Corvallis’ Most Impactful People You Don’t Know About

Jimbo-IvyNot everyone making a huge difference in our fair little burg becomes a household name—they often work quietly behind the scenes, some even eschewing what attention may come their way personally. Most of this year’s candidates actually lay the credit for their impact on the efforts and help of others. It’s a particularly selfless group this year.

We started with over 40 candidates and more than a few staffers commented just how fortunate our community is to have such a large pool of willing and able talent to choose from. In the end, we only get to pick for five positions, so without further ado, this year’s Most Impactful Corvallis People You Don’t About as selected by The Corvallis Advocate…

1. Jimbo Ivy Transforms Majestic
Jimbo Ivy has spent the better part of a year rejuvenating the local arts scene and his work is only just beginning. Ivy was brought on as the theatre supervisor for the Majestic Theatre at the beginning of the year, when Corvallis Parks & Recreation took control of the building, and his work has been nothing short of transformative.

Before Ivy came in, the Majestic Theatre had somewhat stagnated. Performances went on, the building continued to be used, but the passion just wasn’t there. Community theater members drifted away from the theater and leadership was constantly in flux. When the city finally stepped in, with Ivy in tow, the theater’s future was up in the air.

Ivy came into the picture and made his presence known from the outset. By promoting local talent and involving anyone and everyone interested in the world of theater, Ivy re-established the Majestic as a major player in the local arts scene. Month after month, Ivy brought in a diverse array of performers to satisfy everyone’s needs and tastes. From live music to burlesque shows to original home-grown plays, Ivy made sure that the Majestic’s weekends were consistently full.

But Ivy, ever the humble leader, shies away from giving himself too much credit. He passes the accolades on to the talented members of the theater community and to his staff. And it’s through this willingness to lift others up instead of himself that he truly achieves his status as Most Impactful. By raising the Majestic Theatre’s standards, Ivy has essentially asked that all others involved in the local arts reach those heights and, so far, the arts community has kept up.

Christel Birdwell, business manager at the Majestic Theatre, says Ivy’s impact comes in the form of the growing community of enthusiastic theatergoers that the Majestic has acquired in the last year.

“Jimbo has won the trust and respect of a great many people including folks who have been dormant from participating in Majestic productions for a long time,” Birdwell explained. “With so many people engaging with the Majestic, membership is up, volunteerism is up, and productions are finding more and more success. This makes everyone feel good—and that success begets more success. It’s not always easy—the arts are a challenge in the best of situations. But the arts, and this community, have a great friend in Jimbo Ivy.”

2. (tied) Jeff Hess and Chelsea Van Denend Instigate Arts Walk
The Corvallis Arts Walk (CAW) is a self-proclaimed grass-roots organized art walk that takes place on the third Thursday of each month in downtown Corvallis. One of the people responsible for getting it up and running and then keeping it going is Jeff Hess, but he says that he couldn’t have done it without Chelsea Van Denend, a recent Oregon State University graduate. “Chelsea’s played an enormous part in shaping the CAW. At the formation meetings she brought a fresh, (non-profit-motivated), perspective that helped keep the focus on art and community rather than simply selling stuff.” Hess is a local artist and despite his reluctance to take credit, has played an integral part in CAW since the beginning.

When asked about the origins of CAW, Van Denend had this to say: “Whenever I tell people about the Corvallis Arts Walk, I am sure to mention the instigator of it all, Jeff Hess. I can remember when Jeff wrangled Paige Shumway, Jennifer Lommers, and myself in September of 2014 in hopes of starting up an art walk—there was so much work that had to be done to make this happen and Jeff has been dedicated all along. His enthusiasm has sustained the group, multiplied our numbers and reinvigorated our city. Our last Arts Walk meeting was packed with new and long-standing members, it was so wonderful! Jeff keeps us in line, is a positive and inspiring individual that Corvallis is lucky to have.”

Notably, we interviewed both Hess and Van Denend separately.

3.  Joe Beckman for Sake of Lifesaving Research
Notable by the exception, scientists often shy away from politicizing their efforts. But Joe Beckman, director of OSU’s Environmental Health Sciences Center, believed voters needed a warning about local Measure 2-89 in early 2015. The ordinance would have banned genetically engineered organisms in Corvallis, quite possibly ending his potentially lifesaving research.

Beckman made worldwide headlines using genetically modified bacteria to create a drug that appears to slow and even stop ALS, a degenerative neurological disease that kills 12,000 people yearly. Beckman said, “We believe that with further improvements, and following necessary human clinical trials for safety and efficacy, this could provide a valuable new therapy for ALS and perhaps Parkinson’s disease.”

Talking openly with local groups and media, Beckman came out vociferously against 2-89. He also works directly with the ALS Association of Oregon to help people afflicted with the disease.

Given the weight of Beckham’s work and the daunting effort of taking on a political voice, there was some discussion that he should be higher up this list. Though, we also noted the ordinance may not have squared with controlling state laws if it had passed.

4. (tied) Dan Crall and Cheyne Willems Pedal Enviro-Friendliness
Corvallis Pedicab has been busy this year, but they are not just ferrying people about town. Owner and operator Dan Crall and driver Cheyne Willems have been working to stomp out the pesky litter problem created by those who carelessly discard their cigarette butts around Corvallis.

The pair has gained media coverage and the attention of citizens with their efforts of cigarette cleanups and Willems’ idea to host a cigarette butt scavenger hunt throughout the city—particularly on the OSU campus.

“Cheyne and I both are thinking a lot of the same ways,” Crall said. “We are both very concerned about cigarettes flowing into the river, and we both just want something to be done.”

The two hope they’re encouraging others to clean up butts around town.

In addition to their cleanup efforts, Willems and Crall provide an environmentally friendly transportation option for people by transporting folks in their pedicabs.

Crall also hosts The Spirit of the Forest, an audio drama/dark comedy podcast with an array of audio worth considering.

5. Nick Houtman Starts Conversations
Nick Houtman grew up in California, but has lived all over the United States. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in mass communication at Stanford University and then his master’s in water resource management at the University of Wisconsin. He and his wife settled in Corvallis in 2005. He currently works at Oregon State University as the assistant director of news and re-search communications where part of his job is editor of Terra Magazine. Another aspect of his job at OSU is hosting Science Pub.

Houtman is also a board member at the City Club of Corvallis where he is co-chair of the Program Committee, which involves identifying important topics that need addressing to help the community move forward, and then he finds speakers that can talk about those issues. One of the topics he has been working on and is passionate about is homelessness in Corvallis. He says that his involvement with the Unitarian Universal Fellowship is what informs and influences a lot of what he does. “We all bring our ideas and experiences to the world and understand them in ways that work for us. That is part of everything else that I do.”