It was Tabitha Brown who gave us our first cue. Arriving in Forest Grove penniless after a rugged journey West at the age of 66, this “Mother of Oregon” dreamed of helping others.
“Had [Providence] blessed me with riches, as he has many others…I would establish myself in a comfortable house and receive all the poor children, and be a mother to them,” she reportedly told the Rev. Harvey Clark in 1847. A year later, they founded Pacific University’s roots in the Orphan Asylum, later Tualatin Academy.
Pacific University has a long and rich tradition of giving back to its community, starting with Grandma Brown’s work with the orphans of the Oregon Trail and California Gold Rush. That tradition continues today, when civic engagement is a cornerstone of our undergraduate, graduate and professional programs. All students in the College of Arts & Sciences now complete at least one class or project related to civic engagement. Meanwhile, our College of Health Professions and College of Optometry students provide myriad health services to underserved people in the greater Portland area, and our College of Education students mentor, tutor and coach on their way to becoming teachers.
Our students contribute hundreds of thousands of hours of community service each year, through their course work and their personal endeavors. College of Arts & Sciences students alone surpassed 171,000 hours of service in 2010–11. They are students like Charlotte Basch, who has worked since high school to revitalize the culture of her tribe and who now is using her time at Pacific to explore the world for ways to give back at home.
Young people today volunteer at unprecedented rates. Members of the Millennial Generation, born after 1981, are especially likely to say that it is “essential” or “very important” to help people in need, finds the federal Corporation for National & Community Service. Since 2008, the greater Portland area has ranked second among all large cities in the U.S. for its overall volunteer rate. Portland is first, however, among large cities in its volunteer rate for Millennials, with nearly 34 percent volunteering in some way.
Pacific’s commitment to our community is more than a tribute to our past; it also is an investment in our future. I am proud of the students we attract with our dedication to civic engagement—and of the staff, faculty, alumni and partners who support it—and I am proud that we can help them garner the experience and skills to continue contributing to their communities throughout their lifetimes.
Our University, our community and our world will be the better because of them.
Lesley M. Hallick