Mark Hatfield

The former Christian statesman and George Fox faculty member, who died Aug. 7 at age 89, was respected for being forthright, honest and humble

By Sean Patterson

Mark Hatfield engaged the ears of presidents and members of Congress. He’d served as Oregon’s governor for two terms and as a U.S. Senator for 30 years. He’d gained national attention as one of the earliest opponents of the Vietnam War.

And yet, on this January day in 1997, he was uneasy. The occasion: His first day of lecturing as a history professor at George Fox.

“I didn’t sleep well last night – I’m a little nervous,” he admitted. “I rewrote my lecture
this morning.”

He also informed his students there was no need for formalities: “I can be called anything. In fact, I have been called everything. Just call me citizen Mark or citizen Hatfield.”

It was that humble nature – along with his honesty, forthrightness, humor and generosity – that endeared Hatfield to those who knew him. “He was a wonderful man who was true to his convictions, even when it was politically damaging,” says Professor Emeritus Ralph Beebe, who co-taught history courses with Hatfield. “Of all the leaders I have studied as a historian, I can’t think of a single one I admire more.”

Hatfield spent three decades in Washington, D.C., and nearly a half-century in politics. Upon retiring from office, he returned to his roots as a professor – the profession he held in a university setting from 1949 to 1956. He called his return to the classroom “one of the greatest opportunities of a lifetime” and said college is “the greatest place to grow old gracefully.”

“I think the classroom is one of the few places, let’s say one of the remaining places in our society, where you can bridge very easily the generational gap,” he said at a 1997 news conference prior to his first lecture on campus.

Hatfield taught what he lived – classes such as “The Vietnam Experience,” “Recent America: 1945 to the Present” and “International Relations” – and enjoyed teaching courses on former President Herbert Hoover, a childhood hero with whom he often consulted as a graduate student at Stanford and a man he once described as “one of the greatest humanitarian leaders of
this century.”

In fact, it was Hatfield’s connection to Hoover – who attended the forerunner of George Fox, Friends Pacific Academy – that predicated Hatfield’s generous donation, in 1999, of more than 100 books and Hoover memorabilia to the university.

Hatfield’s gesture of good will was rooted in his love for the school: “George Fox exemplifies the dedication to excellence in education and Christian faith that has played such an important role in my life, as well as in the life of President Hoover,” he said.

Hatfield continued to teach at George Fox through the mid-2000s and in 2006 helped dedicate the renovated Hoover Academic Building.

For a timeline, photo gallery and retrospective on Hatfield’s career, visit georgefox.edu/hatfield.