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George Wilcox Peavy

George Wilcox Peavy, Dean of Forestry, was appointed acting president of Oregon State College in 1932 when William J. Kerr was chosen as the first chancellor of the Oregon State System of Higher Education.  Peavy became Oregon State College's seventh president in 1934, the first OSC faculty member to also serve as president of the institution.  He remained dean of forestry during his presidency until his retirement in 1940, upon which he was appointed as dean emeritus and president emeritus of OSC.

Born in 1869 in Howell, Michigan, George W. Peavy received his bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan.  Peavy then spent five years as a high school principal, teaching both history and economics.  During this time he became aware of the importance of national forests and enrolled in the Master of Science program in forestry at his alma matter, receiving his degree in forestry in 1905.

In 1910 Peavy was selected to head the newly created Department of Forestry at Oregon Agricultural College and subsequently served as the first dean of the School of Forestry from 1913 until his retirement in 1940.  After being appointed president of the college, (he was working for the U.S. Forest Service at the time) Peavy led the institution through the infancy of the Oregon State System of Higher Education - a period of administrative restructuring and limited economic resources.  The College's first Ph.D. degrees were awarded during this time.

In direct contrast to his favored forest atmosphere and forester garb, Peavy frequently appeared formally dressed in lecture halls and auditoriums to deliver inspiring and prophetic speeches about the importance of forest conservation to audiences varying from loggers to lawmakers. 

During his thirty-year tenure as the leader of forestry research and instruction at OSC, Peavy attracted the support of many patrons, including Mary J.L. McDonald.  Her gifts established the instructional and research forests and provided both scholarship funds and rare book donations to the library's collections.  Peavy and T.J. Starker were the driving force behind the acquisition of land that would become the McDonald-Dunn Forest.  The first 161 acres of this land were purchased in 1926 with contributions from various individuals and the college, and in 1947 Dean Paul Dunn acquired an additional 6,200 acres.

The McDonald Forest cabin built by "his boys" in 1935 provided Peavy with a retreat from his exhausting duties as president of the college (1934-1940), dean of the School of Forestry (1913-1940), and member of the State Board of Forestry (1911-1941).  Peavy was also active in the Society of American Foresters, the Oregon Community Chest, the League of Oregon Cities, Rotary International, Xi Sigma Pi (forester honorary), Phi Delta Theta (a service society), the Presbyterian Church, and the Masons (Shiners).

After his retirement in 1940, Peavy was elected mayor of Corvallis in 1947, a position that he held until his death on June 24, 1951 at age 81.

Related Resources: President's Office Records, George W. Peavy Papers, College of Forestry Records, Memorabilia Collection.

Black and white photographic portrait of George Wilcox Peavy.

George Wilcox Peavy, ca. 1940s.

Black and white photograph of George Wilcox Peavy sitting on a log.

George Wilcox Peavy, 1935.

Black and white photograph of George Wilcox Peavy.

George Wilcox Peavy, ca. 1940s.