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Pacific on the Rise: The Story of California's First University

A thorough and engaging history of University of the Pacific from its pioneering beginnings in 1851 through its growth into the comprehensive national university it is today.

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Pacific News

"Pacific on the Rise," a modern history of University of the Pacific, just released

Aug 2, 2016

A new comprehensive history of University of the Pacific, Pacific on the Rise: The Story of California's First University," has been published.

Commissioned by the university in 2010 and written by emeritus Provost Philip N. Gilbertson, the engaging 525-page narrative tells the story of University of the Pacific from its earliest days in Santa Clara through the years in San Jose, the move to Stockton and the gradual expansion into a major comprehensive university, through the early beginnings of the current administration.

"One of my great pleasures was interviewing our alumni and current and former faculty, staff and regents," said Gilbertson.

In addition to extensive research through vast stores of primary sources, Gilbertson conducted more than 150 interviews. He also engaged a dozen student researchers to capture the life of the campus over the decades. The students interviewed six alumni from each of the seven decades of the modern era.

Gilbertson said each of the students found out something new about Pacific that they didn't know, but there was unanimous agreement among them about the similarity of their own Pacific experience to that of our alumni across the decades.
"The world has changed, life has changed," Gilbertson said. "They see those changes, but the Pacific Experience was consistent for alumni of the past and the students of today:  a sense of close community among students, faculty and staff; close interaction with faculty who set high expectations; and a focus on their development as a person as well as solid preparation for a future career."  

"It was so gratifying to see the reality that Pacific has been fulfilling its mission so consistently over the years and continues to do so today," he continued.

 There were also many amazing discoveries along the way, he says...  

...the 1922 fundraising campaign by the city of Stockton that helped bring Pacific to the Central Valley city was remarkable. That a city of 40,000 people during this time period was able to raise $600,000 in a few weeks was a measure of the outpouring of excitement of the people of Stockton to bring a college to the city.

...the significant role of women of the Conservatory during its early years from the 1880s through the 1920s that kept Pacific afloat, and whose alumnae fundraising campaign built the beautiful conservatory building on the San Jose campus.

...and early California luminaries who served on the board of trustees including the state's third governor, John Bigler, and California pioneer and statesman John Bidwell, among others.

"Pacific's is a great story," said Gilbertson, whose hope is that in sharing this history and their common experience "alumni will become more engaged with the university and each other."

The book is available in a downloadable pdf format from the University Library>> and can be purchased online at for $25. 

Still to come...
A beautiful, full-color abridged version of the book is also in the works, and should become available sometime after the new year.

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