Jane Atkinson joined LC in 1978 as an Anthropology professor, and during her 22 years at LC she has held a variety of leadership positions, eventually leading her to her current title as Vice President and Provost. Atkinson’s long tenure and personal interest in the college make her a vital source when it comes to recounting the past 75 years. To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Pioneer Log, we sat down to chat with her.
Lewis & Clark College dates back 150 years as an institution, but the current campus, as well as the graduate schools, are more recent additions. Until the 1930s, Albany College, as LC was known at the time, was located in Albany, Ore. According to Atkinson, though, it was time for a change.
The move to the Fir Acres Estate, LC’s current location, was rooted in the Great Depression. At Albany College, a Presbyterian school in rural Oregon, attendance was waning as the community fell on hard times.
“In the depression, families out in Albany, Oregon and the vicinity were not enrolled and were not sending their children to enroll. The population was in Portland, so in the early ‘30s, the college began looking to Portland,” Atkinson said.
At the same time that Albany College looked to Portland, the Frank Estate, the current location of the undergraduate campus, became vacant.
“Part of the problem the Franks had, the couple who moved here in the mid ‘20s, they divorced and moved out in 1935. Who in 1935 was going to buy a property like this?” Atkinson said.
The Frank Manor House was built in 1924 for $1.3 million. Fortunately, Aaron Frank, the trustee for his brother and ex-wife’s estate, agreed to cut a deal with LC, on the condition that the college hire a young, dynamic president. That’s when Morgan Odell was hired, in 1941.
The timing was difficult, and Odell had to be creative.
“Just think – it’s the middle of a World War, and most able-bodied men, including college faculty, were off at war. So he hired a number of people who were either at the end of their teaching careers, or were retired from other schools.”
In the early days, the Manor House and estate were in poor condition, having been uninhabited for about five years.
“Faculty and students in those days all committed to devoting two hours a week to working on the grounds and helping maintain the building,” Atkinson said. “It was a major effort to cut back the brambles and repurpose the buildings.”
Throughout its history, the Frank Manor House served as a women’s dorm, classrooms and offices.
“It was interesting because for quite a time when the school first opened here, a lot of men were off at war, but that changed quite dramatically with the GI Bill when soldiers came back,” Atkinson said.
Odell is also remembered for his rather radical for the time hiring methods. He hired Hidayo Hashimoto, a first-generation Japanese-American minister, who was interned in WWII, to teach on campus. William Stafford, another faculty member and famous poet, was a conscientious objector to WWII and spent much of WWII in camps reserved for conscientious objectors.
“I don’t know how many colleges were hiring, making those sorts of choices, particularly conservative Presbyterian colleges.”
Odell retired in 1960, and Jack Howard was hired as president. Atkinson sees him as particularly formative to the college’s culture that is still persistent today.
“He definitely brought an international outlook,” Atkinson said.
In 1962, the first overseas programs ran. The initiation of the overseas programs was for both practical and philosophical reasons.
“[Howard] thought it was really important that part of a college education ought to be developing a global perspective, and it just so happened that in the fall of ‘62, they had way more students enrolled than they had room for in the halls.”
There were 4 programs that first year; Mexico, Chile, Peru and Japan –unusual locations for the 1960s.
“The idea of sending students to Japan, less than – at that point – less than two decades after the end of WWII, or to places like Mexico or Peru or Chile, that was not the classic study abroad in the mid-20th century outlook in higher education,” Atkinson said.
Other changes were underway under Jack Howard as well. In 1966, the college formally separated itself from the Presbyterian church, in order to receive greater federal and foundational support.
“The Vietnam War was another catalyst. There were just a host of – Martin Luther King, Andrew Young from the National Urban League – all sorts of people came to campus and spoke. Jack Howard himself was politically conservative, but he was very much in support of academic freedom,” Atkinson said. “They had all sorts of people coming in to talk. And I think that was a time where the college, the culture of the college, really changed.”
Up until 2000, the Master’s programs offered at LC were mixed into the undergraduate campus, all the while the South Campus Corbett Estate was owned by a Franciscan order from Philadelphia.
Dating back to the 1920’s, “the Corbetts built their estate across the street from the Franks. Both couples divorced in the ‘30s, neither property can be sold to anyone who can maintain it as either place as an estate. So what are they going to do with these properties? In 1942, the Corbett estate became a Franciscan convent. For many years they had a dormitory which is now Rogers Hall, the office building for the faculty of the grad school,” Atkinson said.
Every year, President Mooney, who was at the college from 1989 to 2003, would call the Order and ask if they were ready to sell. Eventually, they became a renewal center, offering group retreats.
“In 2000 they decided it wasn’t viable and they called the president of LC and said they will sell it to us. That’s when we got it, and the graduate school moved over there,” Atkinson said.
During the Mooney Era, the campus began to physically resemble the LC we know today. Previously, campus was occupied by temporary buildings for faculty and classrooms. Some projects were attempted, but without much of a consistent plan, up until Mooney’s tenure.
“These lawns and all, they were just sinkholes. If you put a mower out in the front lawn of the Manor House it would sink,” Atkinson said.
The goals of the plan were to make the campus interior almost entirely pedestrian, and keep cars to the periphery. The addition of Howard, Miller, Fields and other newer buildings fleshed out the academic side of campus.
“It’s interesting because when all of this architecture was realized, it was in an era about consciousness about environmental standards… Building, planting, supporting landscape that is done in a way that’s mindful of the environment that avoids damages. We’ve seen that in the way the campus has been developed over the last 3 decades,” Atkinson said. “I think that’s another signature quality of us, intellectually, academically, in the curriculum and the collaborative efforts of the three schools, and how it’s enacted in the practical ways in which we live here.”for anybody whose mobility was challenged to get from Albany to the residence halls,” Atkinson said.