I’ve been researching the life of Bernard Daly and the impact of the scholarship he created a century ago. It’s an incredible story and Daly was an impressive man. By almost all accounts, Bernard Daly was remarkably successful, prosperous, and generous. I say almost all accounts because Daly did have his critics. I shouldn’t be surprised as Daly was in the public eye for almost all of his adult life, and his wealth and his frugal nature attracted much attention. In the spirit of full disclosure, I thought I’d devote this post to his critics.

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Skin in the game. An expression that was being used so often that William Safire devoted a 2006 New York Times “On Language” column to “fleshing” out its meaning and origins. He begins with the questions of exactly whose skin is it and what’s the game.

“The skin in this case is a synecdoche for the self, much as “head” stands for cattle and “sail” for ships. The game is the investment, commitment or gamble being undertaken.”

A college education is a gamble, the returns of which are far from certain. It’s a gamble undertaken by many – not only the prospective college student but also those who financially contribute to the undertaking, and the communities that might benefit from it.

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Almost a century after the Daly Scholarship was first awarded, other place-based scholarships are being established all around the country. The first and most well-known of these modern-day programs, the Kalamazoo Promise, was funded by anonymous donors in 2005 for graduates of Kalamazoo high schools. Since then, hundreds programs have been created, all offering the promise of funding for college.

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As the election draws closer, I find myself immersed in the politics of the past when Daly was elected state representative, state senator and then a candidate for the U.S. Congress. Daly’s election to the Oregon Legislature in 1892 representing Lake, Crook (including what are now Deshutes and Jefferson counties), and Klamath counties is an indication of how well known he had become since arriving in Oregon just five years earlier. Daly, a lifelong Democrat, won the election with what was described as a “most flattering majority.” Another sign of Daly’s growing political stature was his appointment to the Oregon Agricultural College (now OSU) Board of Regents in 1893. He was appointed by Governor Pennoyer, one of two Populist governors in U.S. history.

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Old Lake County Courthouse

While in Lakeview last month I went to the Lake County Courthouse to look through the county records from the early 1900s when Bernard Daly was county judge. There’s a lot to look at. It was time when counties had considerable power, Oregon’s state government was still relatively new and weak, roads and communication were poor, and Lake County was far from Salem.

In those days, the county judge, Bernard Daly, acted like a governor and the commissioners like a legislature for a county that was larger than several states. Among other things, the judge and commissioners established tax rates; built and maintained roads and bridges, appointed county officials, managed elections, and even granted U.S. citizenship.

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2018 Fund Trustees

A few weeks ago, the Daly Fund trustees met and selected 22 Daly scholarship recipients. To assure fairness and likelihood of college success, the trustees used a process whereby students were selected based on a weighted formula that combined SAT scores and overall high school grade point averages. The trustees only saw the ranked composite scores; they did not know the names of the recipients until they determined how far down the list they could fund scholarships.

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Sybil Harber, 1900, just a few years after arriving in Lakeview

Diversity, difference, and social justice. Issues that are in the news and all around us, even in Lake County. Back in the days when Daly lived in Lake County, it may have seemed that there wasn’t much diversity. Many were Irish, but not everyone. Some came from the east, some from neighboring states, and after the Dustbowl, from Oklahoma.  Among those who came from California was Sybil Harber – a black single mother who was a mid-wife. It’s said that she came to Lakeview on the recommendation of Bernard Daly. She arrived in Lakeview in the spring of 1888, just a year after Daly.

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The Oregon Encyclopedia

Bernard Daly was missing… but now he can be found in the Oregon Encyclopedia, an authoritative and free resource on all things Oregon. Some time ago, my friend, OSU Archivist Larry Landis, suggested that I write an entry on Bernard Daly. Larry knew that I had been researching Daly and noticed that there wasn’t an entry for him. Seemed like quite an omission given the remarkable breadth of the encyclopedia and the extent of Daly’s impact. 

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All the news of the coronavirus reminded me of correspondence between Bernard Daly and the State Health Officer and Daly’s order for a county-wide quarantine in May of 1903.

Daly was a doctor long before he became a judge. As a doctor, he knew about germ theory and that disease could be spread from person to person by microorganisms that couldn’t be seen. The last major U.S. smallpox epidemic was from 1901 to 1903.  Smallpox was a particularly deadly virus. Between 300 and 500 million people died of smallpox in the 20th Century alone.

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