The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

Sort Interviews by Affiliation or Theme

Kelvin Koong Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

October 9, 2014


Ling-Jung "Kelvin" Koong was born in 1943 in a village near Nanjing, China. His father was a landlord who worked for the national government, and during the Chinese Civil War, Koong's family was forced to flee their village. The family settled in Taipei, Taiwan in 1949. Koong spent the remainder of his childhood in Taiwan and ultimately graduated from National Taiwan University in 1964 with a major in Agricultural Science.

After graduation, Koong served his mandatory year in Taiwan's military before moving to the United States to continue his education at North Carolina State University. He received his master's degree in Animal Science in 1968 and during this time also married his wife, Ching-Chih, who had emigrated from China.

As a master's student, Koong had grown to dislike the abstract nature of his thesis research, so after earning his degree he took a few years off to work as a lab technician. While working in the lab, Koong met Henry Lucas, the Director of the Biomathematics program at North Carolina State. Lucas became an important influence in Koong's life and in 1969 Koong made the decision to pursue a doctorate in Biomathematics under Lucas' direction. Koong completed his Ph.D. in 1973, studying biological systems, particularly animal food systems, by modeling them mathematically.

After earning his Ph.D., Koong joined the faculty at the University of California, Davis where he worked for seven years. During this time he studied animal science, agronomy, and range science. By 1980 Koong found that he needed more data for his research, so he moved to a research position at the Hruska Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Nebraska. Koong and his family remained there for three years before moving to the University of Nevada, Reno where Koong took his first administrative post as Associate Dean for Research and Associate Director of the Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station.

In 1987 Koong and his family moved to Corvallis, where he joined the Oregon State University faculty as a Professor of Animal Sciences. He also served as the Associate Director of the Agricultural Experiment Station until 1991, when he became the head of the Department of Animal Sciences. In 1994 Koong switched administrative positions again, this time becoming the Associate Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, a posting that lasted until 1999. During this period, Koong was part of a successful trade education mission to China that introduced Willamette Valley grass seed for testing and marketing. In the following years, Koong returned to Nanjing Agricultural University a several more times and also hosted undergraduate students from Nanjing each summer in Corvallis.

In 1999 Koong was appointed to a two-year interim position as Dean of the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine. He was tasked with creating a cohesive unit that was more integrated with OSU as a whole, and with acquiring money from the legislature to develop a four-year veterinary program at OSU. By 2001 operations in the veterinary college had improved and Koong had secured the needed funding to expand the program. Indeed, one of the hallmarks of Koong's years at OSU was his ability to work productively with state legislators and many of his transitions in title coincided with the arrival of a new legislative cycle.

In 2002 Koong led an external review of a college of agriculture in Oman and in 2004 he was named Interim Dean and Director of the OSU Extension Service. In 2005 he was also appointed to a five-year term as the OSU faculty athletics representative to the Pacific-10 Conference. Near the end of his OSU career, Koong was focused on raising funds for an animal teaching facility, which was ultimately completed and brought online in 2012.

Koong retired from OSU in 2011 in order to work as Executive Director of the Agricultural Research Foundation, a non-profit organization that serves as a custodian for funding of research in agriculture, primarily at OSU. Koong served at the Foundation from 2011 to 2015, before stepping into full retirement.