Was First Grad Harvey Scott a Drop-out?

A look at the early days of teaching education in Oregon and Pacific University.

By Mark Ankeny
Dean of the College of Education
Pacific University, Oregon

In 1863 and beyond, a person with a college degree could teach pre-college at any level. Thus, from the very beginning, graduates of Pacific went into teaching.

I did some checking in the archives and at first it seemed like Harvey Scott, Pacific’s first graduate, never actually took a full slate of courses at Pacific. Rather, the 1863 catalog mentions that one student in the senior class (Scott) completed the requirements for a degree. At the time people could convert their four-year college degree (called the Bachelor of Arts) into a master’s degree by completing a thesis. It looks like he did that right away because the 1868 catalog shows him in the alumni section with an A.M. (master of arts) degree.

So no, Scott was not a drop-out, but according to the book "Portrait and Biographical Record of the Willamette Valley Oregon", published by Chapman Publishing Company in 1903, he sometimes had to interrupt his studies to work at local mills and farms to earn tuition money. After walking from the family farm in Mason County, Washington more than 150 miles to Forest Grove to begin his studies in 1857, he continued a pattern of work and study as funds allowed - including a stint as a teacher in the summer of 1859 - up until his graduation in 1863 with one of the first college degrees in the West. Scott went on to a 40-year career as the editor of The Oregonian newspaper and was one of the most influential people of his time.

Starting in 1867-68 Pacific University offered a three-year program for women that led to a Mistress of Science degree. At the same time they also offered a three-year Bachelor of Science degree for men. People could teach school at any level with these degrees as well. That same year Pacific University offered a two-year Normal Course that allowed graduates of that program to teach school at the lower grades. By 1891 the BA and BS were both 4-year college programs. The MS degree was converted to a Bachelor of Literature degree in 1892 because the previous year the following bill was passed:

Senate Bill No. 112

A Bill for an Act to encourage more thorough preparation of teachers for public school work in the State of Oregon. Be it enacted by the Legislative Assembly of the State of Oregon: That all persons who shall complete a required course of study, and receive a literary degree therefore in any institution of learning of collegiate or university grade, chartered or incorporated under the law of this State, and shall have passed such examination thereon as may be designated and approved by the State Board of Education, shall be entitled to receive a State diploma, as is now authorized by law, and after six years of successful teaching in the State of Oregon, shall be entitled to the State life diploma, as now provided by law, when they shall have paid the required fee for said diploma. Approved February 20, 1891

Under the law, the State Board of Education had determined that candidates seeking a teaching license also had to pass examinations in the following branches: Book-keeping, Composition, Physical Geography, Algebra, English Literature, Oregon School Laws, General History, and Theory and Practice of Teaching. So, a person could still become a teacher after graduating with a BA, BS, or BL degree but they would also have to pass tests.

In looking at the list of graduates, the first 11 were men and among them are one newspaper editor, five attorneys, one clergyman, one physician, one missionary, and one farmer. The first woman to graduate was Harriet Hoover Killian with a Mistress of Science degree in 1869. She likely was the first teacher from Pacific University who completed a collegiate level degree. The catalogs don’t mention as alumni those who completed the two-year normal course.

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