* Victor Atiyeh Collection *


In the Governor's Office  .  In Life  .  In Business  .  In the Legislature  .  Browse all items

Victor Atiyeh served as Oregon's 32nd governor from 1979-1987. Serving at a time when budget crises were at the forefront, he took a challenging situation and created his legacy: a more efficient government and a more diversified Oregon economy. His governorship, his public service, and his private life tell of a second-generation immigrant success story, of a native Oregonian devoted to his home state, and of a leader who led in trying times, emerging widely admired.

This exhibit provides an overview of Atiyeh's life and a sampling of the rich documentary history within the Victor Atiyeh Papers at the Pacific University Archives. The complete collection includes more than fifty boxes of letters, photographs, documents and memorabilia.

For researchers:
Atiyeh's Schedules  .  Speeches  .  Oral History  .  Guide to the Complete Archive



Thank you to Governor Atiyeh for donating his personal papers for this exhibit. Site by archivists Katrina Windon and Eva Guggemos.


In the Governor's Office

Portrait of Gov. AtiyehAtiyeh served as Oregon's chief executive from 1979 to 1987. He was America's first Arab-American governor.

Though much of his time in office was spent dealing with economic and budgetary issues, Governor Atiyeh used his position to advocate for international trade partnerships, responsible land use, racial harmony, volunteerism, responsive government, and a more streamlined workers' compensation program, among other issues.


In Life

Victor Atiyeh was born February 20, 1923 in Portland, Oregon, to two Syrian immigrants, George Atiyeh and Linda Asly Atiyeh.

After graduating from Portland’s Washington High School, where he was a standout football player and president of his senior class, Atiyeh attended the University of Oregon, where he majored in pre-law, from 1941-1943. A member of Phi Gamma Delta (Epsilon Omicron/the Fijis), he continued to be involved with the fraternity throughout his life. He was a guard on the University of Oregon football team, and was scouted by several NFL teams and offered a position with the Green Bay Packers.

A football player, a gun collector, a history buff, a fly-fisherman, and a Boy Scout, Atiyeh's diverse interests and connections all served him well in connecting to constituents, and in reaching across demographics and party lines.


In Business

"Whereas Victor G. Atiyeh was a successful businessman prior to embarking upon a career of public service," reads the second in a laundry list of clauses that make up the preamble of House Resolution 5, passed in 2009 to honor Atiyeh. President of the family business, Atiyeh Bros., Inc., before the age of 25, Atiyeh was pushed into leadership early. His experience in business stood him in good stead during his time in public office, when he implemented government efficiency initiatives influenced by private sector practice.

Upon leaving office in 1987, he again returned to business, this time continuing the economic development work he began as governor by founding his own international trade consulting firm, Victor Atiyeh & Company.


In the State Legislature

Atiyeh first entered politics in 1958, when he ran for State Representative. He served three terms in the House, followed by four in the Senate. With over 20 years in the state legislature, Atiyeh entered the governor's office in 1979 as the governor with the most legislative experience.