John E. Straub (1853-1932) ─ First U of O Professor of Classical Languages, was the 1st Dean of Students at the U. of O.
Despite being a native Philadelphian, Dean John Straub embraced the University of Oregon and was an early contributor to the institution’s vibrant student life and tree-lined campus.
In 1876 Straub earned his B.A. at Mercersberg College in Pennsylvania. He relocated to Portland in search of opportunity and posted a flyer offering night school in Latin, German, Greek, geometry and rhetoric. The next day, Judge Matthew Deady met Straub with poster in hand. He introduced himself as Chairman of the Board of Regents at the University of Oregon. That same afternoon he offered Straub an appointment at the UO, and Straub took the evening train to Eugene.
When Straub joined the faculty of the University of Oregon it was 1878, only two years after DeadyHall held its first classes. At the time, there were only three other faculty members: President John Wesley Johnson, Dr. Thomas Condon, and Mark Baily.
As a professor, Straub taught Greek, German, and various subjects as needed. He also held the position of faculty secretary for 21 years, and was the Dean of Men. Straub was a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, Eugene Kiwanis club and the Republican party.
During his 54 year career at the UO, Straub was known more for his connection to students rather than his academic titles. Nicknamed “Grand Old Man” of Oregon and “Daddy Straub,” he helped students find housing, jobs, and even made loans to them—all of which were paid back in full.
In the early years, the University of Oregon’s campus was devoid of greenery, with only two Condon Oaks located north of DeadyHall. Much of the mature landscaping on the UO campus today was established under Straub’s beautification initiative. He often hiked Spencer’s Butte with students—a pastime that continues to be enjoyed by Oregon students today.
More than half a century of public service endeared Straub to thousands. Straub was a member of Central Presbyterian Church and all branches of the Masonic Lodge up to the Shriners. This, in addition to being a popular speaker for commencement addresses at high schools around Oregon.
When he died in 1932 Straub was Dean Emeritus. A memo written by Dr. Arnold Bennett Hall, president of the university, was published in the Register Guard in September 1932, along with Straub’s obituary. It read:
“Dr. John Straub has been an inspiration to thousands of students who have passed through
the campus halls, and has been a friend to all. The greatness of his character, the warmth of
his friendship, the zeal with which he always attacked his work, will never be forgotten so
long as the institution remains. The University has lost a staunch friend.”