Who “AuCoined” the name of this building?

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Why Les AuCoin’s name was chosen for newly renovated building

Days before Pacific opened for spring term, the chain fences wrapped out the construction of Pacific Hall came down, chiseling in a new era for the building: the AuCoin Hall era. The name is based on the last name of former Oregon congressman Les Aucoin, who graduated from the university in 1969—and the naming was approved of by the Walters family who descend from the first alumnus of Pacific University and who help support the building. “Inspired by Congressman AuCoin’s lifetime commitment to service and justice, the Walters family feels this naming is in alignment with their family values and agree that it supports the mission of Pacific University,” said Mark Frandsen, chair of the Pacific University Board of Trustees, who was quoted in the university’s announcement of the rename. 

   The building—as now known as AuCoin Hall—has been at the center of discussions over the past two years, beginning with its name change from Scott Hall to Pacific Hall in December 2022. That change was motivated by an article in The Oregonian which criticized Harvey W. Scott, also one of the first Pacific alumni and the former editor, publisher and part-owner of the Oregonian in the later 19th century—and for whom the hall was named; that is, until the Oregonian ran a mea culpa article detailing Walter’s racist views from a century earlier. Then, in March 2023 it was announced that Pacific Hall would close in fall 2023 for seismic renovation and other upgrades. And now, in spring 2024, time has come to a point which will hopefully be the last of the Scott-Pacific-AuCoin hall debacle, and students walk around campus normally again.

   AuCoin (the person, not the building)’s journey started in 1960 at Pacific University, which he initially stayed at for one year before joining the army. After stints stateside in the army, working in a capacity in army newspapers, AuCoin returned to campus to earn a journalism degree (woot!) in 1969. Then, in 1971, he decided to get into politics, campaigning for the House of Representatives right on College Way and earning his spot as Oregon representative for Washington County. (He actually lived in the house that is now known as Drake House, which is home to all the Philosophy Majors out there and also the Free Store which opened spring 2023. Crazy, right?). After two terms, in 1975, he started a new journey, beginning his long nine-term tenure as Oregon congressman and becoming the first Democrat elected to the First District of Oregon, serving recognizable Forest Grove, Hillsboro and portions of Portland.  

   In the university’s announcement of the name change, AuCoin is described as being “a consistent advocate for his home state, the environment, Native American sovereignty, human rights and the fight against nuclear proliferation.” 

   Jim Moore, the acting Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, adds insight to those achievements. Moore worked with AuCoin to archive some of his past writings in what is now known as the “Les AuCoin Collection,” which can be found online in Pacific’s digital exhibits website. He says AuCoin is a “really nice guy” who was “an avid outdoorsman.” He was also the youngest Oregon House majority leader in the history of the state legislature, serving when he was just 31.

    AuCoin also worked to “reach across the aisle” by working with Republican Congressmen, achieving bipartisan results in office. “One of his closest allies was Oregon Republican Senator Mark Hatfield,” Moore explained. Hatfield worked more than 30 years in government, beginning as Secretary of State of Oregon in 1957 and ending his time in office as Oregon Senator in 1997. “They worked together in regards to international affairs,” explained Moore. “For example, they worked to limit nuclear weapons.”    AuCoin wrote about his life experiences in an autobiography he published in 2019 called Catch and Release, a copy of which can be found in the school library. In the book, he describes stories and accomplishments in his life which happened from when he was a child all the way to his life in Congress. In talking about these experiences, he also reflects on what they mean for himself and for the world. In the first chapter, for example, he describes the story of how his father, a gambling addict who lost his family’s savings, left the family to fight in the military, painting in brutal description just how anguished his mother was in response. After finding a letter his father wrote to his mother after his death, AuCoin wrote, “…I understood more clearly what gave my mother her steely determination to make it all by herself with her boys. A grifter had dealt her a bad hand, but by God, she would play it until the last card fell.”


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