Category: This Week in History

Paths of Life: How Modern UO Graduation Compares to 19th Century Commencement Ceremonies

Class of 2014 (Tristan Fortsch/
Class of 2014 (Tristan Fortsch/

This week we are presenting a three-part series highlighting the history of graduation at the University of Oregon. Part one (Tuesday) takes a look back at commencement ceremonies from the the 19th century, part two (Wednesday) features a recent donation of graduation memorabilia, and part three (Thursday) highlights commencement speeches over the years. Congratulations to the Class of 2015!!


On Monday, June 15, the University of Oregon will host the Duck Walk from Johnson Hall to Matthew Knight Arena in the lead-up to the 138th annual university graduation ceremony. From 9:30 to 11:00 am, the ceremony will honor the commencement of studies and the conferment of degrees for over 4000 students. In addition, 41 schools of the university will hold departmental ceremonies across campus throughout Sunday and Monday, affording a more intimate setting to recognize students within their major.

The Class of 2015 continues a tradition of grandiose commencements held at the University of Oregon. Today we will take a look back at the graduation ceremonies of the 19th century, putting in perspective the modern festivities with the earliest classes who celebrated the culmination of their time in Eugene.

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Oregon’s Connection to the Holiday Movie Classic “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Publicity for It’s a Wonderful Life.
Publicity for It’s a Wonderful Life.


At the beginning of December, the UO Libraries and Cinema Studies presented a public screening of the holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), along with a small complementary exhibit. It’s a Wonderful Life has an important connection to UO: included in Special Collections and University Archives are the papers of the author who wrote the short story that became the basis for the movie’s screenplay. Continue reading

Remembering Karl Onthank, Conservationist and Humanitarian

Onthank_Karl_1Karl Onthank played a prominent role as a humanitarian and conservationist at the University of Oregon during the first half of the 20th century. For four decades, Onthank served in a variety of administrative roles at the university and contributed significantly in his service to students. We are pleased to highlight some of his key contributions to UO and the state of Oregon throughout his career.

Onthank first arrived at the UO campus in 1909 as an undergraduate student. During his time as a student, Onthank helped found the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and served as the editor of the student newspaper and yearbook. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from UO in June 1913, Onthank returned to the campus during the next few summers, earning his Master of Arts in 1915. Continue reading

Oregon’s Civil War Duel: An Overview of Historical Highlights

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Oregon and Oregon State square off in the 118th edition of the Civil War game at Reser Stadium in Corvallis. With few exceptions, the Ducks and Beavers have faced one another annually since 1894 in the oldest college football rivalry west of the Rocky Mountains. We are pleased to offer an overview of the century-long duel between the Ducks and Beavers, which has featured many notable highlights throughout the decades.


The first years of the rivalry were marked by lopsided scores and growing animosities. Oregon Agricultural College, as Oregon State was known until 1927, won the inaugural meeting 16-0 in Corvallis in 1894. Two years later, violence between rival fans after a 12-8 Oregon road victory nearly led to the permanent cancellation of the series. Cooler heads prevailed until 1899, when deputy sheriffs patrolled the sidelines in Eugene during what the Eugene Guard called the “Hayseed Waterloo” – a second straight 38-0 shutout victory for the Webfoots. Continue reading

Anniversary of Harry S. Stamper, Jr.’s Passing

StamperGuitar_smallMarch 9th, 2014 marked the two year anniversary of the passing of Oregon folksinger Harry S. Stamper, Jr.  His song “We Just Come To Work Here (We Don’t Come To Die)” became the unofficial anthem of the occupational health and safety movement, and it was designated a “classic labor song” by the Smithsonian Folkways record label. During his career, Stamper, who was from Coos Bay, performed at the Great Hudson River Revival, the Highlander Center, and the San Francisco memorial for legendary labor leader Harry Bridges. His work caught the attention of renowned folk musician Pete Seeger, influential folklorist Archie Green and a host of other journalists, documentary filmmakers, scholars and union activists.

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