Washington State Magazine

Fall 2012 Washington State Magazine cover

Fall 2012

In This Issue...


The China Connection :: China buys $11 billion of Washington exports and sells the state $31 billion of imports, in the last few years overtaking Japan as Washington’s second largest export destination. With WSU’s efforts to overcome linguistic, informational, and trade barriers, who knows where that economic relationship might lead? by Larry Clark ’94

Engineers in the Making :: At a time when Washington is a net importer of engineers, a more appreciative vocabulary could tempt a new generation of students into studying engineering. by Hannelore Sudermann

Race, Class, and William Julius Wilson’s World of Opportunity :: Half a century ago, WSU was a national leader in producing black doctors of sociology. Among them, William Julius Wilson ’66 PhD—recipient of 45 honorary degress and the National Medal of Science, and author of landmark works that redefined poverty and race. “Going to WSU,” he says, “was the greatest decision I ever made in my life.” by Eric Sorensen

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Story: A “Monumental” Impact African American sociologists at WSU }

Life Histories: The Butterflies of Cascadia :: In documenting the life histories of Cascadia’s butterflies, every one of the 158 species represented a separate research project. The result has been a wealth of biological and ecological knowledge that simply did not exist before David Nunnallee and WSU entomologist David James began their monumental task. by Tim Steury

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Story: Elusive butterfly of Cascadia }


{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Gallery: Vineland }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Stories: Excerpts from WSU oral histories }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Report: The dangers of a big Cascadia earthquake }


:: In Season: Summer Blues

:: Last Words: Mural, mural, on the wall

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Poem: Hanford Reservations by Graham Hutchins}

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Video: Press conferences with WSU football coach Mike Leach }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Video: Visual Fireworks—The making of Pat Siler’s downtown Pullman mural }


{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Photo: The Palouse Country Club, 1975 Architects from the class of ’76 }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Gallery: Highlights of Marcus Capers’ WSU basketball career }

New Media

:: Of Little Comfort: War Widows, Fallen Soldiers, and the Remaking of the Nation after the Great War by Erika Kuhlman ’95 PhD

:: Finding the River by Jeff Crane ’04 PhD, ’98

:: Dove Creek by Paula Marie Coomer

:: The Republic of Nature: An Environmental History of the United States by Mark Fiege ’85 MA

:: New & Noteworthy: Images That Injure edited by Susan Dente Ross and Paul Martin Lester; Seaside Stories by S.R. Martin, Jr. ’74; Life Histories of Cascadia Butterflies by David G. James and David Nunnallee

Cover: Collage of Anise Swallowtail butterflies, photos courtesy Roger Jones.

Emeritus Society executive secretary Tom Brigham (center) with Katy Fry and Herb Nakata. <em>Robert Hubner</em>


Emeritus Society executive secretary Tom Brigham (center) with Katy Fry and Herb Nakata. Robert Hubner

Unfiltered history

by | © Washington State University

Tom Brigham, the executive secretary of WSU’s Emeritus Society, stopped by the magazine office some time ago with a box full of interview transcripts, the results of one of the society’s major projects. Had I known how absorbing and distracting the contents would be, I might have been more hesitant to accept delivery.

Seriously, the oral histories contained in the box provide absorbing recollections of WSU history from the early 1950s on. At their best, the interviews combine engrossing storytelling and striking insight. Conducted and transcribed by history graduate student, now instructor, Katy Fry ’06, ’11, the histories provide unfiltered memories of WSU through five presidencies and rich insight into how we came to be where we are now.

I met agricultural economist Norm Whittlesey (at WSU 1964–1996) soon after I started at WSU in 1989 and interviewed him a time or two before he retired. I admired his work on water policy and knew that he was associated with some considerable controversy regarding water. But I was never clear on the details. Now I know, thanks to his lively and candid oral history.

The Grand Coulee Dam and the Columbia Basin Project was originally planned as purely an irrigation project. Half of it was funded by Congress. Power generation was added later in the planning. Decades after the dam’s completion, the plans for the second portion of the irrigation project were resurrected, and Whittlesey was asked to analyze its worth. Much to the dismay of a determined interest group, he testified before the House of Representatives that the project was in fact not worth the cost. 

Whittlesey learned the dangers of being forthright and recounts a not-so-surprising but still troubling conversation with an unnamed legislator about truth and accountability. He also muses that the results of his testimony changed his opinion of tenure. 

David Seamans, who joined the electrical engineering faculty in 1954 (and retired in 1992), remembers a campus that had one computer, an IBM punch-card machine in Thompson Hall, the administration building at the time. He taught the first computer hardware course on campus, in 1956 or 1957 and, with William Grant in music, built an analog music synthesizer.

Although Sue Durrant’s (at WSU 1961–2005) story about her role in forcing WSU to follow Title IX guidelines has been told many times, including in this magazine, never have we heard such a personal and moving account of what it was like to have to sue her university to rectify an unbalanced athletic system.

Not only does biochemist Ralph Yount (Molecular Biosciences, 1960–2004) recount his discovery of an ATP analog that is used widely in biochemical research, he shares his thoughts about the relationship between scientists and their mothers.

Zoologist Leonard Kirschner (1953–1993) provides an irreverent but touching picture of 1950s Pullman, an absorbing account of his career in biological science, and a hilarious description of campus unrest in the late 1960s and early 1970s and his part in it, including his firing by President Terrell from the Human Rights Committee.

Others interviewed for the project include James Quann (Registrar, at WSU 1957–1990), Robert Ackerman (Anthropology, 1961–2007), Don Orlich (Education, 1967–1993), George Hinman (School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, 1969–1997), James Short (Sociology, 1951–1993), Walt Butcher (School of Economic Sciences, 1964–1996), Thomas Maloney (Composite Materials and Engineering, 1956–1995), Sherrill Richarz (Human Development, 1968–1993), Thor Swanson (Political Science, 1951–1982), Herb Nakata (Molecular Biosciences, 1959–1993), Nicholas Kiessling (English, 1967–2000), and Edward Bennett (History, 1961–1994).

The oral histories are generally insightful, often funny, occasionally mis-remembered, and unflinchingly candid. As such, members of the society have decided not to make the interviews available online at this time. However, transcripts are available at Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, and selections are posted at Our Story.

Categories: WSU faculty, WSU history, Campus life | Tags: Oral history

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