Firsts, Bests, Honors

As the oldest chartered university in Oregon, Pacific University has a long and distinguished history of excellence. 

Firsts | Bests | Honors


  • Pacific University was granted Oregon’s first charter providing for the establishment of an institution of higher education by the Oregon Territorial Legislature in 1849. Tualatin Academy was established for the “instruction of persons of both sexes in science and literature.”

  • Pacific’s first class was held in College Hall (now Old College Hall) in October 1851. Old College Hall is one of the oldest educational structures in the western United States and the longest-standing academic building west of the Mississippi.

  • Gamma Sigma is the first Greek letter society west of the Mississippi River. Pacific’s fraternity was established in 1863.

  • Harvey W. Scott was the first baccalaureate degree recipient at Pacific. He later spent 40 years as editor of the Portland Oregonian. Scott Hall, a former campus library, is named in his honor.

  • Myron Eells, who graduated in 1866, was the first Pacific alumnus to become a trustee of the university.

  • Tomas Condon became Oregon’s first geologist in 1872, while teaching geology at Pacific University.

  • Carnegie Hall was Pacific’s first academic library building. Built in 1912, it was one of only three academic libraries built by the Carnegie Endowment in the West — and the only one in the Pacific Northwest.

  • The Pacific University College of Optometry (formerly the North Pacific College of Optometry) in 1947 was the first program to award a doctor of optometry degree in the United States.

  • Pacific is the first university in Oregon to offer graduate and professional training in education, occupational therapy, optometry, physical therapy and psychology.

  • Pacific’s first woman president, Faith Gabelnick, served from 1995 to 2003.

  • The Pacific University Fieldhouse, built in 1970, was the first athletic complex in the Northwest specifically built as an indoor practice facility for outdoor sports. In 2011, the fieldhouse installed a synthetic grass surface, FieldTurf, making Pacific the lone institution in the Northwest Conference to have an indoor practice facility with a grass-like surface.

  • Pacific’s women’s wrestling program, created in 2001, is one of only twenty varsity women’s wrestling programs in the United States and the first at a school in the West.

  • In August 2007, the Pacific Fight Song rang out for the first time from the Marsh Hall bell tower carillon. The music, by Professor Charles Dietz, plays daily at noon and at 5 p.m.

  • In 2007, Burlingham Hall became the first gold-rated LEED-certified green residential building on the West Coast.

  • The Pacific baseball team was the first to use an experimental contact lens, developed by Pacific optometry professor Alan Reichow and designed to help players see the ball better in varying light conditions. The lenses were made and marketed by Nike and used by professional athletes in a variety of sports.

  • The Pacific Psychology Clinic at the Hillsboro campus is the first training clinic in Washington County to offer mental health services to both English- and Spanish-speaking clients.

  • Pacific played its first home football game at Lincoln Park Stadium on Sept. 18, 2010, after a 19-year hiatus from the sport. The Boxers logged their first post-revival win on Oct. 29, 2011, at Homecoming.

  • The College of Optometry opened the world’s first 3D Performance Eye Clinic in October 2011.

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  • The multimillion dollar Lincoln Park Athletic Complex was a collaboration between Pacific University and the City of Forest Grove. The park includes separate stadiums for soccer/football/track, baseball and softball, one of only two nine-lane facilities in the Northwest and the world’s largest barber pole, a long-time feature of Forest Grove.

  • Lu’au, founded in 1960, is one of the largest student-produced lu’aus in the continental United States.

  • Pacific University’s College of Education is the only college in Oregon with a Center for Gifted Education offering certificates in cultural competency and talented and gifted studies.

  • The clinical psychology program’s forensic track is the only such training program in Oregon.

  • The College of Education offers a one-year pathway to a master of arts in teaching for science and math professionals. The unique program is embedded within the Woodburn (Ore.) School District.

  • The Chronicle of Higher Education named Pacific University one of the “Great Colleges to Work For” in 2008. Pacific is consistently named a Best Western College by The Princeton Review, a Best College by US News & World Report and one of America’s Top Colleges by Forbes.

  • Washington Monthly ranked Pacific University 13th nationally in its master's university category in 2013. US News World Report ranked Pacific University tied for 20th in the Regional Universities West Region category in 2013, as well as 11th among regional universities in the west in its Best Value Schools category. Forbes placed Pacific among its list of America's Top Colleges, and The Princeton Review named Paciic a Best Western College (one of just 125 in a 15 state region including California and Texas). 

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  • Pacific faculty helped research the Hi-Vis soccer ball for Nike. This yellow and blue ball is easier for fans, referees and players to see.

  • Jennifer (Smythe) Coyle is the first female dean of the College of Optometry and was named Oregon Optometrist of the Year in 2010. She was listed by Vision Monday as one of the “50 Most Influential Women in Optical” for 2006. Alumna Dori Carlson, the first woman president in the 114-year history of the American Optometric Association, and Cathy Evans, Pacific director of ophthalmic services, made the list in 2011.

  • DeeDee Arnall was the second athlete in Pacific history to be named an all-American in two sports (women’s basketball and track & field).

  • Pacific’s master of fine arts in writing program was ranked fourth among the world’s low-residency programs by Poets & Writers Magazine two straight years. It also was rated as one of the top five low-residency programs by Atlantic Monthly in 2007.

  • Associate Professor Tiffany Boggis was honored with the Grace Black Award as Oregon’s 2010 Occupational Therapist of the Year. In 2011, Assistant Professor Sandra Pelham-Foster was bestowed the same recognition.

  • MFA in Writing instructors Kwame Dawes and Joseph Millar were named 2012 Guggenheim Fellows.

  • Physics Professor Juliet Brosing was named 2012 Oregon Professor of the Year.