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Willamette University is an Americanmarker private institution of higher learning located in Salem, Oregonmarker. Founded in 1842, it is the oldest university in the Western United States. Willamette is a member of the Annapolis Group of colleges, with an undergraduate college and three graduate schools. In athletics, the university is a member of the NCAA's Division III Northwest Conference, with the bearcat as the school mascot and old gold and cardinal as the school colors. There are approximately 2,500 students enrolled combined between the graduate and undergraduate programs. The school employs over 200 full-time professors at the campus that is situated across the street from the Oregon State Capitolmarker.

Originally named the Oregon Institute, the school was an unaffiliated outgrowth of the Methodist Mission. The name was changed to Wallamet University in 1852, followed by the current spelling in 1870. Willamette founded the first medical school and law school in the Pacific Northwest during the later half of the 19th century. During the 20th century the school started a sister school relationship with Tokyo International University of America and began competing in college athletics.

Willamette’s College of Liberal Arts is the undergraduate school on campus. The school was rated 60th among American liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report for 2009. The oldest of the graduate programs is the College of Lawmarker, founded in 1883 and located in the Truman Wesley Collins Legal Center. Established in 1974, Atkinson Graduate School of Managementmarker is housed in the Seeley G. Mudd Building. The School of Educationmarker, established in 1996, has an enrollment of 250 students.


The university was founded as the Oregon Institute in the days of the Oregon Country by the missionary Jason Lee, who had arrived in the territory 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 Lee’s death in 1845. Leslie would serve until his death in 1869. The original purpose of the institute was the education of the missionaries' children.

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 Salemmarker 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 Hallmarker 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 schoolmarker in the Pacific Northwest during the presidency of Thomas Van Scoy. The school of medicine then merged with the University of Oregonmarker in 1913 and is now Oregon Health and Sciences Universitymarker.

In December 1941, the university's football team traveled to Hawaiimarker to play the University of Hawaii. Many students accompanied the team by passenger ship to Oahumarker. The game was played was on December 6. The following day, many of the Willamette students witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbormarker from their hotels on Waikiki Beachmarker. 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 Schoolmarker. The incident has since become part of the folklore of the university.

In 1983, U.S. News & World Report named Willamette the best small comprehensive university in the Western United States. Willamette was one of the last universities in the nation to hold an annual singing and marching competition between the undergraduate classes. 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.


The campus is directly south of the Oregon State Capitolmarker, affording students access to internships in the institutions of Oregon government. Much of downtown Salem, including the Capitol, is on land once owned by the university. Railroad tracks are located directly east of the school, with the Salem Amtrak Stationmarker near the southeastern edge of campus. South of the school is Salem Hospitalmarker, with Bush's Pasture Parkmarker and the school's McCulloch Stadiummarker on the opposite of the hospital.

Willamette's core area lies between State Street on the north, Bellevue Street on the south, Winter Street to the west, and 12th Street on the east. On the west side of Winter Street lie the university's graduate programs in education, management, and law. Additional school properties outside of the core area are the Hallie Ford Museum of Artmarker, the Oregon Civic Justice Centermarker, the Tokyo International University of America campus, and several residential buildings. Willamette owns several other properties along state street west of the main campus. The school plans on redeveloping portions of the west end of campus in order to better tie the campus to downtown Salem. These plans include adding a performing arts center.

Academic buildings on campus include Eaton Hallmarker and Smullin/Walton Hall, which are primarily used by liberal arts departments. Science classes are generally held in the Collins and Olin buildings. Willamette's music program is housed by the G. Herbert Smith Auditorium and Fine Arts building, as well as the Mary Stuart Rogers auditorium. Administrative offices are found in the Putnam University Center and Waller Hallmarker, Willamette's oldest building. Waller Hall was built using bricks made of clay from the campus quad. Willamette's newest buildings, including the Goudy Commons, Kaneko Commons (a residential college opened in the Fall of 2006), and Rogers Music Center have all been designed by the Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects. Ford Hall, near Gatke Hallmarker on State Street, is a new academic building scheduled for completion in 2009.

In addition to Greek housing, eleven residence halls exist on the Willamette campus. Undergraduate students are under contract to live on campus for two years, after which they may move into private residence or one of the university's apartment complexes. Lausanne Hallmarker, originally home of the university's Women's College, is now one of the university's undergraduate dormitories. The building commemorates the ship that brought the reinforcements to Lee in 1839. York Hall commemorates the university's first graduate.
Hudson's Bay and the Mill Race that runs through campus
A stream runs through the middle of the campus. Starting across 12th Street and flowing through the length of the campus, it passes by the Martha Springer Botanical Gardenmarker, the Hatfield Librarymarker, Hudson Hall, the University Center, Smith Auditorium and Goudy Commons. This artificial stream is named the Mill Race, although it is commonly referred to as "the Mill Stream." It forms a "W" shape when viewed from the University Center. Also from this vantage point one can view "the impossible triangle," a metal structure erected at the suggestion of a physics professor, M. B Stewart. As a tradition, undergraduate students are thrown into the Mill Stream on their birthday. Biology and environmental science classes utilize the Mill Stream as an authentic research venue. As part of the freshman matriculation ceremony, new students place a lit candle into the Mill Stream and watch it float downstream.

On campus athletics facilities are located in the southeast portion of the campus. These include a soccer field, tennis courts, and the Sparks Center. Softball, football, and baseball stadiums are located outside of the main campus. Willamette also operates the Willamette University Forest at Zena, a research forest in the Eola Hillsmarker west of Salem.


