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Campus Message: Whitworth University Name Change

Oct. 14, 2005

Several hours ago our board of trustees took momentous action by voting to change the name of Whitworth College to Whitworth University. Immediately following the decision (made with 18 in favor of the change and 14 opposed), the board voted unanimously to express strong support for the institution as we move forward to implement the name change. The purpose of this communication is to a) reiterate why Whitworth is making this change, b) explain why it was such a hard decision for the board to reach, and c) comment on how the change will be implemented.

Because we love the Whitworth culture and character, it is important that you know we will compromise neither in making this change. The fact, however, is that schools in our part of the country with a profile resembling ours commonly call themselves universities. Of the top 15 schools in this year's U.S. News & World Report ranking of best master's-level universities in the West, only Whitworth and one other school bear the name "college." Moreover, in the countries around the globe from which we hope to continue drawing students, a post-secondary institution would rarely be called a college. For these and many other reasons related to clarity, the board felt Whitworth would inevitably rename itself and that we should make the change while we are in the strongest period in our history.

So why was it such a close vote? Many thoughtful concerns were expressed about the name change. We received well over 2,000 applications this year for a freshman class with an average SAT score above 1,200, so we don't need the change to attract good students. Our strong and clear emphasis on the liberal arts sounds more like that of a college than that of a university. The warm and supportive campus culture we enjoy is more often associated with colleges. And we do not want to do anything in which our dual commitment to honoring Christ and welcoming challenging ideas could get lost in the process.

Because we feel no urgency to make this change, we will proceed at a pace that allows us to minimize the expenses and to assure people that the best of who we are will endure long into the future. The resolution reads that we will implement the change no later than 2009. I will work with our planning committee to decide on the most propitious actual timing.

We are thrilled to be at a point where we can celebrate a change that is being made for good, non-pretentious reasons. And I will be an enthusiastic cheerleader for this change. But we have committed ourselves to telling the truth and operating in a transparent way, and it would be misleading for me to create a face that made this decision look easy and clear. Frankly, I was so proud of the way this discussion and vote took place. In the presence of students, faculty and staff members, the board discussed the issue vigorously, yet respectfully. And for me personally, this was a Whitworth "mind-and-heart" moment. In my mind, I am firmly convinced that our decision is in the best interests of Whitworth. It is what I recommended. But in my heart, I'm doing a bit of grieving; I know that will pass in the excitement of all that lies ahead for our school.

I'm sure I've left out information that I should include in this note, but I wanted you to know this outcome as soon as possible. Thank you for your prayers. I believe we made this decision in a way that honored the God to whom we have dedicated our efforts and this school. This will go down as a great day for Whitworth.