The Sigurd H. Petersen Scholarship
The Petersen scholarship endowment was established in 1999 by Dr. Walter Henry Ott and his wife, Maxine, in honor of her father, Sigurd H. Petersen, who was a faculty member at the OSU for 43 years and who chaired the English Department from 1922-54. During his career, Professor Petersen headed the Freshman Writing Program and established courses in business writing and English for Engineers. He taught the Bible as Literature as well as courses on Icelandic and Norse myth, which was his area of scholarly expertise. He founded Oregon State College’s premier literary magazine, The Lamplighter, the tradition of which continues in our own Prism student art journal. In 1949, Petersen took a chance and hired an unknown novelist out of Brooklyn New York named Bernard Malamud, and the rest, as it is said, is history—a history you can read for yourself in the writer’s OSU Roman a Clef, A New Life. As professor and then chair, Sigurd Peterson always put students first and worked as an advisor and organizer of extra-curricular activities even after he retired to the Oregon Coast. He died there in 1963.
The Otts’ generous initial gift of over half a million dollars remains to this day the largest single donation to School of Writing, Literature, and Film from a private donor toward student support.