The Oregon Legislature established the University of Oregon in 1872. Eugene area residents raised $27,500 — nearly $500,000 in today’s dollars — through strawberry festivals, church socials and produce sales to buy seventeen acres of land to build the university’s first building, Deady Hall.
The UO opened its doors in 1876. Inside Deady Hall, five faculty members taught 155 students. The first graduating class — five students in all — received diplomas in 1878.
The university nearly closed in 1881 because of a debt of $8,182. Railroad magnate Henry Villard donated $7,000 to pay down the debt, and the faculty took a 25 percent salary cut.
In 1885, the UO received its first appropriation from the Legislature, for $30,000. That funding increased to $47,500 by 1901.
On two occasions — in 1913 and again in 1932 — proposals to merge the UO with what is now Oregon State University were defeated.
The UO has passed a number of milestones over the years. In 1969, the UO was admitted into the exclusive membership of the Association of American Universities, an organization of leading research universities devoted to maintaining a strong system of academic research and education. The AAU currently consists of sixty-one universities in the U.S., both public and private, and two universities in Canada. The UO is one of only two AAU universities in the Pacific Northwest.
Seven Oregon governors are UO alumni, as are two Nobel laureates and nine Pulitzer Prize winners.
Today, more than 22,000 students, representing all fifty states, the District of Columbia, three U.S. territories and eighty-five countries, study at the UO.