Beaver Pep

Q – What is your reaction to Sandy Koufax leaving the Dodgers?

A – I haven’t really developed a reaction to that.  Doesn’t the young man have some kind of a pain in his arm?

-“Scientific Genius Dotes On Comic Strips, Miniskirts, But Can’t Cure Golfer’s Slice,” The (Portland) Oregonian, December 2, 1966.

Fans storm the field at Reser Stadium following Oregon State's upset win over USC, September 25, 2008.

[Photo by Andy Cripe, (Corvallis) Gazette-Times]

Oregon State University’s remarkable college football victory over top-ranked USC last night has us thinking about a few entries in one of our more important documents — Linus Pauling’s Oregon Agricultural College diary, which dates to his freshman year as an undergraduate in 1917.

The OAC Diary, which we’ve mentioned before on the PaulingBlog, is a terrifically-valuable resource in which the young Pauling records his thoughts and feelings in an honest and personal fashion. Both in content and in tone the document is quite different from most of Pauling’s later writings which, letters to Ava Helen excepted, tend to be rather formal.

As one might expect, much of the diary documents Pauling’s process of assimilating into a new environment as an eager but unsure college freshman.  On page 54 of the journal, in an entry dated October 10, 1917, Pauling writes of an event that seems equal parts hazing ritual and spirit rally.

Am getting along all right; cleaned the fountain today, and serpentined with a couple of hundred other rooks to the football field, where we yelled for O.A.C. and sung some songs.  We then marched to Waldo Hall and sang ‘How green I am’ to a crowd of the inmates.  We were guarded by about 20 sophs.

Nearly three weeks later, on October 29, Pauling’s devotion to his new school seems to be strengthening.

Am getting along all right.  Have lots of beaver pep.

Pauling OAC Diary, pg. 54.

Pauling OAC Diary, pg. 54.

In truth, there is little evidence that Pauling maintained much of an interest in athletic pursuits, be it as a participant or a fan.  He liked to go for walks in the Big Sur countryside near his home at Deer Flat Ranch — a hobby that nearly resulted in his untimely demise.  Otherwise, the only real connection between Pauling and sports is again found in the OAC Diary where he records, in a list of resolutions, the desire to “go out for track as a high jumper and succeed.”  As it turns out, behind this resolution there was indeed a method.  Tom Hager writes in his Pauling biography, Force of Nature



Pauling paid less attention to subjects outside the physical sciences, receiving…an F in his second semester of freshman gymnasium.  He failed the gym class when, in true Pauling fashion, he tried to get around the rules.  He knew that members of the school athletic teams weren’t required to take the standard gym classes, so he planned to join the track team instead of taking the required course. (He had thought about being a high-hurdles and high-jump competitor since high school.)  Trying out for the team, however, was a disaster:  He knocked over a hurdle and couldn’t clear a high enough bar to interest the coach.  Although he ran in one meet, he failed to make the team, got an F in the course he tried to bypass, and gave up on competitive athletics.

Linus Pauling (second from left), 1917.

Linus Pauling (second from left), 1917.

Oregon 150

3 Responses

  1. […] outings at later department picnics.  Pauling — whose general disinclination toward sports was covered here — doesn’t take part in these match-ups.  One who was a bit more interested in tossing […]

  2. […] leave Portland altogether. He moved to Corvallis, Oregon in the fall of 1917 where he enrolled at Oregon Agricultural College. There, he embarked on a course that would eventually earn him two Nobel prizes and worldwide […]

  3. […] campus honor societies, his impressive scholastic record, his status as junior class orator and his involvement in track and field as relevant personal qualifications for the scholarship. Overall it appears that Pauling had […]

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