Clear Cut: The Story of Philomath, Oregon

Institute History


Philomath, Oregon, is a small timber town with a very generous benefactor. The Clemens family, owing their success to the local logging industry, decided to give back to their community by offering college scholarships to all graduates of the local high school. For more than 40 years, they provided thousands of students with free college tuition—no strings attached.

As the fading lumber industry gave way to new high-tech industries, Philomath found itself in flux, with old and new ways of life dividing residents. As one of the descendants in charge of the Clemens Foundation, Steve Lowther was determined to change what he felt was a "politically correct" (read "antilogging") curriculum and lack of morals among students. He pressed the school board to stop the liberal bias that was allegedly overrunning the school's administration. What unfurled was a drag-out fight—under intense national media scrutiny—involving the future of the foundation, with the students caught in the middle.

While the action takes place in Philomath, the film's ultimate strength is the way it serves as a microcosm for the vast ideological divisions within our country. Director Peter Richardson has crafted a seamless portrait of a clash of differing values. With those on both sides of the issue well represented, Clear Cut: The Story of Philomath, Oregon is a triumphant piece of filmmaking.

— Lisa Viola

Screening Details

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