“A Given Life”: new series gives life to University Archives

By The Beacon | February 25, 2015 3:39pm

Rachel Rippetoe |

There is sign between Waldschmidt Hall and Christie Hall that several students may walk by every day but never notice. The sign is inscripted with the words “Rigley Field” along with  a dedication to Fr. Maurice Rigley and a Shakespeare quote.

The sign, like many things on this campus, has a story. Fr. Jeff Schneibel, University archivist, is determined to tell it.

Schneibel and Carolyn Piatz Connolly, the museum coordinator, are working on the University Archives’ new Wordpress series called “A Given Life.” It focuses on religious figures in the University of Portland’s history, such as Fr. Rigley, who affected UP in a positive way.

“We want to tell stories about people who were here, but because they were here, there were these ripples that happened elsewhere,” Schneibel said.

Both Schneibel and Connolly  started working on the University Archives' blog last January. They both enjoy making a digitalized and more accessible outlet for the museum to share its most interesting findings.

While Schneibel sees the blog posts as small feature articles about the most interesting tidbits he and Connolly find in their work, Connolly sees the blog as an opportunity to digitalize the archives.

“The University Museum sets up historical displays in the Museum and in display cases on campus,” Connolly said. “The blog is another way of doing that.”

There have been three installments of the series thus far. The first article focused on Rigley, an English teacher at UP back in the 1940s and 1950s.

According Schneibel, Rigley was very involved in the University outside of the classroom. He was the sponsor of numerous clubs and was one of the founders of The Blanchet House of Hospitality in downtown Portland.

Through all his involvement, Rigley faced one minor problem: He didn’t have an office.

Eventually, Rigley set up an outdoor office on a bench in between Christie Hall and Waldschmidt Hall where students could find him if they wanted to talk about class or various clubs. His students affectionately named the patch of grass containing Rigley’s office “Rigley Field.”

Fr. Schneibel says that this is ultimately the point of the “A Given Life” series, pointing out the interesting history behind many things that go unnoticed around campus.

“We ask ourselves, how can we make people see something that they see every day but don’t actually see?” Schneibel said. “What we don’t want to do is tell stories that just say, ‘Wow, aren’t we great.’ We’re trying to tell stories that incorporate or illustrate the values of the University.”

Schneibel and Connelly have both seen an increase in interest for the archives and museum since the blog’s launch. The blog is especially useful for reaching out to alumni.

According to Connelly, UP alumni often comment on posts with additional research questions or with details to add to the stories.

Schneibel says this expanded outreach is why he enjoys working on the blog. He wants to continue to focus segments of “A Given Life” on the University’s long-standing relationship with Holy Cross.

The University has had 417 Holy Cross priests work on campus through its history. Schneibel wants to center the series on the personal side of this relationship.

This is why he chose to highlight Holy Cross priests Rev. George L. Dum and Arthur M. Schoenfeldt for the next two segments of “A Given Life.”

Schneibel says that these men embody the purpose of the series: To shed light on the people who have spent the majority of their lives at UP working to make a difference in the community.

“We understand that the school is more than a series of classrooms,” Schneibel said. “We want to put some of the pictures and the flesh from yesterday into people’s consciousness today.”

Check out "A Given Life" at http://wordpress.up.edu/museum/category/a-given-life/

Rachel Rippetoe is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at rippetoe18@up.edu