Whitman College

Whitman College is a private liberal arts college in Walla Walla, Washington. Founded as a seminary by a territorial legislative charter in 1859, the school became a four-year degree-granting institution in 1882.[3] It is accredited by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges and competes athletically in the NCAA Division III Northwest Conference.[4] The school offers 48 majors and 33 minors in the liberal arts and sciences,[5] and it has a student-to-faculty ratio of 9:1.[4] Whitman was the first college in the Pacific Northwest to install a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, and the first in the U.S. to require comprehensive exams for graduation.[3]

Whitman College
Mottoper ardua surgo (Latin)
Motto in English
Through adversities I rise
TypePrivate liberal arts college
EstablishedDecember 20, 1859
Religious affiliation
Endowment$561.0 million (2018)[1]
PresidentKathleen Murray
Academic staff
Location, ,
United States

46.0706922°N 118.3288535°W / 46.0706922; -118.3288535
Campus117 acres (0.47 km2)
ColorsNavy Blue and Maize
AthleticsNCAA Division IIINWC
AffiliationsAnnapolis Group
Oberlin Group
Colleges That Change Lives
Sports15 varsity teams


Whitman Seminary

In 1859, soon after the United States military declared that the land east of the Cascade Mountains was open for settlement by American pioneers, Cushing Eells traveled from the Willamette Valley to Waiilatpu, near present-day Walla Walla, where 12 years earlier, Christian missionaries Dr. Marcus Whitman and Narcissa Whitman, along with 12 others were killed by a group of Cayuse Indians during the Whitman Massacre. While at the site, Eells became determined to establish a "monument" to his former missionary colleagues in the form of a school for pioneer boys and girls. Eells obtained a charter for Whitman Seminary, a pre-collegiate school, from the territorial legislature. From the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, he acquired the Whitman mission site. Eells soon moved to the site with his family and began working to establish Whitman Seminary.

Despite Eells's desire to locate Whitman Seminary at the Whitman mission site, local pressure and resources provided a way for the school to open in the burgeoning town of Walla Walla. In 1866, Walla Walla's wealthiest citizen, Dorsey Baker, donated land near his house to the east of downtown. A two-story wood-frame building was quickly erected and classes began later that year. The school's first principal, local Congregational minister Peasly B. Chamberlin, resigned within a year and Cushing Eells was called upon to serve as principal, which he did until 1869. After Eells's resignation in 1869, the school struggled—and often failed—to attract students, pay teachers, and stay open for each term.[6]

From seminary to college

Whitman's trustees decided in 1882 that while their institution could not continue as a prep school, it might survive as the area's only college. Alexander Jay Anderson, the former president of the Territorial University (now the University of Washington), came to turn the institution into a college and become its president. After modeling the institution after New England liberal arts colleges, Anderson opened the school on September 4, 1882 (Marcus Whitman's birthday) with an enrollment of 60 students and three senior faculty (Anderson, his wife and son). In 1883, the school received a collegiate charter and began expanding with aid from the Congregational American College and Education Society.[6]

Financial turmoil and new leadership

Despite local support for Whitman College and help from the Congregational community, financial troubles set in for the school. After losing favor with some of the school's supporters, Anderson left Whitman in 1891 to be replaced by Reverend James Francis Eaton. The continuing recession of the 1890s increased the institution's financial worries and lost Eaton his backing, leading to his resignation in 1894.[6]

Reverend Stephen Penrose, an area Congregational minister and former trustee, became president of the college and brought the school back to solvency by establishing Whitman's endowment with the aid of D. K. Pearsons, a Chicago philanthropist. By popularizing Marcus Whitman's life and accomplishments (including the suspect claim that the missionary had been pivotal in the annexation by the United States of Oregon Territory), Penrose was able to gain support and resources for the college. Under his leadership, the faculty was strengthened and the first masonry buildings, Billings Hall and the Whitman Memorial Building, were constructed.[6]

End of religious affiliation

In 1907, Penrose began a plan called "Greater Whitman" which sought to transform the college into an advanced technical and science center. To aid fundraising, Penrose abandoned affiliation with the Congregational Church, and became unaffiliated with any denomination. The prep school was closed and fraternities and sororities were introduced to the campus. Ultimately, this program was unable to raise enough capital; in 1912, the plan was abandoned and Whitman College returned to being a small liberal arts institution, albeit with increased focus on co-curricular activities.[6] Penrose iterated the school's purpose "to be a small college, with a limited number of students to whom it will give the finest quality of education".[7] In 1920 Phi Beta Kappa installed a chapter,[6] the first for a Northwest college,[8] and Whitman had its first alum Rhodes Scholar.[6]

World War II

During World War II, Whitman 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.


