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George Atkinson: father of public education in Oregon

June 25, 2016 @ 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm

Author Don Sevetson will offer a presentation on the father of public education in Oregon, George Atkinson, at the Hood River Library on Saturday, June 25, 2pm. Sevetson will outline some of the multiple contributions Atkinson made. Key resources are the bi-monthly reports published in the Oregonian during Atkinson’s six years as Multnomah County Superintendent of Schools. Those reports convey significant empathy for children and youth, while dealing with everything from classroom furniture and ventilation to teacher certification and retention.

George Atkinson (1819-89) became well-known and highly respected during his four decades in Oregon. His family background had instilled in him the belief that healthy communities needed economic strength, effective communications, a moral citizenry, and education for all. He traveled frequently within and beyond the Pacific Northwest. Very little that he encountered did not attract his attention, pique his interest, and result in a written account.

A vast legacy of newspaper publications and personal letters shows Atkinson’s thoughtful, forward-looking outlook on all levels of education, as well as prisons, railroads, Native American Affairs and the role of government. Sevetson’s presentation will include several readings from that legacy.

Sevetson’s presenation will be based upon his vast amount of research and published works. Sevetson’s article  “George Atkinson, Harvey Scott, and the Portland High School Controversy of 1980” was published in 2007, in the Oregon Historical QuarterlySevetson’s books Atkinson: Pioneer Oregon Educator, was published in November 2001., and A Public Spirit: George H. Atkinson’s Written Legacy, was published in December 2015.

About the author

Don Sevetson is a retired minister of the United Church of Christ who served in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Oregon, Idaho, Connecticut and Hawaii.

The great-grandson of Swedish immigrants, he grew up in the Chicago area. His mother was a high school classmate of Ernest Hemingway. He is a graduate of Macalester College and Chicago Theological Seminary.

A few years before his 1997 retirement Don became aware of a collection of letters that Congregational missionary (and co-founder of Pacific University) George Atkinson had sent to his sponsors during forty years (1848-89) in Oregon. Attracted by both the breadth of their subject matter and the clarity of writing, Don decided that Atkinson would be his retirement project. Research on the book has included discovery of more than 50 newspaper articles and some 400 letters, all by Atkinson. It also included travel to New Orleans and two Newburys (one in Massachusetts and one in Vermont).

Recently Don and Mary Louise were guests of honor at a gathering, in Portland, of thirty descendants of George and Nancy Atkinson, and were informally declared Honorary Members of the family.


June 25, 2016
2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
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Hood River Library
502 State St.
Hood River, OR 97031 United States
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