Pacific University was founded in 1854, six years after the founding of Tualatin Academy. While Pacific University offered college-level (and later, graduate-level) courses, Tualatin Academy was a secondary school that prepared students for college. Pacific University graduated its first college student, Harvey Scott, in 1863. Tualatin Academy functioned under Pacific University's administration until it closed in 1915, due to competition with free public high schools in the area.
Both Pacific University and Tualatin Academy participated in class exercises, convocations, and commencements. The two normally shared these ceremonies, with the exception of class exercises, which were broken up between classes. These gatherings were generally a place where students could share with one another essays and other works. Class exercises were both social and academic in nature.
Early convocation and commencement exercises would often include essays, orations, music and prayer in addition to speakers and student recognition. Gradually, the essay and oration portions of the ceremony were reduced and far less emphasis was placed on prayer. In order to accomodate much larger class sizes, later ceremonies devoted much of their programs to recognizing the members of the classes.