CORVALLIS, Ore. – The family of a former longtime administrator with the Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station who died last year has donated to OSU’s Valley Library his extensive collection of photographs and personal papers – a treasure trove that includes nearly 38,000 images spanning 1934-2005.
The Robert Henderson Photographic Collection features extensive imagery of historical importance to the university community and surrounding areas, including photos of commencement ceremonies, football games, agricultural research, band performances, campus scenes, building dedications, Oregon State Fair activities and exhibits at the Oregon Museum of Science and Technology.
Highlights from his personal papers include notes on the OSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors and cassette recordings of interviews with select OSU leaders and faculty, among them President Robert MacVicar and longtime Agricultural Sciences Dean Wilber Cooney. One tape documents a performance of the OSU Marching Band at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. The collection in its entirety will be part of University Archives at the Valley Library.
Born in 1914, Henderson graduated from Hermiston High School and moved to Corvallis in 1933 to begin studies at Oregon State College, where he was elected student body president in 1937. He graduated the following year with a B.S. in agronomy, married his wife, Alice, and moved to Moro, Ore., where he began work as a junior agronomist for the Agricultural Experiment Station.
He later earned a master’s degree from Cornell and a Ph.D. in plant genetics from the University of Minnesota. As a graduate student, he conducted research on the Russian dandelion as a source of natural rubber, which was seen as nationally important work, given the shortage of rubber during World War II.
He returned to Corvallis and the Agricultural Experiment Station in 1950 and became a passionate advocate for OSU. He lobbied the legislature for research funding and cobbled together three slide projectors to create an early multi-media presentation titled “The Magic of Research at OSU,” which he took around Oregon. He spoke to more than 75 groups around the state in a two-year period.
His family notes that wherever he went, whether in Oregon or overseas to Thailand or one of the 20 other foreign nations he visited, he carried a camera and lovingly preserved the images he brought back.