Whitman's 117  acre campus is located in downtown Walla Walla, Washington. Most of the campus is centered around a quad, which serves as the location for intramural field sports. Around this, Ankeny Field, sits Penrose Library, Olin Hall and Maxey Hall, and two residence halls, Lyman and Jewett. South of Ankeny Field, College Creek meanders through the main campus, filling the artificially created "Lakum Duckum", the heart of campus and the habitat for many of Whitman's beloved ducks.

The oldest building on campus is the administrative center, Whitman Memorial Building, commonly referred to as "Mem". Built in 1899, the hall, like the college, serves as a memorial to Dr. Marcus and Narcissa Prentiss Whitman. The building is the tallest on campus and was placed on the National Historical Register of Historic Places in 1974. The oldest residence halls on campus, Lyman House and Prentiss Hall, were built in 1924 and 1926. Over the next fifty years, the college built or purchased several other buildings to house students, including the former Walla Walla Valley General Hospital, which was transformed into North Hall in 1978, which was then closed in 2017. In addition to the seven Residence Halls, many students choose to live in one of eleven "Interest Houses," run for sophomore, juniors, and seniors committed to specific focuses such as community service, fine arts, environmental studies, multicultural awareness, or the French, Spanish, or German languages. These houses, like most of the residential architecture of Walla Walla, are in the Victorian or Craftsman style.

In addition to property in Walla Walla, the college also has about 22,000 acres (89 km2) of other land holdings – mainly in the form of wheat farms in Eastern Washington and Oregon. Of special note: the Johnston Wilderness Campus, which is used for academic and social retreats.

Prentiss Hall

Named for Marcus's wife, Narcissa Prentiss Whitman, Prentiss Hall is the only all-female dorm and houses first-year residents as well as the four sororities on campus. Whitman's affiliated sororities are Kappa Kappa Gamma, Delta Gamma, Alpha Phi, and Kappa Alpha Theta. Kappa Alpha Theta, colloquially referred to as Theta, was formed originally as a women's fraternity, not a sorority. Prentiss Hall's most well-known resident is Narcissa Prentiss Whitman. Narcissa can be seen frequenting the halls and restrooms of the residence, as well as loitering in the drains of the kitchen sinks. A portrait of her hangs in the custodians' lounge in the basement of the building. The basement also houses the Whitman Spirituality room.


Whitman College focuses solely on undergraduate studies in the liberal arts. All students must take a two-semester course their first year, Encounters, which examines cultural interactions throughout history and gives students a grounding in the liberal arts. Students choose from courses in 48 major fields and 34 minor fields[9] and have wide flexibility in designing independent study programs, electing special majors, and participating in internships and study-abroad programs. Whitman's most popular majors are Biology, Psychology and Economics.[10] In addition, Whitman is noted for a strong science program.

Degrees are awarded after successful completion of senior "comprehensive exams". These exams vary depending on the students' primary focus of study, but commonly include some combination of (i) a senior thesis, (ii) written examination, and (iii) oral examination. The oral examination is either a defense of the student's senior thesis, or is one or multiple exams of material the student is expected to have learned during their major. The written exam is either a GRE subject test or a test composed by the department.

University rankings
Forbes[11] 89
Times/WSJ[12] 101
Liberal arts colleges
U.S. News & World Report[13] 46
Washington Monthly[14] 81

For students who are interested in foreign policy, Whitman is one of 16 institutions participating in the two-year-old Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship program.[15][16] The State Department pays for fellows to obtain their master's degree at the university of their choice in return for three years of service as a Foreign Service Officer. Whitman has a number of alumni who serve in diplomatic corps.

