Voices Web Extra:
A Pacific View of Oregon’s Sesquicentennial
By Alex Toth
Social Sciences/Special Collections Librarian
Pacific University, Oregon
On February 14, 2009, Oregon initiated a year-long celebration of 150 years of statehood. A number of events both large and small have been scheduled throughout the state to celebrate that achievement. The contributions that Pacific University, the state’s first chartered institution of higher education, has made to Oregon over that period of time have been significant:
- Among the better known of these contributions include the work of Tabitha Brown, founder of the orphan school that grew into Tualatin Academy and Pacific University. Tabitha Browns work was acknowledged by the Oregon State Legislature in 1897, when it designated her as "The Mother of Oregon". In doing so, the Legislature specifically cited her as being "representative of the distinctive pioneer heritage and the charitable and compassionate nature of Oregon's people".
- Rev. George Atkinson, a Congregationalist minister and member of the Board of Trustees, had a deep and abiding interest in education. He is credited not only with training the first teachers for Oregon schools, but also with providing the first textbooks in the Territory. Atkinson went on to later draft a policy for the governor that became the states first law for mandating support for public education. During his public career, Atkinson served as School Superintendent for both Clackamas and Multnomah counties.
- Pacific has also contributed significantly to the development of teacher education in Oregon. In 1891 the Oregon State board of Education established criteria for a "Teachers Certificate". In that same year the Pacific University Catalog announced that, "any person receiving a literary degree, in course, from this institution shall be entitled to receive a State Diploma after having passed an approved examination--under the direction of a member of the Faculty at the end of each college year. A State Life diploma will be granted to holders of State Diplomas after six years of successful teaching". In 1911 Pacific achieved the status of a "standardized college", one of only three such institutions in the state, as determined by criteria developed by the United States Bureau of Education.
- In the political sphere, Pacific graduates Thomas Tongue and Les AuCoin both served Oregon with distinction in the U.S. House of Representatives. Tongue served from 1897 to 1903 and AuCoin from 1975 to 1993.
The contributions that Pacific has made to the State of Oregon do not however reside solely with historical figures. The contributions have in large part been the result of the collective efforts of those of us who have worked at, attend or served the University. It is through our collaborative accomplishments that Pacific has achieved its position as a premier institution of higher education in both the state and the region.
A portion of the material culture that documents our shared history as Pacific University resides in the University Archives, which serves as the institutional memory. The University Archives, as custodian of this memory, seeks to identify, acquire and preserve the significant documentary evidence that connects Pacific’s past to the present and will connect its present to the future.
The occasion of Oregons Sesquicentennial represents a unique opportunity for Pacific University to remind itself of the many contributions the University has made to the history of the state. If you have not visited the University Archives, the Sesquicentennial might be an opportune time to do so and to see what those who have preceded us have contributed to our University. Their stories can entertain, educate and inform us. Let’s trust that in 2159 those who stand where we are now will find similar inspiration in our accomplishments.
Alex Toth is Social Sciences/Special Collections Librarian for the Pacific University Library.