A history worth celebrating

Day-long birthday party marks WWU 125th anniversary

Walla Walla University first opened its doors on Dec. 7, 1892, under less-than-ideal circumstances. On that cold Wednesday morning, a small community of dedicated Seventh-day Adventists gathered in the snow to consecrate an unfinished building that lacked central heat, running water, and functional kitchen stoves. They knew that conditions would be rough for a while, but they celebrated anyway, because that bleak morning represented a bright future.

Flash forward 125 years to Dec. 7, 2017. At 8:30 a.m., students, faculty, staff, and guests trudged across icy walkways to gather in front of the Administration Building where they reflected on the past and celebrated the future. Terrie Aamodt, professor of history and English, and alumnus Don Weaver ’56, took the crowd back to opening day, speaking in character as 1892 matron Sallie Sutherland and WWU benefactor and former Walla Walla mayor Nelson G. Blalock. The crowd then sang “Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow” as did the small community in 1892 on the first day of classes. At the close of the birthday commemoration service, ASWWU Campaign Committee chair Paul Rhynard presented WWU with a check for $185,035 from former student leaders for the new Student Life and Ministry Center project.

The morning commemoration program was just one of many events that took place throughout the day. The WWU School of Nursing Portland campus celebrated the anniversary two days earlier with a birthday lunch, and the College Place campus continued the birthday events into the evening.  

All day, Yogi Burgers at The Express were $1.25 off, and three pop-up parties appeared across campus with snacks for all to enjoy between classes. At noon, key participants in the Bowers Hall renovation project participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the recently transformed space for the School of Business, and the doors opened to the public for the first time. During lunch, signature WWU dishes and birthday cake were served in the Kellogg Hall dining room. Later in the afternoon, the Havstad Alumni Center hosted an open house to keep people warm until the evening finale—the College Place Winterfest—where the City of College Place teamed up with WWU for a parade down College Avenue, a tree lighting at City Hall, and a firework show on the edge of campus.

In spite of the freezing fog that loomed in the air during the quasquicentennial celebrations, the community turned out to be a part of something special. “It’s good to remind ourselves of who we are. We didn’t just happen,” said Aamodt. “This place didn’t just sprout up out of nothing for no reason. It’s bigger than any one of us; it’s bigger than any day of the year or any department or any particular classroom or any particular teacher.”

Posted Dec. 19, 2017

Wally the Wolf waves at the camera as he stands near a table with a bunch of green and orange balloons; the official WWU colors.
Wally the Wolf made several appearances throughout the day-long 125th anniversary celebration.
A crowd of WWU students, staff, and community members gather in front of the Admin building to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the college.
A large crowd gathered on front campus at 8:30 a.m. to kick off the celebration.
Though frost clings to the branches, students of WWU gather outside the Admin building to listen to John McVay, WWU president, speak.
Freezing temperatures and icy sidewalks didn't hinder the spirit of celebration and community at the morning program.
A grey limo, transporting Wally the Wolf, drives in the College Place Winterfest parade.
Wally the Wolf rode in style for the City of College Place Winterfest parade, which featured nearly 50 floats.