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University looks back on 125 years with exhibit at historical society

In October 1876, Ulysses S. Grant was president of the United States and Alexander Graham Bell had just invented the telephone.

Meanwhile, in Eugene, Ore., the University of Oregon opened its doors for business. There were five professors and 155 students, who paid $20 per term for tuition. Deady Hall was the original home of the university, where freshmen had a curfew of 11 p.m.

Much has happened in the 125 years since the university's first days Ñ not the least of which is that most freshmen are just getting started by 11 p.m.

The university is commemorating its anniversary with a historical exhibit, 'University of Oregon: Making a Difference,' now on display at the Oregon Historical Society.

James Fox, UO director of special collections and curator of the exhibit, hopes the show will enlighten viewers while dispelling assumptions about the university.

'What we're trying to show in this exhibit is that UO has made a difference in the lives of every Oregonian and people nationally and internationally,' Fox says.

'So often people see the university as a place for a bunch of radicals who are off in an ivory tower. There are people thinking about big ideas, but a lot of these ideas have very practical applications.'

Notable alumni of the university include Nike Chief Executive Officer Phil Knight, author Ken Kesey, filmmaker James Ivory, Sen. Wayne Morse, Gov. Tom McCall and 'Today Show' news anchor Ann Curry.

'Visitors to the exhibit will get a glimpse of student life in the early 1900s,' Fox says. 'The scrapbooks from this era give a snapshot of a student's experience, which was far different from today. From the dance the students attended to what they wore Ñ it's all documented.

'I also think people will be fascinated by the depth of scientific research that's occurred at UO,' he says. 'Franklin Stahl, for example, was the first researcher to show how DNA replicates itself.'

The 'Making a Difference' exhibit is broken down into four sections that look at curricula, arts and humanities, student life and subjects related to education, law, debate and politics.

In addition to the exhibit, UO President Dave Frohnmayer will host a free public lecture titled '1876,' in which faculty members will discuss the state of the world and the university that year.

'In 1876,' Frohnmayer will note in his lecture, 'just four months before classes opened, General George Armstrong Custer was defeated Ñ annihilated at Little Big Horn É inventions of the world we know today Ñ automobiles, aircraft, great medical and scientific discoveries Ñ were decades away. It was a different world. É Yet one could also assert that our true differences as human beings from our ancestors of those days É comprise little more than dress, social mores and the serious desire for indoor plumbing.'

Following the lecture, Frohnmayer will introduce the Portland premiere of the documentary film 'A History of the University of Oregon: The Founding.'

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