Willamette University is an American private institution of higher learning located in Salem, Oregon. Founded in 1842, it is the oldest university in the Western United States.
The university was founded as the Oregon Institute by the missionary Jason Lee, who had arrived in what was then known as the Oregon Country in 1834 and had founded the Indian Manual Labor Institute for the education of the local Native Americans. Lee requested additional support for his mission, and received 53 additional volunteers in 1839, who arrived on the ship Lausanne. After a series of meetings in Lee's home, the by-laws were adopted and board of trustees elected and the institute was officially established on February 1, 1842. Lee served as the first President of the Board of Trustees, followed by David Leslie after Leeï¿½s death in 1845. Leslie would serve until his death in 1869. The original purpose of the institute was the education of the missionaries' children. Eaton Hall built in 1909 The original building of the institute was a three-story frame structure first occupied in 1844. At the time, it was one of the largest structures in the Pacific Northwest. It housed the first session of the state legislature to meet in Salem after the capital was moved there in 1851. The building burned down in 1877. In 1867, a new brick building was finished to house the school and named University Hall. The building was renamed as Waller Hall in 1912 to honor the Reverend Alvin F. Waller, and is now the oldest university building west of the Mississippi River still in use. The first president was Francis S. Hoyt, who served in that position from 1853 until 1860 and was replaced by Thomas Milton Gatch who is the only president of the school to serve as president two different times. The name of institution was changed to "Wallamet University" in 1852. The following year, the Oregon Territorial Legislature granted a charter to the university. The first graduate was Emily W. York, in 1859. In 1866, the university established the first school of medicine in the Pacific Northwest. The current spelling of the university was adopted in 1870. In 1883, the university established the first law school in the Pacific Northwest during the presidency of Thomas Van Scoy. The school of medicine then merged with the University of Oregon in 1913 and is now Oregon Health and Sciences University. In December 1941, the university's football team traveled to Hawaii to play the University of Hawaii. Many students accompanied the team by passenger ship to Oahu. The game was played was on December 6. The following day, many of the Willamette students witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbor from their hotels on Waikiki Beach. Their return trip was delayed by many weeks, and some of the students had to return to the mainland by troop transport ships. Many of the team members stayed with football players from Punahou School. The incident has since become part of the folklore of the university. During World War II, Willamette was one of 131 colleges and universities nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program which offered students a path to a Navy commission. Willamette was one of the last universities in the nation to hold an annual singing and marching competition between the undergraduate classes.citation needed The competition, known on campus as "Glee," was held each March. In the late 1990s, the competition came to be regarded as anachronistic and was abolished. Glee returned during the 2006 to 2007 academic year.
Willamette University provides rigorous education in the liberal arts and selected professional fields. Teaching and learning, strengthened by scholarship and service, flourish in a vibrant campus community. A Willamette education prepares graduates to transform knowledge into action and lead lives of achievement, contribution and meaning.
Notable alumni from Willamette include a range of people involved in business, government, education, sports, art and entertainment. Perhaps the most notable Willamette graduate is Dale T. Mortensen, the 2010 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics. Business men include James Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, and Alex J. Mandl, the executive chairman of digital security company Gemalto. Those in the arts include Marie Watt, a contemporary artist whose work centers on Native American themes. Thomas A. Bartlett, president of American University in Cairo attended Willamette for two years before completing his bachelor of arts at Stanford University. In his career, he has served as president of the Association of American Universities, president of Colgate University and chairman of the board of trustees of the United Statesï¿½Japan Foundation. Another alum involved in the education arena is Norma Paulus. Paulus served as Oregon's superintendent of public instruction. Prior to this, she was the first woman to hold statewide elected office in Oregon as secretary of state. Government officials who have graduated from Willamette include members from both the judicial and legislative branches of government. Oregon Supreme Courtï¿½s first Hispanic American chief justice, Paul De Muniz, graduated from the College of Law, as did his predecessor, Wallace P. Carson, Jr. Current Oregon State Supreme Court justice Virginia Linder also received her J.D. from Willamette. California Democratic congressman Sam Farr who successfully introduced the 2007 ï¿½Oceans Conservation, Education and National Strategy for the 21st Century Actï¿½ attended Willamette for his undergraduate studies. Mark O. Hatfield, Oregon's former governor and the longest serving Oregon senator, graduated from Willamette and later returned as a professor at his alma mater. Bob Packwood, former Republican senator graduated from Willamette University in 1954. Lisa Murkowski, senior Republican senator on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, also received her JD from Willamette University College of Law. Notable alumni involved in athletics include Cal Lee, linebackers coach for the University of Hawaii football team, who graduated from Willamette in 1970. A graduate of the class of 1999, Liz Heaston, made history at Willamette as the first female to play and score in a menï¿½s NAIA college football game in 1997. Nick Symmonds won seven NCAA Division III 800-meter championships during his undergraduate years at Willamette before going on to win the 2008 Olympic Track and Field Trials.
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