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Wil Gamble Oral History Interview

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Wil Gamble Oral History Interview


Gamble opens the interview with details about his early life and childhood. His mother was a concert pianist based in Alabama until she began having children. The family moved to Flint, Michigan when Gamble was very young, and he grew up there. He gives a brief overview of his academic career and then describes his family and childhood in more detail. He inherited his mother’s love of music, although he insists he did not inherit her talent. Gamble studied biochemistry and pharmacy: biochemistry because it was his passion, and pharmacy because he knew it would keep him employed. His father had told him that once he was 18 he needed to either be employed or be in school seeking a degree if he wanted to live at home. Throughout the interview, he mentions the “angels”, people he feels he owes a lot to, who helped him to get where he is in life. He recounts that he always loved to learn and didn’t usually need much prodding to do his homework. One of his formative educational experiences was with his high school Latin teacher, who taught him to read the Iliad and the Odyssey in Latin, which was significant for “a kid from the Ghetto”.

During his university years, Gamble studied chemistry and pharmacy. He became a licensed pharmacist after getting his bachelor’s degree and worked at a friend’s father’s pharmacy on the weekends while working toward his advanced degrees. Throughout his career he has kept up his pharmacy license as a safeguard. Gamble then describes his research. Much of his career has been devoted to the study of atherosclerosis. The causes of the disease and how to prevent it are relatively unknown despite the disease having been identified and described as early as 3500 B.P. (1500 B.C.). Gamble describes his own theory of the etiology of the disease based on evidence that bears, despite having many of the key characteristics we associate with the disease, do not suffer from heart attacks or strokes. His theory is that bears can regulate their cholesterol levels and other metabolic processes in a way that humans cannot naturally, and that the cure or prevention of the disease might lie in understanding these processes.

He then talks about the year he spent teaching at a university in Ghana and the impact of that multicultural experience on his global outlook before he segues into a discussion of his experiences as a black man in academia. He talks about the importance of having a group that you can identify with, but he also emphasis the need to socialize outside of that group and be open to meeting new people and having new experiences. He makes observations on the attitudes and experiences of young black students coming into Oregon State University and other universities, and compares their experiences to his own. He describes the feelings of being a minority professor teaching a class of white people, and relates some of his experiences with police in Corvallis as well as describing a controversy that occurred between a white police officer and a black Harvard professor.

Dr. Wilbert Gamble was born June 19, 1932 in Greenville, Alabama, where his great-grandmother was a nurse in the hospital. He lived in Montgomery, Alabama with his grandmother for a period of time during his early childhood while his mother travelled as a concert pianist. His family then moved to Flint, Michigan, where he was raised. Gamble earned his BS in chemistry and pharmacy and his PhD in biochemistry from Wayne State University, and a post-doctoral degree at Cornell University. He became a licensed pharmacist after completing his BS and maintained his certification throughout his career. His research for much of his career focused on the etiology and prevention of atherosclerosis. He made his career as a researcher and professor of chemistry at Oregon State University. He spent 1971 as a Fulbright scholar teaching chemistry at the University of Science and Technology in Ghana. Gamble has written research papers and a children’s book describing the metabolic control of bears over their cholesterol, which he theorizes may hold the key to understanding and preventing artery plaques in humans. He retired from OSU in 1998.


Wil Gamble


Voices of Oregon State University Oral History Collection (OH 09)


Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Oregon State University Libraries


February 2, 2010


Sandra Bean, Liz Hill and Kathleen Veritas


Born Digital




Oral History



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Sandra Bean, Liz Hill and Kathleen Veritas


Wil Gamble


Oregon State University

Original Format

Born Digital



OHMS Object

Interview Format


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