College of Liberal Arts

The mission of the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) is to "maintain a setting which encourages and sustains students and faculty in the practices of liberal education." The undergraduate program is able to be personal with a student-faculty ratio of 10:1. Students conduct original research, publish papers and are able to design their own academic paths.

The CLA offers 35 majors, six minors and seven special programs, including pre-law, pre-med and a BA/MBA program. The most popular areas of study are economics, psychology, politics, English and biology, and learning takes place both in and outside of the classroom. For example, students earn credit as political interns at the Oregon State Capitolmarker, across the street from campus; study the effects of climate change at the nearby research forest; or conduct epidemiology surveys for the local health department.

Students in service-learning courses base papers and projects on their community service experience, and more than half of Willamette’s undergraduate students study abroad, choosing from programs in 40 countries. Co-located with Tokyo International University of America, Willamette offers opportunities for students interested in Japanese language and culture, and connections to Asia and the Pacific Rim.

Carson Grants offer undergraduates the opportunity to undertake a scholarly, creative or professional research project during the summer, and the Lilly Project provides grants, internships and programs to help students discern their “calling in life” and create meaningful professional paths. Sustainability mini-grants also provide students with opportunities to initiate contributions to campus sustainability efforts. Five academic Centers of Excellence provide opportunities for student-faculty collaboration and research.

Nine faculty members have been named Oregon Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) since 1990. The U.S. Professors of the Year program recognizes educators who demonstrate an extraordinary dedication to undergraduate teaching through, "impact on and involvement with undergraduate students; scholarly approach to teaching and learning; contribution to undergraduate education in the institution, community and profession; and support from colleagues and current and former undergraduate students." The 2008 Princeton Review described Willamette as “academically rigorous, intimate and seriously gorgeous,” and the school ranked fifth in Seattle Metropolitan’s Northwest college rankings. The Seattle magazine cited the school’s alumni roster, wireless features, “outdoorsy aesthetic” and new residence hall. As of 2009, U.S. News & World Report ranks the university as the 60th best among liberal arts schools in their annual Best Colleges edition.

Graduate programs

Located on the western side of the campus are the university's three graduate level schools. The College of Law is the oldest and largest of the three programs, with the School of Education as the smallest and newest program. Atkinson and the College of Law offer a joint-degree program that allows students to earn both an MBA and juris doctorate.

Campus life

Jackson Plaza outside the library
The university's weekly newspaper, the Willamette Collegian, began publishing in 1875. Willamette's radio station The Wire is broadcast solely over the Internet. The school has over 100 student organizations ranging from sport clubs, political groups, and social clubs to religious groups and honor societies. Willamette University has many active clubs sports on its campus. These include, but are not limited to rugby, lacrosse, crew, and ultimate Frisbee.

Greek life

There are five fraternities and three sororities at Willamette. The sororities are Delta Gamma, Pi Beta Phi, and Alpha Chi Omega. Each has its own house located along sorority row on Mill Street. The fraternities at Willamette are Beta Theta Pi, Phi Delta Theta (off campus), Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and Sigma Chi. The fraternities are housed on the east side of campus.

Two other sororities, Chi Omega and Alpha Phi, and two fraternities, Kappa Sigma and Delta Tau Delta used to have chapters at Willamette. In 2006, Kappa Sigma lost its charter. In the mid-1990s, Delta Tau Delta lost its charter. However, after a year-long campaign by students interested in revitalizing Delta Tau Delta, the fraternity is now a colony as a house-less fraternity. The two sororities lost their charters after their move to sorority row. Their on-campus houses are now general residences. Chi Omega was repurposed into a multicultural oriented residence, placing American Willamette students with TIUA roommates and is known as WISH. Alpha Phi was remade into a substance-free mixed gender dormitory called Shepard House.


McCulloch Stadium
The Willamette University Bearcats compete at the NCAA Division III level. Willamette fields teams in baseball, basketball, cross-country, golf, football, rowing, soccer, softball, tennis, track & field, and volleyball. Willamette is a founding member of the Northwest Conference league. The football team plays home games at McCulloch Stadiummarker south of the main campus, while basketball, swimming, and volleyball teams use the Lestle J. Sparks Center for home events. At or adjacent to McCulloch are the Charles Bowles Track used for track meets and Roy S. "Spec" Keene Stadium where baseball plays its home games.

In 1991, the university started the Willamette University Athletic Hall of Fame. In 1993, the school earned its only team sport national championship when the men's basketball team earned the NAIA Division 2 title. As an undergraduate, Olympian Nick Symmonds won the 800 NCAA championship race all four years and the 1,500 NCAA championship race as a freshman, junior, and senior. In 2007, Sarah Zerzan won the NCAA Division 3 title in cross country. The football team finished its best season in 1997 when they lost in the national championship game, and that year Liz Heaston became the first woman to ever play in a college football game when the Bearcats beat rival Linfield Collegemarker.

Notable faculty

Notable alumni

Willis C.
Notable alumni from Willamette include a range of people involved in business, government, education, sports, art and entertainment.

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 Universitymarker. In his career, he has served as president of the Association of American Universities, president of Colgate Universitymarker and chairman of the board of trustees of the United States–Japan 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 Court’s current 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 “Oceans Conservation, Education and National Strategy for the 21st Century Act” 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. 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 men’s 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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