This oral history interview with Amo R. DeBernardis was conducted by Corbett S. Gottfried from April 9 to November 5, 1993. The interview was conducted in six sessions.
In the first interview session, conducted on April 9, 1993, DeBernardis discusses his family background and early life in the Portland, Oregon, area, including jobs he did during his childhood. He speaks at length about his early education and his teachers. He talks about his experience studying engineering at Oregon State University, including his classes, teachers, and how he decided to become a teacher. He also discusses his involvement in designing the Bonneville Dam while in college. He then talks about working as a shop teacher at Ockley Green Elementary School in Portland and working with students. He speaks briefly about his master's thesis, then talks about switching to becoming an education administrator and shares his philosophy on what makes a good administrator. He talks about his wife, Jessie Genevieve Hulery, and their children. He describes his service training officers in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
In the second interview session, conducted on April 16, 1993, DeBernardis continues discussing his service in the U.S. Navy during World War II and talks about the changes in education after the war. He describes working with Portland Public Schools in the late 1940s and 1950s; talks about his main accomplishments; and describes his educational philosophy. He then speaks about the beginnings of adult education in Oregon and about serving as Portland Community College's first president from 1961 to 1979. He describes the various programs PCC offered, the development of its campuses, and the opposition the fledgling college faced. He talks about the relationship between PCC and Portland Public Schools, other community colleges in the Portland Metro area, and about the Oregon State Department of Education. He discusses tuition rates and the value of the classes that PCC offers.
In the third interview session, conducted on April 23, 1993, DeBernardis continues discussing his service as Portland Community College's first president. He continues talking about the development of PCC's campuses and the value of the classes that PCC offers. He speaks about the business model of higher education, the formation of the community college district, and the teachers union. He talks about members of the PCC board during his presidency, teachers they hired, and his management style. He discusses PCC's curriculum and how it compared to a traditional four-year college and talks about the accreditation process.
In the fourth interview session, conducted on May 24, 1993, DeBernardis continues discussing his service as Portland Community College's first president. He talks about meeting the academic and personal needs of the students during the 1960s and 1970s. He describes the student services that PCC provided; talks about the value of vocational education programs; and shares his opinion on college athletic programs. He discusses the job placement programs at PCC, the role of the Oregon and federal departments of education, and the Oregon Community College Association. He also talks about the role of the Oregon Legislature in the development of PCC. He describes the mission of Portland Community College.
In the fifth interview session, conducted on June 10, 1993, DeBernardis continues discussing his service as Portland Community College's first president. He continues describing the mission of Portland Community College and revisits the topics of PCC's hiring practices and his major accomplishments during his presidency. He also discusses his failures and conflicts. He talks about his relationships with presidents at other community colleges in Oregon, budgeting concerns for a college, and PCC's relationship with Oregon 4-year colleges. He then speaks about his retirement activities and reflects on the challenges of leading a college. He also shares his philosophy on life.
In the sixth and final interview session, conducted on November 5, 1993, DeBernardis continues discussing his service as Portland Community College's first president. He speaks at length about the early development of PCC. He discusses how PCC differs from a traditional junior college, talks about the growth of the college, and describes the development of the student transfer program. He talks about hiring and firing teachers, his role as president of the college, and the decision-making process. He reflects on some of the decisions he was responsible for as president. He revisits the topic of his leadership philosophy and discusses the organizational structure of PCC.
DeBernardis, Amo R. (Amo Richard), 1913-2010