Why a Lighthouse 100 Miles from the Sea?

What follows is the case for a 35 to 50 foot Lighthouse to be situated smack dab in the middle of the campus of the University of Oregon.

While there are a number of names that could rightfully be attached to such Lighthouse  —  and a good argument for the name of  every single one — Bowerman?   Prefontaine?  — TrackTown USA? –  Oregon University? — the one I like the best is  The Gerlinger Lighthouse .

A wee bit of background is in order to make my case. Arguably, the two most beautiful buildings on the Oregon campus are Gerlinger Hall and Gerlinger Annex. These buildings were named after Irene Gerlinger, the first female Regent of Oregon University (1924).

There are many reasons to salute and celebrate the life of Irene Gerlinger, but I believe the most urgent and compelling is about her passionate advocacy on behalf of universal gender equality. In schools and voting booths; in athletics, government, education, business, medicine and the arts.  Just about everywhere it really, really counts. So why is that so important?

In a world of turmoil, terrorism and ignorance, where fully one-half of the entire female population is forced into the shadows of their own environment, where they are just-barely second-class citizens, what other advocacy is more important than this?

The short of it is that Irene Gerlinger was way, way ahead of her time. She spotlighted the enormous benefits that accrue to societies which embrace the value of equal gender opportunity. The long of it is that the causes of Irene Gerlinger are, now, even more important than when she was alive.

This too. And it is quite important

In an inter-connected world where symbolism and activism count so much, I am utterly convinced that something as big and bold and beautiful as The Gerliinger Lighthouse could do a lot of good for girls and women. Everywhere.

How much good? Who can say with perfect precision?

All we know for absolute certainty is the stupendous impact of the Joey Harrington Billboard (in New York). Not just what it did for Joey, but what it did for Oregon. That’s the good news — and at the time it was very, very good. The bad news is that Joey’s billboard is long gone and mostly forgotten. No match for tall, concrete edifices that are “big, bold and beautiful’. And as permanent as the University itself. One that has a Beacon as where imagination counts far more than wattage.

The Name of the Lighthouse?

Whatever the Lighthouse is ultimately named   —  Gerlinger? Bowerman? TracktownUSA? Prefontaine? Oregon University? — its most important function would be the ongoing Lighthouse Programs developed from year-to-year;  tended by real human beings tasked with ongoing fundraising activities and publicity outreach.

The really hard question is this:  Can those from the various arenas within the University make The Lighthouse work for their own particular aspirations? Clearly, there are good arguments for, say, a Lighthouse named TracktownUSA. (Just as there are for a Lighthouse named Gerlinger.)  But — two riders on one horse? Will that work?

This is an issue well worth discussion.

How about the setting? My guess is there would be little argument the best site for it.


First, picture a perfectly designed Gerlinger Lighthouse sitting on the cul de sac directly in front of Gerlinger Hall. Or  —  picture it on the  (elevated) North lawn directly in front of the Gerlinger Annex. Both sites are only a very few steps from  Oregon’s Student Union. They are also directly across the street from the “original” athletic offices — and a wee bit further to the east, an easy chip-shot to Hayward Field.


Either setting would be perfect for a stunning Gerlinger Monument  — not just in the dead-center of the University of Oregon, but in the absolute heart of  “Tracktown USA“. And just as perfectly! — Situated next to The University  ‘Headquarters’ of long time University programs  on behalf of gender equality. Just steps from the Center which drives Part of Radical Change. Ground zero for Gender Equality.


Like flowers in a well-tended garden, ALL of this “fits” perfectly among the most important undertakings of the University. Here the twain does meet between those with Olympic-sized appetites, and those who want first place for Duck women, in athletics, scholarship and life, and those who want every girl and every woman everywhere to share in ALL the benefits that come with Gender Equality. What brighter beacon than this? What more that is so deeply grounded? — NOW — The Devil, as always, is in the details. Here is my rationale:


Dedicated to Improving the Lives

of Girls and Women Everywhere


 Beacon, Memorial, Safe Harbor,

Symbol and Global Recognition Point

  • To salute, celebrate and reinvigorate the life and causes of Irene Gerlinger, the University’s first female Regent and fire-starter to the idea that women should have the same rights to collegiate athletics as do men. “A Monument to Noble Womanhood”.
  • To powerfully illuminate, worldwide, the enormous benefits that accrue to societies strongly committed to girl and woman athletic, cultural and intellectual development.
  • To cement, worldwide, the conviction that the University of Oregon is the leading institution in this entire arena. Part monument, part beacon, part searchlight, the Lighthouse would be locally crafted by gifted artisans who meld stone, brick, marble and wood for it to stand comfortably astride Oregon’s tallest firs. Not just in accord with the architecture of  the Gerlinger Buildings — but both powerful magnet and bright light that draws those with clear vision – on campus and off – to all pull together.
  • To shine a brilliant light that is generated from the absolute heart of a bright and beautiful campus — all the way to the stars.


