Living History

Living History

Oct. 4, 2013

Pacific University opens special exhibit for the Governor Victor Atiyeh Collection.

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Glass cases stand atop black pillars, displaying remnants of Oregon history. In one, vivid campaign buttons proclaim, “It’s time for Atiyeh!”

And at Pacific University, it is indeed.

Gov. Victor Atiyeh was the first Arab-American governor in the country, serving as Oregon’s chief executive officer from 1979 to 1987. A successful businessman, advocate for local Native American tribes and proponent of global trade expansion,

Atiyeh also is a trustee emeritus at Pacific University, where he recently donated his personal collection of papers and artifacts. On Friday, Oct. 4, an exhibition of the collection opened in the Pacific University Library.

Among the displays on exhibit are Gov. Atiyeh’s passport and travel diaries from trade trips to Asia and the Middle East, as well as a ceremonial shovel from the groundbreaking of the NEC chipmaking plant, one of the earliest inhabitants of Oregon’s “Silicon Forest.” Atiyeh took office amid one of the hardest economic periods in Oregon’s history, when unemployment hit a high of 12.5 percent, even higher than today. He was a proponent of economic diversity and global trade to benefit the state’s economy.

“Oregon has been in a fight for its economic life,” reads a poster on the wall, quoting from the governor’s 1983 State of the State address. “Yet throughout my first term as governor of Oregon, we have fought — and thought — on our feet, with our head always up, and with a keen instinct for turning problems into opportunities at every possible chance.”

In addition to the artifacts on display, the collection features hundreds of additional documents that track Oregon’s recent history. The collection is available to students and scholars for study at the Pacific University Library, and much of it has been digitized at

Some things, though, demand to be seen in person, like the embroidered jacket given to Atiyeh by the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla and the eagle feather headdress that was bestowed on him by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

The Governor Victor Atiyeh Collection is now a permanent — and growing — part of the Pacific University collection, but the exhibit is temporary. Visit between now and Dec. 15, during the Library’s regular hours.