From Washington State Magazine, Summer 2007
By Gen De Vleming
The land-grant institution of the state of Washington was established by legislative act in 1890 as the Washington State Agricultural College and School of Science. Construction started in 1891, on land donated by the citizens of Pullman, and it opened in 1892 under the name of Agricultural College, Experiment Station, and School of Science.
Classes began in Pullman on January 13, 1892, with five faculty members and 60 students, many of them at only the preparatory level. (There is much confusion as to the actual number of students who started that first day in 1892—maybe there were 29 students who were actually at collegiate level?) Instruction began in agriculture, mechanic arts, engineering, sciences, and arts.
John W. Heston, principal of Seattle High School—there were three high schools in the state then, in Seattle, Tacoma, and Spokane—became president on December 13, 1892. As he and the president of the regents were walking across campus the day Heston was to be introduced, the students pelted them with rotten cabbages that were still lying in the icy fields of the campus—the first instance of "unrest" at this institution. George Lilley seemed to be very popular with the students and was also a friend of Pullman residents, and the citizens of the entire community were distressed with his termination. As president, Heston apparently spent more time in Olympia and Seattle than in Pullman, and there were accusations of all kinds about what was happening in the southeast section of the state, the cabbage patch incident having drawn the state spotlight to the unruly students. With such an inauspicious beginning, it is no wonder that poor President Heston did not last long—he was gone by August 31, 1893, after only eight and a half months.
Luckily, Governor John H. McGraw was very interested in the State College and "was resolved," in Bryan’s words, "that it should be rescued from the condition into which it had fallen." The joint investigating committee he appointed absolved everyone of any corruption and finally approved the location for Pullman (The Crib had already been built at a cost of $1,500!), but recommended that the entire Board of Regents be replaced. A new board of five was appointed, not one of whom was a graduate of a college or university, the notion being prevalent that a business background and political experience were the prime qualifications for membership on a governing board of an educational institution.
The new Regents decided that Heston had to leave, and they hired Dr. Enoch A. Bryan as president on September 1, 1893, at a salary of $4,000; he remained president until December 31, 1915. Dr. Bryan set the academic tone for the land-grant institution, insisting that it be more than just a vocational or technical school. His undergraduate work was in the classics, and he had a master’s degree from both Indiana University and Harvard. He had studied both the federal and state statutes related to the establishment of the institution, and he envisioned a college of science and technology "shot through and through with the spirit of the liberal arts." Bryan’s emphasis on liberal arts as the firm foundation on which the college curriculum was built led to the establishment of the Phi Beta Kappa chapter in Pullman in 1929, the first such permitted in a separated land-grant institution west of the Mississippi River.
There had been only two quarters of instruction by the time Bryan took over, and many of those early students were not eligible yet to earn college credits—they were finishing preparatory courses. Bryan set about to prepare young people to become freshmen in the new institution and moved forward to establish standards in all courses, to develop the concept of academic majors, to secure well-trained faculty embers to develop the coursework, to organize the faculty into schools, and to secure funding for buildings. In 1893, his wife, Hattie, was one of the Charter Members of Fortnightly Book Club, which included other educated women from both the college and the community. Agricultural research began in Puyallup in 1894; agricultural extension came to the aid of many immigrant families shortly thereafter. Research and extension activities pleased the citizens of the state, many of whom believed the institution had been trying to avoid its mission in agriculture.
The first class graduated in 1897, all with baccalaureate degrees—three in engineering, two in English, one in economics, and one in botany. There was one additional student included in this class. He had transferred from his college studies in South Dakota in 1891 to accompany incoming first president George Lilley to Pullman; he completed his work in 1893, but was not awarded his diploma until 1897.
Dr. Bryan was instrumental, in 1905, in securing the change in name of the institution to the State College of Washington. Bryan enjoyed visiting with students, and he listened to them. At the request of student groups, he established a debate class in 1900 and technical short courses for training young people for various occupations. Bryan fought with state officers over what he perceived to be the careless handling of state lands, the income from which helped to finance the college. Other firsts in Bryan’s term included varsity football, the Evergreen, the Chinook, the glee club, the Alumni Association; instruction in veterinary science, home economics, and pharmacy; the first graduate degree, an M.S. in botany; Crimson Circle and Mortar Board; and the student bookstore.
After Bryan notified the regents he would retire at the end of 1915, he helped the board to identify Dr. Ernest O. Holland, who became president on January 1, 1916, and remained until December 31, 1944. Bryan was looking for someone with the same academic standards he had worked so hard to incorporate into the curriculum of the state college, and Holland, who had a doctorate from Columbia, certainly met that criterion. He was 41 years old, a bachelor, and a close friend of the Bryan family in Indiana. Bryan later said the transition from his presidency to that of Holland was so smooth that faculty and students were almost unaware of the change. Holland showed great wisdom in delaying his coming from Spokane to Pullman until January 7, 1916, a few days after the college finished celebrating its victory over Brown University in the first Rose Bowl!