Because  — Oregon’s coast and the Pacific Ocean are as much a part of Oregon as its mountains, forests, rivers, valley and farmland.  There are eleven of them in Oregon, each one deserving of a visit.

Because  — Lighthouses are beacons of illumination, inspiration and attraction therefore they are useful for teaching some of the great lessons of life: The value of charting solid compass points for wise heading, direction, orientation and safe passage.

Because — Lighthouses must withstand the destructive perils of the sea they are also good reminders how crucially important is the teaching of strong moral courage, deeply embedded.

Because — Lighthouses tickle the spirit in ways that only wind, sail, keel, rigging and hull can do for those who have had their hands on tiller, halyard, sheet and rail. All of it is magnet, fuel, spark, and propellant for exciting forward progress. And all of it helps to increase the protection of a Healthy Ocean,  without which the entire planet is at grave risk.

Because – Lighthouses dare those of imagination and courage to sail well beyond the near shore. That they represent both the shallow and the deep end of the biggest, most valuable swimming pools on Earth. Standing tall, wherever they exist, do not Lighthouses represent the whole rainbow of life?

Because  – Lighthouse are safe harbors  — and so too should be the University. Not just a vital steering point for those caught in an angry sea, but also a splendid platform for keen outward observation. What better purpose for a University than to widen the landscape of its students? From places high-up. Ones that provide 360-degree viewpoints. That are Look-Out points for both danger and opportunity.

Because  — The audacity of building a Lighthouse 75 miles from the Ocean, and then adding digital steroids to its beacon by way of all the engines of Social Networking, that all of this gives solid promise to large funding opportunities for scholarship grants and Major Event support of a size and scope not otherwise possible. 

Because —  Who doesn’t like a Lighthouse? How many tens of thousands will pass The Gerlinger Lighthouse — and fondly remember it all of their lives? How many will write about it, read about it, talk about it, photograph it, with how many uploads to  Facebook, Twitter, Flickr  and the gazillion other engines of Social Networking.

Because –  The Gerlinger Lighthouse may well become the brightest gem inside of a vastly rich treasure chest – the one marked OREGON on its lid.

Because (gasp!) — what Duck anywhere on Earth would not like to have a Lighthouse of her very own?


P.S. Where will the money come from? I have the keys to that treasure box; but let’s defer discussion about it   — at least for now. Most assuredly, that issue is not a great problem.

Related Links & Special Notes

Joey Harrington Billboard in New York

Ford Motor Promotes the Mustang by putting a brand new Mustang on the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building – TWICE – Once in 1964 and in April 2014. See this NY Times Article



Pioneer Mother Statue in front of Gerlinger Annex


See Mock Up Photo of the Gerlinger Lighthouse Here

The Lighthouse Man — Builder of dozens of different kinds of Lighthouses.


Special Notes about the Gerlinger Buildings and Irene Gerlinger  from this website “Construction began in August, 1919, and ended in May 1921. Named in 1929 for Irene H. Gerlinger, the first woman Regent and avid fundraiser and advocate for the University of Oregon. Gerlinger managed a successful campaign to build the Woman’s Building and was involved its decoration and design. The Alumni Hall in Gerlinger is among UO’s few remaining historic interiors. Gerlinger Hall, Susan Campbell Hall, and Hendricks Hall were added to the National Register of Historic Places on Oct. 2, 1992, as the Women’s Memorial Quadrangle Ensemble. From Shellenbarger’s Ellis Lawrence Building Survey, “Irene H.Gerlinger, for whom this building was named in 1929, was the 1st woman Regent of the U0 . She ran the campaign to build it and was deeply involved in its design and decoration . She described it as “a monument to noble womanhood”, and it is a landmark to the emerging roles of women in the 20th century . Famed architect John Galen Howard wrote of its “rare charm” & its “new note” in adapting English & New England prototypes into a “truly indigenous character. Together with Hendricks and Susan Campbell Halls, the 3 buildings form what ma y be Lawrence’s most successful architectural ensemble . The exteriors of all 3 buildings are essentially intact . The major interior spaces of Gerlinger Hal l Alumni Hall, Gymnasium, & south gallery, are essentially intact; they are among only a handful of fine historic interiors remaining on campus (though altered by the painting of Alumni Hall and new light fixtures in the gallery) . Except for 3rd floor dormitory use in 1945-?, building use has little changed.”

About oregonhibbs

I'm passionate about improving access to education, worldwide, sailing, Duck football (I live in the shadow of the University of Oregon in Eugene) and connecting with people with ideas and work that "can change the world". With this in mind, I am the "Skipper" for Global Learn Day, which you can find out more about at OREGONHIBBS.COM ; Write to skipper@bfranklin.edu

Posted on June 15, 2013, in Lighthouse Project. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. As a student in the Architecture Program I agree with the comment about Gerlinger Hall being one of the most beautiful buildings on campus. Gerlinger Annex however is a monolithic eye sore inside and out. Love the idea of the lighthouse though and think that it would be a fantastic addition.

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