The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Paul Kopperman Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Mike Dicianna.

September 2, 2014


“Jewish Life and Holocaust Remembrance at OSU”  September 2, 2014  Location: Milam Hall, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Kopperman discusses his "broad and somewhat complex background" including his birth and early years in Colombia, as well as his adolescence and education growing up in Queens, New York. From there he notes his graduate training at the University of Illinois before recounting the circumstances by which he was hired at Oregon State.

Kopperman then reflects on the state of the OSU History Department at the time of his arrival, and the changes that he has seen in History undergraduates and in the department itself as it has been absorbed into a larger School of History, Philosophy and Religion. He likewise notes his current teaching responsibilities before touching on his research interests, including 18th century British medicine.

The bulk of the session is devoted to Kopperman's memories of the Jewish community in Corvallis and of Holocaust Remembrance at OSU. He recalls a series of hateful incidents that occurred in the area in the mid-1980s as well as the response that they prompted from within the Jewish community as well as the community at large. He also remarks on the gradual growth of the Jewish community in Corvallis, the impact that the local community has made on his own religious practice, and prominent Jewish faculty in OSU's history.

Kopperman next describes the origin of Holocaust Memorial Week at OSU and the evolution of his own role in planning the annual event. In this, he reflects on his meetings with around two dozen Holocaust survivors as well as a number of famous speakers who have visited Oregon State to participate in the event. He likewise notes shifts in the perspective of Remembrance Week to include reflections on genocidal acts that have taken place at other points in history, including in Cambodia, Armenia and the Congo, as well as atrocities committed against Native American populations. He also speaks to the program's utilization of technology to make presentations available online.

The interview concludes with general thoughts on change at OSU as observed over a long career, and words of advice for students of today.