Whitman College
Former names
Whitman Seminary (1859–1882)
Per ardua surgo
Motto in English
Through adversities I rise
TypePrivate liberal arts college
EstablishedDecember 20, 1859; 164 years ago (1859-12-20)
Religious affiliation
Protestant (ceased in 1907)
Academic affiliation
Oberlin Group
Annapolis Group
Endowment$839.7 million (2022)[1]
PresidentSarah Bolton
Academic staff
188 (2022) Full-time [2]
Undergraduates1,493 (2022)[3]

46°04′15″N 118°19′44″W / 46.0707°N 118.3289°W / 46.0707; -118.3289
CampusRural, small town, 117 acres (47 ha)
Colors   Blue and gold[4]
Sporting affiliations

Whitman College is a private liberal arts college in Walla Walla, Washington. The school offers 53 majors and 33 minors in the liberal arts and sciences,[5] and it has a student-to-faculty ratio of 9:1.[6]

Founded as a seminary by a territorial legislative charter in 1859, the school became a four-year degree-granting institution in 1882 and abandoned its religious affiliation in 1907.[7] It is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities and competes athletically in the NCAA Division III as a member of the Northwest Conference.[6]

Alumni have received 1 Nobel Prize in physics, 1 Presidential Medal of Freedom, 5 Rhodes Scholarships,[8] and 93 Fulbright Fellowships.[9][10]

The Memorial Building, Whitman College


This section needs expansion with: post-war history. You can help by adding to it. (June 2023)

Whitman Seminary

In 1859, soon after the United States military declared that the land east of the Cascade Mountains was open for settlement by American pioneers, Cushing Eells traveled from the Willamette Valley to Waiilatpu, near present-day Walla Walla, where 12 years earlier, Congregationalist missionaries Marcus Whitman and Narcissa Whitman, along with 12 others were killed by a group of Cayuse Indians during the Whitman Massacre. While at the site, Eells became determined to establish a "monument" to his former missionary colleagues in the form of a school for pioneer boys and girls. Eells obtained a charter for Whitman Seminary, a pre-collegiate school, from the territorial legislature. From the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, he acquired the Whitman mission site. Eells soon moved to the site with his family and began working to establish Whitman Seminary.

Despite Eells's desire to locate Whitman Seminary at the Whitman mission site, local pressure and resources provided a way for the school to open in the burgeoning town of Walla Walla. In 1866, Walla Walla's wealthiest citizen, Dorsey Baker, donated land near his house to the east of downtown. A two-story wood-frame building was quickly erected and classes began later that year. The school's first principal, local Congregational minister Peasly B. Chamberlin, resigned within a year and Cushing Eells was called upon to serve as principal, which he did until 1869. After Eells's resignation in 1869, the school struggled—and often failed—to attract students, pay teachers, and stay open for each term.[11]

From seminary to college

Whitman's trustees decided in 1882 that while their institution could not continue as a prep school, it might survive as the area's only college. Alexander Jay Anderson, the former president of the Territorial University (now the University of Washington), came to turn the institution into a college and become its president. After modeling the institution after New England liberal arts colleges, Anderson opened the school, Whitman College, on September 4, 1882 (Marcus Whitman's birthday) with an enrollment of 60 students and three senior faculty (Anderson, his wife and son). In 1883, the school received a collegiate charter and began expanding with aid from the Congregational American College and Education Society.[11]

Financial turmoil and new leadership

Despite local support for Whitman College and help from the Congregational community, financial troubles set in for the school. After losing favor with some of the school's supporters, Anderson left Whitman in 1891 to be replaced by Reverend James Francis Eaton. The continuing recession of the 1890s increased the institution's financial worries and lost Eaton his backing, leading to his resignation in 1894.[11]

Reverend Stephen Penrose, an area Congregational minister and former trustee, became president of the college and brought the school back to solvency by establishing Whitman's endowment with the aid of D. K. Pearsons, a Chicago philanthropist. By popularizing Marcus Whitman's life and accomplishments (including the false claim that the missionary had been pivotal in the annexation by the United States of Oregon Territory), Penrose was able to gain support and resources for the college. Under his leadership, the faculty was strengthened and the first masonry buildings, Billings Hall and the Whitman Memorial Building, were constructed.[11]