Combined programs

Whitman also offers combined programs in conjunction with several institutions throughout the United States:[17]

Off-campus programs

Whitman offers a "Semester in the West" program, a field study program in environmental studies, focusing on ecological, social, and political issues confronting the American West. During every other fall semester since 2002, 21 students leave Walla Walla to travel throughout the interior West for field meetings with a variety of leading figures in conservation, ecology, environmental writing, and social justice.[18]

Whitman also offers "The U.S.-Mexico Border Program" every other June. The program is based in Arizona and Sonora, Mexico, and exposes students to a wide range of competing perspectives on the politics of immigration, border enforcement, and globalization.[19]

Since 1982, "Whitman in China" provides Whitman alumni the opportunity to teach English at Northwestern Polytechnical University, Shantou University, or Yunnan University. Participants receive an immersion experience in urban Chinese culture, where they can witness the rapid modernization of the country. At the same time, Whitman alumni give Chinese university students the rare chance to study with an English native speaker.[20]

Whitman also offers a large range of year- or semester-long off-campus study programs - 88 programs across 40 countries,[21] and a few short-term, faculty-led programs.[22]

Student Engagement Center

In 2010, under the leadership of (former) President George Bridges, Whitman centralized and integrated various programs intended to help students connect their in-class learning to off-campus work, volunteer, and internship opportunities in the Walla Walla Valley. The office that emerged, the Student Engagement Center (SEC), houses community service and career services in one place. Students and alumni can get assistance with resumes, cover letters, networking, internships, interviews, grad school applications, and civic engagement in the SEC.


Whitman's admission selectivity is considered "more selective" by U.S. News & World Report.[23] There were 3,749 applications for admission to the Class of 2020 (starting Fall 2016): 1,917 were admitted (51.1%) and 425 enrolled.[24] The enrolling freshmen class' middle 50% range of SAT scores was 600–720 for reading, 600–700 for math, and 600–690 for writing, while the ACT Composite range was 28–33.[24]

Student life

Of the 1,539 undergraduate students enrolled in Whitman College in the fall of 2014, 56.3% were female and 43.7% male.[2] There are over one hundred student activities, many of which focus on student activism and social improvement, such as Whitman Direct Action and Global Medicine. A quarter of the student body participates in some for the college's music program, in one of the 15 music groups and ensembles, including three recognized A cappella groups.

Greek life is notable on campus; there is a high percentage of students, around 33% involved in the Greek system. The four women's sororities, (Kappa Alpha Theta, Delta Gamma, Alpha Phi, and Kappa Kappa Gamma) are housed in the Prentiss Hall, while the four men's fraternities, (Sigma Chi, Beta Theta Pi, Phi Delta Theta, and Tau Kappa Epsilon) are housed in fraternity houses north of Isaacs Avenue.

The Delta chapter of Phrateres, a non-exclusive, non-profit social-service club, also had a brief existence at Whitman. It was installed there in 1930, but became inactive before 1950.


Whitman holds membership in the NCAA's Northwest Conference (Division III) and fields nine varsity teams each for men and women. In 2016 the college adopted the new mascot for the school and its athletes of "the blues," named after the local mountain range. More than 20 percent of students participate in a varsity sport. In addition, 70 percent of the student body participate in intramural and club sport. These sports include rugby union, water polo, lacrosse, dodgeball, and nationally renowned cycling and Ultimate teams.

The club-sport-level Whitman Cycling team has won the DII National Championships for the past 2 years, and 4 times in the past 6 years, making them the athletic team at Whitman with the most National Championships. The Women's Ultimate team, also a club sports team, finished second to Stanford in Division I play in 2016.[25]

KWCW 90.5 FM

KWCW 90.5 FM is a Class A radio station owned and operated by the Whitman Students' Union, the Associated Students of Whitman College (ASWC).[26][27][28][29]

"K-dub" as it is known to students, is located inside the Reid Campus Center on Whitman Campus. At a power of 160 watts, the station's range is approximately 15 miles (24 km), broadcasting as well as streaming online[30][31]

College leadership

Whitman College is governed by Trustees in conjunction with a college President, Overseers and Alumni Board.

List of presidents

  1. Alexander J. Anderson, 1882–1891
  2. James F. Eaton, 1891–1894
  3. Stephen B. L. Penrose, 1894–1934
  4. Rudolf A. Clemen, 1934–1936
  5. Walter Andrew Bratton, 1936–1942
  6. Winslow S. Anderson, 1942–1948
  7. Chester C. Maxey, 1948–1959
  8. Louis B. Perry, 1959–1967
  9. Donald Sheehan, 1968–1974
  10. Robert Allen Skotheim, 1975–1988
  11. David Evans Maxwell, 1989–1993
  12. Thomas E. Cronin, 1993–2005
  13. George Sumner Bridges, 2005–June 2015
  14. Kathleen M. Murray, July 2015 – present

Alumni board

Whitman College alumni started the Alumni Association in 1895 to relay alumni reaction to college programs back to the Alumni Office. The current president of the board is Kirsten Adams Gable '01, and Mary Deming Barber '78, is vice president.[32]

Notable alumni


Arts and entertainment

Journalism and history



Science and technology



Alma mater

Whitman's Alma mater is rarely heard today outside of Commencement, other than being sung regularly by the Whitman College Chorale. Dating from 1914, "The Whitman Hymn" was written and composed by President Penrose to create school unity and spirit.

