Brief History of Western Washington University

Brief History of Western Washington University

Early Years, 1893-1941

  • 1893- The state legislature passes a bill establishing a State Normal School in the town of New Whatcom, Whatcom County and considers various building sites.
  • 1895- State legislature provides $40,000 to construct a three-story, 36-room building (Old Main).
  • 1899- Legislature appropriates $33,500 for the equipment and maintenance of the school for two years. Institution opens September 6 with Edward T. Mathes as Principal.
  • 1901- Institution becomes the State Normal School at Whatcom, as the city changes its name.
  • 1904- Whatcom and Fairhaven vote to incorporate as Bellingham; institution name changes to Washington State Normal School at Bellingham.
  • 1914- George W. Nash appointed to replace Mathes, adopts the title "President."
  • 1922- Dwight B. Waldo appointed President
  • 1923- Charles H. Fisher appointed President.
  • 1928- College library built.
  • 1933- Institution authorized to grant Bachelor of Arts in Education.
  • 1937- Names changes to Western Washington College of Education. Four-year education now officially the standard for students.
  • 1939- President Fisher terminated by Board of Trustees and Gov. Clarence D. Martin following a campaign condemning him as anti-American and un-Christian, setting off a storm in educational circles. Western Professor William W. Haggard appointed President.
  • 1941- Attendance drops nearly 50 percent as the United States enters World War II.



Middle Years, 1942-1967

  • 1946- Enrollment doubles. Male freshmen outnumber females at Western for the first time as many returning soldiers take advantage of the G. I. Bill.
  • 1947- State Legislature authorizes institution to grant both an M.A. in Education and a B.A. in Liberal Arts.
  • 1949- Western turns 50.
  • 1959- James L. Jarrett appointed President.
  • 1960-61- Installation of first item in Western's acclaimed Outdoor Sculpture Collection. Institution renamed Western Washington State College. Enrollment exceeds 3,000.
  • 1965- Harvey C. Bunke appointed President.



Recent Years, 1968-present

  • 1968- Western Professor Charles J. Flora appointed President following tenure as Acting President. Fairhaven College founded.
  • 1970- Enrollment exceeds 10,000 for the first time. Huxley College of Environmental College founded, continuing Western's trend toward "cluster" colleges. Students protesting the Vietnam War block highway Interstate 5 on a spring afternoon.
  • 1973- College of Arts and Sciences established, produces 60 percent of today's graduates.
  • 1975- Paul J. Olscamp appointed President. College of Fine and Performing Arts combines art, music and theatre departments.
  • 1976- College of Business and Economics established.
  • 1977- Institution renamed Western Washington University.
  • 1983- G. Robert Ross appointed President..
  • 1988- Kenneth P. Mortimer appointed President following death of Ross in plane crash that also kills administrators Don Cole and Jeanne DeLille.
  • 1989- College of Education named in honor of  Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus Paul Woodring.
  • 1993- Karen W. Morse appointed President..
  • 1999- Western celebrates its Centennial. 
  • 2003- College of Arts and Sciences divided to form the College of Humanities & Social Sciences and the College of Sciences & Technology.