End of religious affiliation

In 1907, Penrose began a plan called "Greater Whitman" which sought to transform the college into an advanced technical and science center. To aid fundraising, Penrose abandoned affiliation with the Congregational Church, and became unaffiliated with any denomination. The prep school was closed and fraternities and sororities were introduced to the campus. Ultimately, this program was unable to raise enough capital; in 1912, the plan was abandoned and Whitman College returned to being a small liberal arts institution, albeit with increased focus on co-curricular activities.[11] Penrose iterated the school's purpose "to be a small college, with a limited number of students to whom it will give the finest quality of education".[12] In 1920 Phi Beta Kappa installed a chapter,[11] the first for a Northwest college,[13] and Whitman had its first alum Rhodes Scholar.[11]

World War II

During World War II, Whitman was one of 131 colleges and universities nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program which offered students a path to a Navy commission.


"Styx" (2002), by Deborah Butterfield, sits on Ankeny Field.
A view toward the Quad from the steps of Penrose Library.

Whitman's 117 acre campus is located in downtown Walla Walla, Washington. Most of the campus is centered around a quad, which serves as the location for intramural field sports. Around this, Ankeny Field, sits Penrose Library, Olin Hall and Maxey Hall, and two residence halls, Lyman and Jewett. South of Ankeny Field, College Creek meanders through the main campus, filling the artificially created "Lakum Duckum", the heart of campus and the habitat for many of Whitman's beloved ducks.

The oldest building on campus is the administrative center, Whitman Memorial Building, commonly referred to as "Mem". Built in 1899, the hall, like the college, serves as a memorial to Marcus and Narcissa Prentiss Whitman. The building is the tallest on campus and was placed on the National Historical Register of Historic Places in 1974. The oldest residence halls on campus, Lyman House and Prentiss Hall, were built in 1924 and 1926. Over the next fifty years, the college built or purchased several other buildings to house students, including the former Walla Walla Valley General Hospital, which was transformed into North Hall in 1978. In addition to the nine residence halls, many students choose to live in one of eleven "Interest Houses," run for sophomore, juniors, and seniors committed to specific focuses such as community service, fine arts, environmental studies, multicultural awareness, or the French, Spanish, or German languages. These houses, like most of the residential architecture of Walla Walla, are in the Victorian or Craftsman style.

In addition to property in Walla Walla, the college also has about 22,000 acres (89 km2) of other land holdings – mainly in the form of wheat farms in Eastern Washington and Oregon. Of special note: the Johnston Wilderness Campus, which is used for academic and social retreats.


Whitman College focuses solely on undergraduate studies in the liberal arts. All students must take a two-semester course their first year, Encounters, which examines cultural interactions throughout history and gives students a grounding in the liberal arts. Students choose from courses in 48 major fields and 34 minor fields[14] and have wide flexibility in designing independent study programs, electing special majors, and participating in internships and study-abroad programs. In addition, Whitman is noted for a strong science program. Its three most popular majors, based on 2021 graduates, were:[15] Biological and Biomedical Sciences (33), Research and Experimental Psychology (32), and Economics (30).

In early 2021, Whitman president Kathleen Murray proposed substantial cuts to a number of social science, humanities, arts, and other academic programs in anticipation of a $3.5 million budget deficit for the 2021–2022 academic year, prompting criticism from students, faculty, and alumni.[16][17][18][19]

Degrees are awarded after successful completion of senior "comprehensive exams". These exams vary depending on the students' primary focus of study, but commonly include some combination of (i) a senior thesis, (ii) written examination, and (iii) oral examination. The oral examination is either a defense of the student's senior thesis, or is one or multiple exams of material the student is expected to have learned during their major. The written exam is either a GRE subject test or a test composed by the department.

Academic rankings
Liberal arts
U.S. News & World Report[20]38
Washington Monthly[21]53
WSJ/College Pulse[23]98

For students who are interested in foreign policy, Whitman is one of 16 institutions participating in the two-year-old Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship program.[24][25] The State Department pays for fellows to obtain their master's degree at the university of their choice in return for three years of service as a Foreign Service Officer. Whitman has a number of alumni who serve in diplomatic corps.

