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Mission & Heritage

Whitworth University is a private, residential, liberal-arts institution affiliated with the Presbyterian church. Whitworth's mission is to provide its diverse student body an education of mind and heart, equipping its graduates to honor God, follow Christ, and serve humanity. This mission is carried out by a community of Christian scholars committed to excellent teaching and to the integration of faith and learning.

Mac and Ballard Hall OldOur Heritage

Through its history, Whitworth has held fast to its founding mission to provide an education of mind and heart through rigorous and open intellectual inquiry guided by dedicated Christian scholars. 

In 1853, George Whitworth, a minister in the Ohio Valley, set off for the Western frontier to establish a college that would provide "learning of the highest grade." Of the 50 families who joined this mission trek to the Northwest, only Whitworth's made it to Oregon. It was 30 years before he was able to revive his dream of establishing a college.

In 1883, Whitworth founded Sumner Academy in the village of Sumner, in Washington Territory. Seven years later, the school was incorporated as Whitworth College. The catalog from that year further defined the vision: "It is intended to give both sexes a thorough course of education equal to that of our best Eastern colleges, guarding well the moral and religious life of the students, ever directing them in pursuit of that learning and culture of mind and heart that make the finished scholar. This institution is well fitted for this, being under the control and direction of the Presbyterian Church. While it is denominational, it does not aim to be sectarian, opening its doors to all lovers of truth and learning." In 1899, the college had outgrown the rural community of Sumner and moved to Tacoma. Fifteen years later, when Spokane developer Jay P. Graves offered land in his Country Homes Estates, Whitworth moved once more. In September 1914, classes began in Spokane.

Years of uncertainty followed until President Ward Sullivan brought needed stability in the 1930s. He was succeeded in 1940 by Frank F. Warren, who, during his 23-year presidency, brought the college to its present-day size and scope. The Diamond Jubilee, celebrated in 1965 during the administration of Mark L. Koehler, gave rise to innovative programs — the 4-1-4 calendar, January Term and the Core curriculum.

Edward B. Lindaman, president during the '70s, was a futurist. His leadership team focused on new programs that gained national recognition. Lindaman's successors, Robert H. Mounce and Arthur De Jong, added clarity of mission and an increase in international programs.

Whitworth's 17th president, William P. Robinson, was its second-longest-serving chief executive (1993-2010). Robinson led Whitworth to unprecedented strength and prominence, with record levels of enrollment and retention, significantly expanded facilities and financial resources and increased national visibility.

The Whitworth University Board of Trustees invited Beck A. Taylor to be Whitworth's 18th president in April 2010; Taylor says of the university, "What motivates our recent graduates, like generations of Whitworthians before them, is that they are pursuing a calling rather than a career. They seek to change the world and not just their own places in it. They lift up curiosity and conviction, grace and truth, responsibility and compassion in a culture that too often pits these values against one another." He adds, "I look forward to engaging with the Whitworth community in exploring how the university can live out this mission in new and exciting ways."

Click here to view a full list of the presidents who have served at Whitworth College/University.


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