Holland began his presidency with much conflict over legislative issues in regard to the duplication of courses at the two state universities. He was determined that Washington State College would continue as an institution offering the liberal arts and sciences, as well as courses for the "practical education of the industrial classes." The new president of the University of Washington, Dr. Henry Suzzallo, had been a personal friend of Holland’s before the two moved to Washington. Holland had served as best man at Suzzallo’s wedding. Many state citizens hoped the two presidents would work amicably to study the duplication of courses at the two schools and to select the appropriate major lines for each. However, each was very concerned with the status of his own institution, and some state citizens believed Bryan had been far too successful at that little school in southeast Washington. After bitter battles, the Act of February 2, 1917, finally established major lines at each of the universities, and these major lines still restrict certain courses from the state college curriculum.
Under Holland, the Graduate School began; the cougar became the official mascot; pink and blue were replaced by crimson and gray as the school colors; the librarywas greatly expanded; many buildings were constructed; and Pullman citizens came to the aid of the institution by purchasing bonds to finance the building of Community Hall, a women’s dormitory, the revenue generated by dormitory rentals to be used to repay the bonds. Holland’s presidency also included the second Rose Bowl game the Cougars played—a loss of 24-0 to Alabama in 1931. Cougar Gold cheese was developed during Holland’s term; and enrollment jumped to over 5,000 students before dropping to about 2,000 during the war years. The college department system was reorganized into five colleges and four schools with deans as administrative heads.
The Depression years and the end of Prohibition introduced new concerns for students, faculty, and administrators. There was a general student strike in 1936 (the second "evidence of unrest") to protest rigid social regulations—to free students from the continual inspections of their living groups and to abolish the "ultra-conservative, dictatorial administrative policies." Most of the faculty members agreed with the students, and some changes were made immediately. Holland’s final years were marred further by inadequate state allocations, demands of students and faculty for better library resources, and resistance to the strict policies which were not always publicized. President Holland no longer actively participated in campus activities as he had done as a young bachelor.
In the fall of 1944, the institution had many inefficient procedures. Anyone who worked for the college had to line up each month to sign the payroll, sometimes waiting in line for an hour. The number of wasted hours must have come at tremendous cost! Lines were also a hindrance for students paying dormitory bills, and registration for classes was a two-day hassle. Although faculty members demanded a role in selecting a new president, the regents sent only two of their members and the registrar to the East to seek a new president who might modernize the college and revise some of its antiquated procedures.
Dr. Wilson Compton of the famous Compton family became president on January 1, 1945. Compton was a businessman—he had no experience in educational administration. But through his family, he was very familiar with the academic world. Compton had studied the Pacific Northwest, and he believed technology and industrial development were necessary to create a fine educational institution to be of service to the state and the region. He recognized that many changes needed to be made at the college to overturn the traditional autocratic organization that had developed over many years. As I learned more about his years of service, I thought he was like a mother going to clean up an impossible child’s room—where to start? A mother might just have to dump everything in the middle of the room and start sorting—throw this away, fix this, and put this in a drawer. Compton did a great deal of this through his Committee of 40—a faculty group who studied the whole college and all of the organizations and various policies and procedures in place, and with whom Dr. Compton frequently consulted over the years as changes were made on the campus. Many of the changes brought about under Dr. Compton were very beneficial, and most are still part of the University structure.
Compton faced a tremendous task, as veterans returned to campus following the end of World War II, and more housing and classrooms were needed immediately. Being the businessman that he was, he efficiently acquired the needed temporary buildings and modified them for classrooms or dormitories. He accommodated the increase in enrollment from 2,000 in 1945 to 7,890 in 1947-48—a figure that remained the record enrollment until the fall of 1960—through implementation of the IBM402 Tabulator and its keypunched cards. Change always creates enemies, and Compton offended both faculty and regents with many of his arbitrary changes. He came at a time when WSC needed his skills, but he felt compelled to resign in September 1951. Dr. William Pearl from the Institute of Technology served as acting president for about six and a half months until President C. Clement French came on April 1, 1952.
There’s no doubt in my mind what kind of president the regents were seeking in late 1951. They needed a person of stature who could continue the high standards of WSC and yet bring about peace—get faculty and administrators working together once again—someone to heal the wounds. They certainly found such a man in Clement French. He always told everyone he came on April Fools Day, left on Halloween in 1966, and was never inaugurated. That is the kind of leader he was—one with a great sense of humor, a sincere appreciation of the value of every employee, great organizational abilities, and tremendous sense of fairness. He always emphasized the importance of each individual in the particular job he or she had at the University. He credited his wife, Helen, with much of his success, said the presidency was a two-person job, and, certainly, when the two of them entered a room, there was an atmosphere of respect—it was obvious that the leaders were present. When he retired, he asked that the scholarship fund established in his honor be named "The Helen B. and C. Clement French Scholarship.
President French had to work extremely hard when he first came in order to heal the wounds and to unite faculty, administrators, and staff into a cohesive and effective group. He was always the first to say that he was not perfect, that no man or woman is omniscient. He said he would know when he should retire—that every decision he had to make would create an enemy or two, for problems that came to him had not been resolved at a lower level. He always tried to make decisions in the best interests of the University, no matter who disagreed, but he said he had to retire before the number of those who opposed him exceeded the number of those who still supported him.
