The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Kelvin Koong Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

October 9, 2014


“The Fixer: A Career Spent Finding Solutions in the Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences”  October 9, 2014  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Koong describes his family background, including their fleeing China for Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War. He then notes his upbringing in Taiwan including his schooling and the process by which he came to study Agriculture.

From there Koong recounts his move to the United States to study at North Carolina State University, his adjustment to American culture, and his research as a master's degree student in Animal Sciences. He also recalls his decision to pursue a Ph.D. in Biomathematics, an important mentor who helped him to make this decision, the shift in his research that resulted, and, as a side note, the flourishing of his love for basketball, which included a period of tutoring future NBA Hall of Famer, David Thompson.

Koong's advancement through a series of jobs is the focus of the next phase of the interview. He discusses his first academic post at the University of California, Davis; his move to Nebraska to conduct research at the Hruska Meat Animal Research Center; and another move to the University of Nevada, Reno, where Koong worked as an administrator for the first time.

The primary focus of the session is Koong's career as an administrator and problem-solver at Oregon State University. He describes his arrival at OSU and his first position as Associate Director of the Agricultural Experiment Station, where he was charged with addressing challenges related to staffing and budgets in the College of Agricultural Sciences. He then reflects on his tenure as leader of a newly merged Animal Sciences department, his participation in a reorganization of the administrative hierarchy operating the university's experiment stations and Extension program, and his years as Associate Dean of the College of Agricultural Science.

Of particular interest is Koong's description of his two years as Interim Dean of Veterinary Medicine. He recounts the dysfunctional state into which the program had fallen by the time of his arrival, explains the ways in which he earned the support of the program's faculty, and details his efforts to integrate Veterinary Medicine more thoroughly into broader university operations. He likewise discusses his efforts to work with legislators and OSU administrators to obtain the funding necessary to expand OSU's Veterinary Medicine curriculum into a four-year program.

The session concludes with Koong's recollections of more recent work, including his fundraising for a new animal teaching pavilion at OSU, his participation as a faculty representative to the Pac-10 Conference, and his stint as Executive Director of the Agricultural Research Foundation. Koong closes with thoughts on the future of the land grant mission, including what he sees to be threats to the survival of Extension, and his observations on increasing centralization of decision-making at OSU.