Combined programs

Whitman also offers combined programs in conjunction with several institutions throughout the United States:[26]

Off-campus programs

Whitman offers a "Semester in the West" program, a field study program in environmental studies, focusing on ecological, social, and political issues confronting the American West. During every other fall semester since 2002, 21 students leave Walla Walla to travel throughout the interior West for field meetings with a variety of leading figures in conservation, ecology, environmental writing, and social justice.[27]

Whitman also offers "The U.S.-Mexico Border Program" every other June. The program is based in Arizona and Sonora, Mexico, and exposes students to a wide range of competing perspectives on the politics of immigration, border enforcement, and globalization.[28]

Since 1982, "Whitman in China" provides Whitman alumni the opportunity to teach English at Northwestern Polytechnical University, Shantou University, or Yunnan University. Participants receive an immersion experience in urban Chinese culture, where they can witness the rapid modernization of the country. At the same time, Whitman alumni give Chinese university students the rare chance to study with an English native speaker.[29]

Whitman also offers a large range of year- or semester-long off-campus study programs - 88 programs across 40 countries,[30] and a few short-term, faculty-led programs.[31]

Admission Office in the summer of 2009.

Student Engagement Center

In 2010, under the leadership of (former) President George Bridges, Whitman centralized and integrated various programs intended to help students connect their in-class learning to off-campus work, volunteer, and internship opportunities in the Walla Walla Valley. The office that emerged, the Student Engagement Center (SEC), houses community service and career services in one place. Students and alumni can get assistance with resumes, cover letters, networking, internships, interviews, grad school applications, and civic engagement in the SEC.


Whitman's admission selectivity is considered "more selective" by U.S. News & World Report.[32] For the Class of 2023 (enrolling Fall 2019), Whitman received 4,823 applications and accepted 2,697 (55.9%), with 425 enrolling.[33] The middle 50% range of SAT scores for enrolling freshmen was 630-710 for evidence-based reading and writing, and 610-740 for math.[33] The middle 50% ACT score range was 25-31 for math, 30-35 for English, and 28-33 for the composite.[33]

For 2020, students of color (including non-citizens) made up 36.8% of the incoming class;[33] international students were 8.8% of enrolling freshmen.[33]

In May 2022, Whitman College announced a $10 million donation made in memory of long-time professor of 35 years J.Walter Weingart. The donation is set to fund full scholarships for all in-state students with financial need. The J. Waler and Katherine Weingart opportunity scholarship will begin distribution in 2023 and will annually support 500 in-state students.[34]


Whitman Blues Logo

Whitman holds membership in the NCAA's Northwest Conference (Division III) and fields nine varsity teams each for men and women. More than 20 percent of students participate in a varsity sport. In addition, 70 percent of the student body participates in intramural and club sports. These sports include rugby union, water polo, lacrosse, dodgeball, and nationally renowned cycling and ultimate teams. In 2016, the college adopted the new mascot for the school and its athletes of the "Blues", named after the local mountain range. Whitman's athletic teams had formerly used the nickname "Missionaries".

As a junior in 2012–13, basketball player Ben Eisenhardt led the Northwest Conference (NWC) in scoring (442 points), became the first Missionary to be named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches Division 3 All-American Third Team as a junior, and was named NWC Player of the Year.[35][36]

The club-sport-level Whitman cycling team has won the DII National Championships for two years, and four times in six years, making them the athletic team at Whitman with the most national championships. The women's ultimate team, also a club sports team, finished second to Stanford in Division I play in 2016.[37] The football program began in 1892 and ended in March 1977; the last winning season was in 1969.[38][39][40]

Student life

Of the 1,579 undergraduate students enrolled in Whitman College in the fall of 2019, 55.3% were female and 44.7% male.[33] There are over one hundred student activities, many of which focus on student activism and social improvement, such as Whitman Direct Action and Global Medicine.

Greek life

Greek life has a long history at Whitman, with many chapters dating back to a century or more and having the first chapters in the Pacific Northwest. Some claim that around 33% of students are involved in the Greek system.

