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College of Forestry

Departments    Forest Engineering, Resources & Management | Forest Ecosystems & Society | Wood Science & Engineering

Who is George W. Peavy and why is he so important?

In 1910, George Peavy formally resigned his California job with the U.S. Forest Service, tucked his belongings into a canvas bedroll, and, with his wide-brimmed hat, headed toward the Oregon Agricultural College campus. Hired by President Kerr to provide forestry instruction to 17 students who had struggled along for a term without a major professor, the young Michigan graduate soon energized the forestry department.

[Photo of George W. Peavy]

George W. Peavy was born in Howell, Michigan, November 12, 1869; attended the University of Michigan where he received his Bachelor's degree in 1895 and a MF in 1905. Then he headed west. Here while he was fighting fires, inventorying timber and supervising forest nurseries, the forestry program at Corvallis was growing. Initiated in 1892 as a section in a botany course by Moses Craig, the first course devoted exclusively to forestry was taught by Professor Edward R. Lake, a botanist, in 1896.

In 1909, according to T.J. Starker, "Prof. E.R. Lake, a very fine gentleman and a good botanist, after struggling along with some of us for two or three years, saw the handwriting on the wall that this new-fangled subject of forestry had a bright future and that he was not trained to head up such a program. He resigned and took a position with the USDA in Washington D.C."

Peavy, as his successor, was appointed professor and head of the department of forestry. The courses soon covered nursery practice, planting brush fields, fire fighting and mensuration. The instruction was presented in lecture or by mimeographed material because of the lack of textbooks. Peavy's previous experience teaching at Michigan soon put the young bucks on the straight and narrow. Peavy organized a spring field trip, the first ever held. The tall jars containing dried sheaves of wheat, oats and other grains that exuded the hayloft smell in the office atop the old agriculture building disappeared.

Peavy gathered many honors before his death in 1951, including the Presidency of Oregon State College from 1934-1941. Those who did not know him well were perhaps most impressed by his resonant voice and great vigor. But those who knew him best will always remember his tremendous friendship and fierce loyalty to his foresters. To them he was a giant among men.