The developments under Dr. French were tremendous. Enrollment grew from 5,890 to 11,691; many more dormitories were built. The nuclear reactor was installed, and many academic buildings were constructed. The Honors Program was started, the Computing Center was established, and the first academic program in computer science in the Pacific Northwest was offered. The association with West Pakistan University started in 1954, and KWSU-TV went on the air. Dr. French even got the University of Washington to help sponsor the bill to change the name of the college to Washington State University in 1959.
In the early 1960s, the student unrest at Berkeley started. Dr. French said this unrest would, undoubtedly, spread to other campuses and that he was too old to cope with that. He recommended that the regents find someone to replace him, who had a sincere interest in young people, who would understand students, and who had the gift of working successfully with them. French retired in the fall of 1966, but a new president had not yet been selected.
The regents appointed Academic Vice President Wallis Beasley to serve as acting president. He was not just an acting president—he kept WSU moving on the path Dr. French had set. Having served as a faculty member, department chair, and vice president, he understood WSU very well and was respected by his faculty colleagues. He always said that making no decision was the worst way for an administrator to manage—a decision at least moved the institution in one direction and did not permit chaos to fill the void, and a direction could be altered by a later decision if it was deemed necessary. I’ll never forget the time that WSU was looking for a new football coach for the third year in a row. Some faculty members came to Beasley to complain that the University was not following proper advertising procedures for a new coach, and Beasley practically threw the faculty members out of his office, shouting that everyone in the world knew that the University was again seeking a coach!
On July 1, 1967, Dr. Glenn Terrell, whose degrees were in child psychology, became president. Terrell was a "people" president. He did not enjoy paperwork, and one of the smartest decisions he made in his first year was to have Dr. Beasley serve as executive vice president to keep much of the paperwork moving and to manage many internal affairs. That gave Terrell more time to interact with students. We never made an appointment in the office earlier than 9:30 in the morning or 2:30 in the afternoon, because Terrell walked from his home across the campus to the office—and if he met a student who had a problem or who just wanted to visit, he took as much time was needed.
Student unrest during the years 1969-71 occupied much of Dr. Terrell’s time. I often watched him take a group of maybe 40 to 50 angry students into our conference room and spend time with them on whatever was upsetting them. I then watched the students leave in a much more orderly manner, talking among themselves about what a great president he was, because he had been willing to listen. There were some violent incidents, some sit-ins in the administration building over the Vietnam War, and a strike—the third one for the institution—but WSU came through that period without any loss of life. The regents had selected him as a president who could take WSU through the confrontations that were expected, and no one could have handled the tense moments any better than Dr. Terrell did!
In spite of all the tension and stress of these years of unrest, Terrell always said that the eruption of Mount St. Helens created the worst management problem he had every encountered, and I certainly agree. I shall never forget the hours he and I spent on the phone with angry parents from the west side of the state who wanted their students to be excused to go home. Those parents did not realize there was no way their students could get out of our area for most of a week and their students were very safe in their living groups. The University of Washington did not help with their daily press releases on the dangers of breathing the ash. Our registrar once said that the problems created by Mount St. Helens and the subsequent withdrawal of many students from their classes would haunt the University for 60 years.
There were tremendous changes on the campus during Dr. Terrell’s 18 years. Both the 50,000th student in 1971 and the 100,000th in 1983 graduated. A million-dollar grant from the Kellogg Foundation created the Partnership for Rural Improvement. Dr. Orville Vogel received the National Medal of Science for his research on wheat. The Small Business Development Center was established. Terrell supported research activities by both graduate and undergraduate students. The Research and Technology Park was envisioned. The WSU Foundation was brought into being. Once again, the football team, in 1981, lost 38 to 36 to Brigham Young University in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego! The old Cow Barn was converted to a classy Alumni Center. The Intercollegiate Center for Nursing Education was established in Spokane. The stadium was destroyed, and a $1,000,000 fund-raising campaign supported its rebuilding. The WAMI medical education program was started. The Coliseum opened. The WOI veterinary medicine program started. Educational services were provided in Jordan. WSU celebrated its 90th birthday, and Dr. Terrell appointed the Centennial Committee to begin planning for the 1990 Centennial Celebration. Enrollment increased from 12,575 in 1967 to over 19,000.
Dr. Terrell will always be known as the Student’s President—he is still beloved by thousands of students, and the Glenn Terrell Friendship Mall on the campus is a most appropriate tribute to him. The regents, once again, had selected a president in 1967 who was perfect for his time, and served successfully for 18 years. All of his regents honored him with a very special dinner in Spokane on June 28, 1985, as he retired, and the WSU Foundation established the Glenn Terrell Presidential Scholarship, which has brought many highly qualified students to WSU in his honor.
Gen DeVleming was secretary to Presidents French, Beasley (interim), and Terrell. She also recalls wiener roasts at the Compton residence.
Our Story site map
Our Story is coordinated by
In partnership with
Our Story and Washington State Magazine are publications of Washington State University. All rights reserved.
P.O. Box 641040, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-1040 USA | firstname.lastname@example.org, 509-335-7628
Accessibility | Copyright | Policies