One Generation to the Next

Medallion Illustration

Jim Sumner ’66 was the first in his family to attend college.

“My parents were enjoying the post-war prosperity. They said, ‘We’d love you to go to college.’”

At Pacific, Sumner found a wider world than he’d imagined.

“I had gone to what was, at the time, Oregon’s largest high school. It was enormous, over 3,000 students, and in that entire student body were one African-American student, whose parents were very well educated, one Japanese-American family who ran the grocery store, and two Latinos,” he said.

“I got to Pacific and realized right away there were a whole lot of interesting people here I didn’t know anything about.”

He remembers Pacific University in the late 1960s as a bastion of diversity, thanks in part to aggressive student recruitment in Hawai‘i, in California, and in traditionally low-income and racially diverse high schools, combined with the relative affordability of a college education.

“If you worked part time during the school year and full time in the summer, which everybody did, and your parents were able to give you a little bit of help, you could easily meet the cost of any school in the country and graduate without debt,” Sumner said. “That’s not the case anymore.”

The scholarship would target students who are the first in their families to attend college.

Sumner is among a group of Pacific alumni from the late ’60s who would like to make it a little easier for students — particularly those who, like him, are first-generation college students — to gain an education.

The classes have banded together to raise $25,000 to endow a scholarship, which they are calling the Golden Guard Scholarship, in recognition of their upcoming 50-year reunions, at which alumni are inducted into the Golden Guard.

The idea was to pool the efforts of classes across several years to get to the point of an endowed scholarship, said Bruce Bishop ’68.

Bishop said that a scholarship created from their fundraising would target students with financial need in their third and fourth years at Pacific, so they don’t “just come in for their freshman or sophomore year and then not be able to graduate for financial reasons,” he said. The scholarship also would, ideally, focus on students who are the first in their families to attend college.

Bishop said he believes that the scholarship might help attract a more diverse population of students — one that more closely mirrors his and Sumner’s Pacific experiences.

“It’s much more expensive now, obviously, for students than it was in my day,” he said. “So hopefully the Golden Guard Scholarship will be a way that our classes can help support students in following in our footsteps.”

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This story first appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Pacific magazine. For more stories, visit

Monday, Oct. 27, 2014