When the morning light is breaking,
O're the mountain's eastern rim
And the world to work is waking
Let us sing our happy hymn.
Here's to the blue sky above us,
Here's to the wheat field's gold,
Here's to the friends that love us,
And our love will ne'er grow cold.
For friends and fields and mountains
Under heaven's kindly blue.
And the college 'mid the fountains,
dear old Whitman here's to you
With the joys of life before us,
and life's battle stern and grim
With the kindly heaven o'er us,
We will sing our happy hymn.

Notable professors

  • Scott Elliott


  1. As of June 30, 2018. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Endowment Market Value and Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2017 to FY 2018" (PDF). National Association of College and University Business Officers and Commonfund Institute. 2018. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  2. "Whitman Factbook". Office of Institutional Research, Whitman College.
  3. https://www.whitman.edu/Documents/Offices/Registrar/Catalog/Whitman%20College.pdf History of Whitman College, Retrieved May 15, 2017.
  4. https://www.whitman.edu/about/fast-facts Fast Facts About Whitman College, Retrieved September 20, 2015.
  5. "Departments and Programs". Retrieved April 14, 2017.
  6. Paulus, Michael (October 19, 2007). "Whitman College". Retrieved June 13, 2017.
  7. Edwards, Thomas G. The Triumph of Tradition: The Emergence of Whitman College, 1859–1924 Whitman College 1993 p 424
  8. "About Whitman College". Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  9. "Whitman College Catalog". Whitman College. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  10. "Whitman College Factbook – Academic Year 2015-16" (PDF). Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  11. "America's Top Colleges 2019". Forbes. Retrieved August 15, 2019.
  12. "U.S. College Rankings 2020". Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
  13. "Best Colleges 2020: National Liberal Arts Colleges Rankings". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  14. "2019 Liberal Arts Rankings". Washington Monthly. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  15. Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation: Undergraduate Foreign Affairs Archived May 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  16. Archived April 12, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  17. "Departments and Programs". Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  18. "Semester in the West Program".
  19. "U.S.-Mexico Border Program".
  20. "Whitman in China Program".
  21. "Fast Facts".
  22. "Faculty-led off-campus courses".
  23. "National Liberal Arts Colleges Rankings". U.S. News & World Report. 2020.
  24. "Admitted Class Profile". Office of Institutional Research, Whitman College.
  25. "Stanford 1st, Whitman 2nd in 2016 Women's Ultimate Division I Championships". USA Ultimate. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  26. "KWCW-FM 90.5 MHz - Walla Walla, WA". radio-locator.com.
  27. "KWCW 90.5 Walla Walla". KWCW 90.5 Walla Walla.
  28. "KWCW". web.archive.org. July 26, 2011.
  29. "KWCW 90.5 FM Walla Walla". web.archive.org. January 11, 2006.
  30. "KWCW". player.abovecast.com.
  31. "SHOUTcast Server".
  32. "Alumni Board and Alumni Association". Whitman College. Retrieved September 20, 2015.
  33. Sanders, Eli. "Dan Henderson, UW program founder, dies." Seattle Times. March 18, 2001. Retrieved on May 5, 2012.
  34. "Biography: Ralph J. Cordiner". GE Past leaders, GE website
  35. Brauhn, David. "Trustee emerita Colleen Willoughby '55 urges women students to "step up, step out and engage" in this year's Women in Leadership Symposium". Whitman Magazine. Whitman College. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  36. "Alan W. Jones is Promoted". The Spokesman-Review. Spokane, WA. August 28, 1918. p. 2 via Newspapers.com.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  37. Morelock, J. D. (1994). Generals of the Ardennes: American Leadership in the Battle of the Bulge. Washington, DC: National Defense University Press. p. 279. ISBN 978-0-16-042069-6 via Internet Archive.

Further reading

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