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Highlights from Willamette's History

As the First University in the West, Willamette has a rich and complex history. Please read our Land Acknowledgement in recognition of this land and its Indigenous people, then explore the timeline of our university's history spanning from the present all the way back to 1834.

Willamette Timeline: 1900 - 1949


The Collegian received a coveted Pace Makers award after an unprecedented sixteenth consecutive All-American designation.

The new Bruce R. Baxter Residence Hall and four fraternity residences opened in February for Willamette men.


Three local fraternities were initiated as chapters of national organizations: Beta Theta Pi, Phi Delta Theta and Sigma Chi. The local Phi Alpha fraternity established a chapter with Sigma Alpha Epsilon later in the year.


The College of Law was admitted as a member of the Association of American Law Schools. A 10-acre tract of land on Bush’s Pasture was acquired for a new athletic field.


A Willamette chapter of national sorority Delta Gamma was established. Chi Omega colonized.


Chapters were established at Willamette for national sororities Alpha Chi Omega and Pi Beta Phi.


A College Navy Training Program (V-12) was established on the campus. Lausanne Hall served as the “ship” for those being trained as medical personnel and deck officers from July 1943 through November 1945. A heavy program of physical conditioning included what was reputed to be one of the toughest obstacle courses in the West.


The Willamette Centennial was observed, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the University. President Knopf planted five giant sequoia trees, the Star Trees, to the north of Collins Science Hall as a part of the centennial celebrations and to begin a “Temple of the Centuries.”


The Everell Stanton Collins Science Hall was added to the campus. The former science building was extensively remodeled to house the College of Music.

Willamette’s football team was in Hawaii during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, having played the University of Hawaii the day before; they returned by helping on a ship bringing the wounded back to the mainland for hospitalization.


The College of Law moved into its new home (the old Salem post office, now called Gatke Hall) opposite the Supreme Court building.


A new library building was completed and University House was moved to campus where it served as the president’s home until 1955.


The Class of 1936 completed a four-year sweep of top Glee honors, the first class to do so.


George Cannady was the first Black graduate of Willamette University. He later became an attorney in Los Angeles and died in 1968.

Dancing was permitted on a limited basis. By 1938-39, all-student dances were allowed.


A $1.2 million campaign, begun in 1922, was completed. The General Education Board (Rockefeller Foundation) contributed $350,000 to this fund. During the year Willamette received a gift of $100,000 from the Eric V. Hauser Estate.

The Kimball School of Theology closed.


Willamette received accreditation from the Association of American Universities.


A large gymnasium of brick was erected, replacing the older frame structure. Sorority Alpha Phi Alpha and fraternity Epsilon Delta Mu joined Willamette’s Greek system.


The wooden gymnasium burned to the ground.


Waller Hall was rebuilt and a new Lausanne Hall (a commodious, modern dormitory for women) was completed.

One sorority, Delta Phi, and three fraternities - Alpha Psi Delta, Kappa Gamma Rho, and Pi Kappa Phi - were added.


Waller Hall’s interior was destroyed by fire in December. In spring, the old wooden Lausanne Hall was razed.

Willamette’s first sorority, Beta Chi, and fraternity, Sigma Tau, were organized.


After 72 years the last class was graduated from the Oregon Institute (Willamette Academy), whose presence was no longer needed because of the development of public high schools.


The College of Medicine closed at Willamette, merging with the University of Oregon College of Medicine.


University Hall was renamed Waller Hall.


Freshman Glee began when the freshman class challenged the other classes to a song competition. Eaton Hall, a gift from the Honorable A. E. Eaton, was completed.

The Kimball School of Theology was established.


The Medical College moved into a newly constructed building on the northwest corner of campus. In succeeding years the building would be home to the Willamette Academy, the Science Department, the College of Music and the Art Department.


The first Wallulah was published.