Search Items
Back to Exhibits List

Francois Archibald Gilfillan

Francois Archibald Gilfillan was officially appointed as the acting president of Oregon State College in September 1941 after the resignation of President Ballard; however, he had been serving as the chair of the Administrative Council and carrying out the president's campus duties since October 1940.  Ballard led the college through the uncertain months that marked the beginning of World War II until August L. Strand's arrival in October 1942.

Born on January 12, 1893 in Ninnekah, Oklahoma, Francois A. Gilfillan earned a B.S. degree in pharmacy from Oregon Agricultural College in 1918.  After serving in the Army Chemical Warfare Service, he attended Yale University and earned a doctoral degree in chemistry.

Gilfillan's career at Oregon State spanned over sixty years as a student (B.S. Pharmacy, 1918), a professor of chemistry (1927-1939), acting president (1941-1942), and dean of science (1939-1962). As dean of science for over twenty years, Gilfillan was known to many on campus and in the community as "Dean Gilfillan."  Besides his professional contributions in pharmacy and chemistry, Dean Gilfillan could speak German, Russian, French, Italian, and Chinook; translate Latin, Greek, Chinese, and inscriptions on clay tablets; and collected rare books and antique silver. A strong supporter of the campus library, Gilfillan and his estate have made major contributions to the university's collection of rare books and fine bindings.

In the 1950s Dean Gilfillan succeeded in bringing the study of oceanography to the college and continued to promote the expansion of science curricula and programs.  Gilfillan was key to the development of the Junior Engineers' and Scientists' Summer Institute (JESSI) - a two-week program offered at Oregon State from 1956 through the 1970s for high school students interested in science and engineering.  Developed at OSC in conjunction with Scientists of Tomorrow (Portland), these institutes were offered at colleges and universities throughout the United States.  Gilfillan also contributed to the founding of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland.

Gilfillan retired as dean of science in 1962 but maintained his close ties with the university by teaching German for another six years. He remained in Corvallis until his death in April 1983 at age 90.

Related Resources: President's Office Records, F.A. Gilfillan Papers, College of Science Records, Chemistry Department Records, Science Research Institute Records, Memorabilia Collection.

Black and white photograph of Francois Archibald Gilfillan at his desk.

Francois Archibald Gilfillan, 1941.

Black and white photograph of Francois Archibald Gilfillan examining an electron microscope.

Francois Archibald Gilfillan examining an electron microscope, October 4, 1956.