Category: University History

A Look Into the Past: The Debate Clubs Everyone Wanted to Join

Laurean and Eutaxian Society Meeting, University Archives Photographs, UA Ref 3

Campus societies are a large portion of any university history, older universities such as Harvard or Yale pride themselves on their societies. The men and women who have participated in literary societies historically have found lucrative jobs and connections due to the unique experience that these societies provide to undergraduates. Literary societies were regularly founded in pairs in order to foster competition and growth. This history often brings to mind older institutions on the east coast. However, the University of Oregon is no stranger to the benefits of literary societies on its campus.

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Progress With Limits: President Olum’s Quest for Change

This is the ninth of a series of blog posts highlighting the ongoing work of the Documenting UO History Project within the University Archives. A major part of this project is researching and documenting the often untold and hidden histories of the university’s diverse and underrepresented communities. This year our focus will continue to highlight Black history on campus, specifically Black student activism from the 1960s to present. Prior posts can be seen here.

The Governor — and others — have complained that President Olum can’ t have it both ways — continue to assert that the University of Oregon is of the quality of some of the best public universities in the United States and argue at the same time that faculty salaries at the University of Oregon are abysmally low compared with other institutions, and that this makes it extremely difficult to compete in the hiring of the best young faculty and in retaining our leading senior faculty against very large offers from various universities. Now, the truth is that it really is both ways. Our salaries are terribly, dangerously low and yet we are surely among the best 20 public universities in the United States and, in a number of areas, significantly better even than that.                            -President Olum, State of the university Address, 1987

Wartime ID badge photo of Paul Olum, courtesy  Los Alamos National Laboratory

Paul Olum stepped into the role of university president at Oregon with decades of academic experience. Having just served as provost at the University of Oregon, Olum had been groomed to take over for President Boyd (see previous post on Boyd).  Olum started his illustrious academic career in mathematics, even working on the Manhattan Project at one point.  He earned his bachelors in physics from Princeton in 1940, an M.A in physics from Princeton in 1942, and a PhD in mathematics from Harvard in 1947. Olum later served as a very popular and distinguished professor of mathematics at Cornell, and had a short stint at the University of Texas before beginning his tenure at Oregon.

Olum quickly developed a positive repoire with both students and staff.  Politically progressive, Olum publically called for nuclear disarmament and fought to make the University of Oregon more inclusive for all students. Although Olum’s tenure avoided the contention that filled the 1960s and 1970s, Olum faced recurring budget restraints and struggled to recruit more minority students to the Eugene campus.

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The Bureaucracy and Red Tape: President Boyd’s Obstacles to Change at UO

This is the eighth of a series of blog posts highlighting the ongoing work of the Documenting UO History Project within the University Archives. A major part of this project is researching and documenting the often untold and hidden histories of the university’s diverse and underrepresented communities. This year our focus will continue to highlight Black history on campus, specifically Black student activism from the 1960s to present. Prior posts can be seen here.

President Boyd and “Animal House Director John Landis 1977, Courtesy University of Oregon Libraries

President William Beaty Boyd served as the University of Oregon President from 1975 to 1980. Boyd is remembered for restructuring the universities administration, and giving the provost predominant control of daily operations. He also worked with production crews from the creators of “Animal House,” and secured a contract so that the Oregon campus could serve as a backdrop for the film. Boyd’s tenure followed an incredibly contentious time for the university, though Boyd enjoyed a relatively calm period for the university. This post highlights his brief tenure and specific achievements related to committees and minority activism.

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“What’s Past is Prologue”: the Folger Shakespeare Library at the Museum of Art

This is the fourth of a series of blog posts that explore exhibits during the 1960s at the Museum of Art at the University of Oregon, known today as the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. Part of the Documenting UO History Project, this series will investigate two major types of exhibits: the Statewide Services Program and national exhibits that traveled to the Museum. The University Archives collection of the Museum’s records, cross referenced with the Jordan Schnitzer’s current holdings, reveal a unique institutional history of the Museum, its exhibits, and its employees. Though the Jordan Schnitzer’s current focus is on Asian art, and the Museum of Art also worked to complement its Asian collection, this project will focus on a variety of other kinds of exhibit subjects. See previous posts here.

Did you read Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, or Richard III in high school or at the University of Oregon? Without the publication of William Shakespeare’s First Folio, you may not have ever had the opportunity to read these plays. The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. holds several copies of the First Folio, among other publications by Shakespeare. In the first months of 1967, the University of Oregon’s Museum of Art hosted an exhibit from the Folger of Shakespearean plays and photographs of productions.

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A Step In the Right Direction: Honoring DeNorval Unthank, Jr.

This is the seventh of a series of blog posts highlighting the ongoing work of the Documenting UO History Project within the University Archives. A major part of this project is researching and documenting the often untold and hidden histories of the university’s diverse and underrepresented communities. This year our focus will continue to highlight Black history on campus, specifically Black student activism from the 1960s to present. Prior posts can be seen here.

DeNorval Unthank Jr. 1951, The Oregon Quarterly, Vol. 90 No. 3

Until recently, DeNorval Unthank Jr.’s remarkable life was a perfect example of how black history at the University of Oregon and Eugene has been suppressed. Despite graduating from the University of Oregon Architecture program in 1952, becoming an accomplished architect and professor at Oregon, and even designing prominent buildings throughout Eugene and on campus, his story remained, for the most part, untold. In fact, outside of historians and a select few community members, it is difficult to find someone in Eugene who is familiar with Unthank Jr.’s work, legacy, and strong connections to the University of Oregon. Fortunately, recent events and the building renaming process of Cedar Hall has brought Unthank Jr. well-deserved recognition. In late May, University of Oregon President Michael Schill announced that Cedar Hall would be named after Unthank Jr. after months of deliberating on potential name options ranging from Mabel Byrd to Unthank Jr. We are honored to highlight his life and career as a professor and prominent Eugene architect.

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