KWCW 90.5 FM

KWCW 90.5 FM is a Class A radio station owned and operated by the Whitman Students' Union, the Associated Students of Whitman College (ASWC).[41][42][43][44]

"K-dub" as it is known to students, is located inside the Reid Campus Center on Whitman Campus. At a power of 160 watts, the station's range is approximately 15 miles (24 km), broadcasting as well as streaming online[45][46]

Notable alumni

Main article: List of Whitman College alumni


  1. ^ As of June 30, 2021. Consolidated Financial Statements (PDF) (Report). June 30, 2021. pp. 1–41. Retrieved March 16, 2023.
  2. ^ "College Navigator - Whitman College".
  3. ^ "College Navigator - Whitman College".
  4. ^ "Color Palette". Whitman College. Archived from the original on April 24, 2019. Retrieved April 11, 2024.
  5. ^ "Departments and Programs". Retrieved April 14, 2017.
  6. ^ a b Fast Facts About Whitman College, Retrieved September 20, 2015.
  7. ^ History of Whitman College, Retrieved May 15, 2017.
  8. ^ "U.S. Rhodes Scholarships Number of Winners by Institution U.S. Rhodes Scholars 1904 – 2023" (PDF).
  9. ^ "Fellowship and Scholarship Recipients". Whitman College. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  10. ^ Whitman College (2021). "Whitman Newsroom".
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  12. ^ Edwards, Thomas G. The Triumph of Tradition: The Emergence of Whitman College, 1859–1924 Whitman College 1993 p 424
  13. ^ "About Whitman College". Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  14. ^ "Whitman College Catalog". Whitman College. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  15. ^ "Whitman College". nces.ed.gov. U.S. Dept of Education. Retrieved February 21, 2023.
  16. ^ Murray, Kathy (February 2, 2021). "Preliminary Working Group Reports". Whitman College. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
  17. ^ Murray, Kathy (March 3, 2021). "Final Working Group Reports". Whitman College. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
  18. ^ Burnham, Burnham (February 25, 2021). "Whitman College considers cuts to prevent future budget crisis". Union-Bulletin.com. Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
  19. ^ Allen, Henry (February 9, 2021). "OP-ED: Whitman proposes deep cuts to humanities, arts and languages". Whitman Wire. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
  20. ^ "Best Colleges 2024: National Liberal Arts Colleges". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved September 20, 2023.
  21. ^ "2023 Liberal Arts Rankings". Washington Monthly. Retrieved September 25, 2023.
  22. ^ "Forbes America's Top Colleges List 2023". Forbes. Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  23. ^ "2024 Best Colleges in the U.S." The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse. Retrieved January 27, 2024.
  24. ^ "Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation: Undergraduate Foreign Affairs". Archived from the original on May 13, 2007.
  25. ^ [1] Archived April 12, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ "Departments and Programs". Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  27. ^ "Semester in the West". Semester in the West.
  28. ^ "U.S.-Mexico Border Program".
  29. ^ "Whitman in China Program".
  30. ^ "Fast Facts".
  31. ^ "Faculty-led off-campus courses".
  32. ^ "National Liberal Arts Colleges Rankings". U.S. News & World Report. 2020.
  33. ^ a b c d e f "Whitman College Common Data Set 2019-2020, Part C" (PDF). Whitman College.
  34. ^ "Whitman College receives $10 million gift for financial aid". Philanthropy News Digest. May 10, 2022. Retrieved May 10, 2022.
  35. ^ "Ben Eisenhardt - 2013-2014 - Men's Basketball". Whitman College Athletics.
  36. ^ Snyder, Dylan. "Dream continues for Whitman's own Ben Eisenhardt". Whitman Wire.
  37. ^ "Stanford 1st, Whitman 2nd in 2016 Women's Ultimate Division I Championships". USA Ultimate. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  38. ^ "Whitman drops grid". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. March 1, 1977. p. 15.
  39. ^ "Whitman drops football". Spokane Daily Chronicle. (Washington). Associated Press. March 1, 1977. p. 24.
  40. ^ "Whitman may drop football". Ellensburg Daily Record. (Washington). UPI. March 1, 1977. p. 6.
  41. ^ "KWCW-FM 90.5 MHz - Walla Walla, WA". radio-locator.com.
  42. ^ "KWCW 90.5 Walla Walla". KWCW 90.5 Walla Walla.
  43. ^ "KWCW". July 26, 2011. Archived from the original on July 26, 2011.
  44. ^ "KWCW 90.5 FM Walla Walla". January 11, 2006. Archived from the original on January 11, 2006.
  45. ^ "KWCW". player.abovecast.com.
  46. ^ "SHOUTcast Server".

Further reading