 00:53:00something called Earth Day. I was a graduate student/employee here at OSU at the time, and I joined an organization called eco-alliance, and we tried to put on the first Earth Day here in 1970. Now we had some idea because we had these various programs, we had some idea that everybody was going to dismiss their classes and let everybody come out. But not very many people came. But I am very proud to say that I was part of the first Earth Day here. Maybe it was influenced by my father this way, but as long as I can remember he was always saying, you know, someday we're going to run out of oil. Someday we're going to have to find some other way to have to have the energy for everything. And then, 00:54:00as then as I grew older it just became more apparent to me, from a lot of influences that we were doing this terrible thing that was likely to change our planet and therefore, essentially, we're the endangered species if we do that. I came to realize the interdependence of the natural systems in the world. Then when I was in city government and I learned about, and you're going to laugh at this, sewage systems.

One of the things that cities do is make sure that the sewage gets where it's supposed to be and it gets treated and the rainwater. Because of that, any city wastewater treatment system, you have legal emissions, which is what every house 00:55:00has, which the waste from every household and business has. Then you have illegal ones. And cities crack down on those illegal ones, and the reason they're so strict is because we only have a certain capacity to treat that waste and we can't exceed it. Because if we did it would go in the Willamette River. So, this concept of having legal and illegal emissions, and what I became so aware of is in the city, the Public Works Department has a diagram of every pipe, every drain, every connection, every bit of it. In the natural world, we don't have that specific knowledge, so we can't clean it up. What we have to do is not make the mess in the first place. It's a kind of a combination of those 00:56:00things that made me feel very strongly about that.

As far as the human rights, this was very much a part of my background, probably because I was a small child in New York City during World War II, and many of my classmates were refugees from a Nazi area. I was very aware of the kinds of things that can tear people away from their homes and make them come to strange schools, and our teachers were wonderful with all of it. Then there was just a great deal of "America stands for brotherhood." These were my early values that had to do with patriotism. My country was a good country, and we were on the side of democracy and human rights and these things. That certainly has lasted 00:57:00throughout my life, but look at the differences that have happened in my lifespan. Not only do women have more opportunities, educational and professional, but the whole concept of any acceptance of gay people would have been impossible in my year. It is totally socially unacceptable to be prejudiced against Jewish people, but you can't imagine how strong that was when I was a child and then obviously then people of color. We no longer talk about lower class people in this country. Everybody's middle class.

We just have a much more inclusive society than we used to have. I'm not saying 00:58:00it's perfect. I'm not saying it doesn't have a long way to go. But a huge amount of progress has been made in my lifetime. Then of course I was still a relatively young adult during Martin Luther King's prominence, before he was killed. He was born, I think, a year or two, he would be a year or two older than me, if I'm not mistaken. He was very much my generation. Of course, he died so young, he didn't live to be 40. But with that whole, and that was partly Vietnam and that was partly Martin Luther King's movement, and then there were the Kennedys. All of that happened in my lifetime. Harry Truman integrated the 00:59:00armed forces. He didn't even congress to vote or anything. He just did it. He, by the way, was in favor of universal healthcare way back then of course. I think one thing about having the perspective of 76 years is I've seen some progress. It doesn't make me think that we won't stop. But it does make me think it can change. It helps me believe in change.

SN: Different generations, different changes in the world.

HB: And things that were once unthinkable become thinkable and then they become accepted and then they are part of us [?].

SN: What advice would you give to someone inspired to make a positive difference 01:00:00like maybe a global perspective?

HB: I would do just exactly what you're doing: get, as soon as you're able to, a feel for something. I call it falling in love with some academic discipline, or becoming inspired by a particular field of work. Those two things, of course. Then get all the education, all the training that you possibly can. Sometimes that's limited by people's financial situations. Sometimes it's limited by the 01:01:00opportunities that are given. And, of course, I don't know if you're running up debt. You may have to be in a hurry to finish school to take care of financial needs, but get yourself all the way up to a Ph.D. if you can, because it will enable you to do the work that you want to do and that you have a passion for, and you will be able to have more opportunities to do that the more education have. Of course, if your plans are to get a master's degree and go to work, that certainly is a very fine ambition, but consider going on anyway.

SN: Looking back, what we've just talked about, different changes over time, 01:02:00looking back into time in the office of the mayor of Corvallis, is there anything that you would've changed?

HB: No, because you have to realize that at the local government level I couldn't've done anything that the community didn't want done anyway.

SN: Okay.

HB: I think Corvallis has become a more welcoming community. I always worked closely with OSU, because many of the people who come here come to Corvallis because of Oregon State. And another entity that has always drawn people to Corvallis is Hewlett-Packard. I've always said that Hewlett-Packard, for example, and OSU they look for the best people in the world and they don't care where they're from. They want them to come here, and this has diversified the 01:03:00population of Corvallis. Another long-standing, and by the way I did hear President Ray is very much aware of the need to improve Corvallis in this way. He was always seems to be very dedicated to that. And the other group in town that goes way, way back I think before I came here, is the local chapter of the NAACP. I've always enjoyed being a member of that. When I left I was on the Executive Committee or something.

SN: Was it called something different before?

HB: No. I was thinking of a committee I was on. The NAACP, I don't know if you know this, is a highly organized, it has a huge constitution, and they're very 01:04:00specifically organized. They are from the community. I think the most important thing is, and I just have to hope that this is something to work on, what you need to do in a community is have a place where people can be assured that they can come and their children can go to school and be comfortable, where they can get employment they want, where all the various components of quality of life exist, and small towns have a little trouble with this as opposed to big cities. I don't want to be Pollyanna about it, because it's something that needs to... 01:05:00it needs to keep progressing.

