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Name that career

Do first names determine destinies?
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Liz Green of Ashland plays with her 12-week-old son, Hayden, at a New Mothers Meeting at Ashland Community Hospital. She wanted a gender-neutral name for her son, as has her 2-year-old son Dylan. Coincidentally, her husband, Ryan, shares the letters y, a and n with his sons. Daily Tidings / Jamie LuschJamie Lusch
 Posted: 2:00 AM June 07, 2013

It says a lot about the creativity of a community when a guy thinks his first name — William — is uncommon.

William Crowley, who graduated Friday from Ashland High School after attending the city's schools since kindergarten, says he never had another boy with the same name in any of his classes.

And yet "William" has been one of the top 20 boys' names in the U.S. since at least 1880, according to data collected by the Social Security Administration.

Name changers

Here is a sampling of names of 18-year-old seniors found in Ashland High School yearbooks over the decades:

1910s: Madge, Esther, Bertha, Archie, Bert, Ralph

1920s: Sadie, Nellie, Mae, Edgar, Guy, George

1930s: Maud, Virginia, Edna, Lyle, Harold, Art

1940s: Shirley, Edith, Barbara, Nathan, Earl, Clark

1950s: Lenore, Delores, Rita, Floyd, Jerry, Dale

1960s: Marilyn, Judy, Ginger, Gene, Marvin, Victor

1970s: Cheryl, Jackie, Lea, Kevin, Ted, Vincent

1980s: Megan, Tami, Robin, Ty, Matt, Alex

1990s: Amy, Kristen, Emily, Troy, Jason, Ryan

2000s: Eli, Renee, Lindsay, Kyle, Jeremy, Noah

2010s: Casey, Katelyn, Savannah, Austin, Taylor, Max

U.S. vs Ashland

Data just released by the Social Security Administration shows that the most popular names for baby boys last year in the U.S. were Jacob, Mason, Ethan, Noah, William, Liam, Jayden, Michael, Alexander and Aiden.

The most common names for girls were Sophia, Emma, Isabella, Olivia, Ava, Emily, Abigail, Mia, Madison and Elizabeth.

So far this year, only one child born in Ashland was given one of these 20 most popular names — Emma — according to an updated list by the Ashland Community Hospital Birth Center (

Instead, Ashland-born babies were named Amira, Avery, Braihlyn, Bridger, Brisselle, Cooper, Erna, Evangeline, Jett, Jordy, Lotus, Maybn, Saraphina, Titus, Wyatt, Zane and Zayla, among others.

Go figure. Ashland parents have a reputation for ditching convention and picking imaginative names.

Breeze, Bliss and Emerald have marched on the band shell stage to accept their high school diploma in the past. Zen, Zephyr and Jovial are now inching their way through the school system.

So Crowley, the 18-year-old senior class president, felt quite comfortable at the graduation ceremony announcing the first names of his classmates: Conagher, Dresden, Jaidyanne, Mirabai, Niilo, Sundara, Tallon, Talyn, Titus, Theannah and Zahreh.

There are three Savannahs and a Skye in the Class of 2013. Underclassmen helping with the ceremony were Patience, Dalia and Merci.

At the Ashland Community Hospital, a group of moms gathered recently, cooing over their babies named Abel, Adassa, Axton.

One of the newborns was named Bridger after 19th-century mountain man Jim Bridger. Parents Andrew and Shawna Schleif of Talent are both avid hikers and she jokes that perhaps their child was conceived while they were traversing the Pacific Crest Trail.

Shawna, an assistant principal at Phoenix High School, says they took their time deciding what to call their son since, she says, from her experience with children, "names have personalities."

Parents spend an inordinate amount of time scanning baby name websites to pick the one that sociologists say will label their child for life.

After studying the impact of first names on careers, New York University sociologist and author Dalton Conley has found that people with novel names tend to be creative.

Now, Conley, who named his daughter E and son Yo, is digging deeper to see whether imaginative people are that way because of their unusual first name, the way people think of them because of their name or whether it's because they were raised by out-of-the-box thinkers who gave them that tag in the first place.

While a baby's name may honor a relative or reveal the parents' point of view, race, culture, social standing or politics, the kid has to deal with the message it may convey.

According to reports from the National Bureau of Economic Research, a name can influence how well a student does in school. Middle school boys with female-sounding names tend to act up in class. Later on, people can be hired — or not — based on the perception of their first name.

It's all about presumptions, says Samuel Bogdanove, Ashland School District director of student services. He says studies have found that a name sets up expectations of who we are and that's how people respond to us.

Just as boys with red shirts are seen as more assertive and athletic, Bogdanove says that creatively named students project a sense of creativity.

With this in mind, what may be in the future for new AHS grad William Graham Crowley?

He was named after his grandfather, William Crowley, who preferred to work outdoors, and scientist Alexander Graham Bell.

Who knows what's ahead. But for now, the younger William Crowley — perhaps influenced by his namesakes — will be studying chemistry, biology and art at the University of Oregon.

Crowley says he hadn't thought about his name linking to his majors, "but I guess it does."

Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or

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