Opal Whiteley
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Opal entered the UO in the fall of 1916. The Whiteleys now lived in Springfield, and Opal made the daily commute across the Willamette River. She soon became notorious for spending many of her extra moments, including the minutes between classes, reading. "Inside of four months she completed reading 10,582 pages of library books, a record unsurpassed by any other university student," said the Oregonian in April 1917. "Her reading has covered a wide range, including natural sciences, eugenics, biography, the Bible, art, and homemaking, an average of 529 pages a week."

She was also quite a sight on campus, often running after some butterfly or insect, with her long braids and skirts flying. And one day Mrs. Prince Campbell, wife of the university president, came upon Opal kneeling on the ground, looking down and singing a hymn. Mrs. Campbell asked what she was doing. "I am singing to one of God's creatures," Opal replied. And in front of her on the ground was an earthworm.

"If Opal were on campus today," said a former student in 1969, "she would be the prize hippie of all. She was a walking exponent of 'love,' and she constantly talked what would be the hippie line of today: that people must meet and love one another."

She was ahead of more than the hippie movement, says Benjamin Hoff. "She was New Age before New Age ever came along." She predated the environmental movement as well -- and Hoff believes we've yet to catch up. "Opal related to trees and animals on a completely different level than we're even doing now, so I think she was still 50 to 100 years ahead of us."

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