SN: Also, as a retired mayor, you mentioned that you were a volunteer and work on something in the Beaverton area. I guess I'm assuming people have a different impression of retirement, and I wanted to know what...

HB: You want to know if I'm still doing anything useful?

SN: What your impression is and what your day-to-day activities.

HB: My term was over 2 years ago just about now. What I did was move immediately to Portland, immediately, as soon as I sold my house. I had several reasons for 01:06:00that. Mostly, I felt that if I stayed here after having been the mayor for 12 years I would've had an opinion about everything, and you need to let people get on. It was a way to just remove myself. Secondly, I have children who live in Portland area. I have, strangely enough, that over time my closest friends have tended to move to Portland. Portland is a very progressive city. It's a beautiful city, and I like it very much. So, I'm happy there. But I very much would not want to be involved with having any sort of public opinion here in Corvallis. The first thing I did was move, and when you move out of the house 01:07:00which you've lived in for 25 years... you have this enormous disposal problem. So that took me a while. The next thing I did was get my husband's papers together and my papers together. I had mentioned my husband was there in Corvallis. Because he was also an OSU faculty member in forestry for his whole life. He was a veteran of the Second World War, he fought in Okinawa. So, he had [unintelligible] and he was very active in ACLU and other organizations, so he had this enormous amount of papers. And he was a man of many virtues, but filing wasn't one of them So what he had was just this huge mountain of collection of boxes and paper. So that took me quite a while getting his papers together, and then they asked me for mine. That didn't take so long. So that was my next 01:08:00project. I think... I haven't, oh yeah, there was an election in Portland maybe last spring where they were voting on health insurance, so I called and did a little volunteer work going door-to-door for that. Then I volunteered for [unintelligible]. Of course, my family and close friends know that I was once a mayor, but I don't tell anybody that. My neighbors don't know that. The people at the store don't know that, and the people I volunteer with, because now I'm just a real person. When you're in a role for an extended period of time, that's what you are to people. And it's just very nice to be just this little old lady [laughs].


SN: A regular person.

HB: A regular person! That's it exactly. When I go to a play there isn't any danger I'm going to have to say a few words before it starts you know [laughs]. All these things.

SN: You don't have to be in the spotlight if you don't want to.

HB: No, and there's something kind of isolating, you see, about being... I remember sitting in there talking with a local activist, a person who was an OSU faculty member on the subject of lanterns [?]. I said something that pleased her, and she said, I never thought I would hear a mayor say that. That just hit me right here, like, I'm not "a" anything. I'm me. You know. In fact, there's a 01:10:00de-personalization in that.

SN: Maybe people really don't connect that there's that wall or people may associate a mayor not necessarily as a person but as a figure.

HB: That's right. They think they know all about mayors.

SN: Because there's maybe stereotype.

HB: Exactly.

SN: But at the end of the day you are a person with vision who wants to accomplish goals, a through b.

HB: So, I'm not "a" anything anymore [laughs].

SN: You could just be a person. That's understandable.

HB: I think all the way around it works well. I'd love to come down to visit. It's just a real opportunity. But it's not that far, it's only 20 minutes or 01:11:00something. And I can now drive in Portland traffic. But another nice thing about Portland is they have a really, really good public transportation system.

SN: I've noticed.

HB: I don't drive as much as I used to. I get to the airport without this huge thing, and I live in an apartment with 360 people. It's not gated. And there's all ages of people. There's little children and everything in between, and there's people my age. It's just very comfortable. Portland parks, it's beautiful that way. I can walk to Washington Square. I can get to the store.

SN: I've been there a couple of times.

HB: And there's lots to do and it's very pleasant. So, I'm avoiding the question. I think at the moment I'm probably not doing anything useful.


SN: I didn't think it's necessarily something useful, because really looking at your previous work I assumed, because I think it's based on that stereotype when people say oh he or she is retired, I think automatically people think that you don't do anything, like you said, you don't do anything useful. And through our conversation I can see that you have a lot of passion and you also are very much making a difference. I assumed you have a different definition of what retirement is, and I assumed you are a very busy person based on your interests and things that you are a busy person.

HB: I didn't have any particular plans for my retirement. But you're right, I'm going to have to get myself a project of some kind. But it's only very recently that I was able to bring those papers up to Eric, and that was a big job. It was 01:13:00a bigger job than I would've thought. But, yes, I will try to. Of course, being with my grandchildren is... you don't ever question whether that's time well spent.

SN: I mean, from, in my own definition what I feel is a value of being a mother and being a grandma that is what is important.

HB: That's the most important.

SN: Yeah, that's important. That's where our life starts. I wouldn't say that someone doesn't do anything as a mother or as grandmother.

HB: Just one other thing, and that is I do have a passion about education. I'm reading all the books that I didn't have time to read before, and I belong to a women's book club, where we only read books written by women. Now I have to 01:14:00admit that it's kind of restricting [laughs]. They have wonderful libraries of course in Portland. I have time to read and there's a bookstore that I can walk to called Andy Bloom's Bookstore, and that's wonderful.

SN: I did drive by, was it the Beaverton Library?

HB: Mm-hmm [yes].

SN: It's really new and really nice.

HB: Isn't it nice?

SN: Yeah.

HB: Isn't it nice?

SN: I'm thinking I should go in there and study.

HB: Well you should! Again, that makes me think of one other thing. A friend of mine just emailed me the other day and said do you realize they do a peace demonstration at the Beaverton Library every Wednesday at 5:00, so maybe I'll go to that.

SN: More activities.

HB: Thank you.