Lee came to Oregon to begin a school for Native American children
in the Willamette Valley in 1834. Within a few years the slowly
growing group of missionaries felt the need for a school to serve
their own children. Jason Lee organized a series of meetings in
his home and, on Feb. 1, 1842 -- now celebrated as the founding
date for Willamette University -- bylaws were adopted and a board
of trustees was appointed.
As the first
university in the West, Willamette takes pride in its pioneer heritage,
not just because it was founded in the early days of the Oregon
Territory, but because, like those early pioneers, it has had an
important place in the development of the West.
was founded the cities of Portland, Seattle and Tacoma did not exist.
Thus the University is closely associated with the beginning of
law and government in this vast region, which now comprises Oregon,
Washington, Idaho and parts of Montana and Wyoming. It educated
many of the Northwest's first leaders, artists and business people.
Not only was Willamette the first University in the West, but it
established the first law school (1883) and the first school of
medicine (1866) in the Pacific Northwest, which later merged with
the medical school of the University of Oregon.
the Oregon Institute, the name was changed to "Wallamet"
University in 1853. The original building (first occupied in 1844)
was a three-story frame structure which served the community as
well as the school since it was considered the most imposing edifice
in the Northwest. It housed the first session of the legislature
to meet in Salem and sheltered the first court in the territory
under United States auspices.
During the University's
first half-century, its land holdings were gradually sold to meet
other needs, with the result that much of the present Salem downtown
is built on former University land.
one of the earliest coeducational institutions in the United States,
and its first graduate was a woman. Women were attending the School
of Medicine as early as 1877.
University continues to push the frontier of higher education, always
aware of the courageous leadership of its pioneer founders. Willamette
now enrolls approximately 2,500 students in the College of Liberal
Arts, School of Education, College of Law and Atkinson Graduate
School of Management. The University's faculty has grown from one
teacher in 1842 to 136 full-time professors. Ninety-two percent
of the faculty have their doctorates, and all take pride in the
learning environment fostered by a 10.5-1 student-to-teacher ratio.
Located on the
edge of downtown Salem and across the street from the Oregon State
Capitol, Willamette's campus now encompasses 61 acres and has 37
buildings. Recent additions to the ever-growing campus include the
F.W. Olin Science Center, the Hallie Ford Museum of Art and the
Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center.