WSU – A Fascinating History

Although Washington State University may be rated as one of the top 100 party schools in the country, this University has a rich history.

How it Came to Be

In 1890, the Washington legislature voted to establish a state agricultural college and school of science. The process of finding a location began and was tied between Yakima and Whitman counties and their respective cities. In the end it came down to Tacoma and Pullman, with a last second decision to make Pullman the new home of this impending university.


Construction began the following year on the “Temporary Unit Building” and two years after voting to construct the college, it’s doors opened to thirteen collegiate and forty-six prep students. In that first year of educating there was also no tuition fee!

“Washington State College”, as it used to be known, quickly became a sports-centered school. Winning many games, matches and awards, this school was making waves. In 1894 they further proved their devotion to collegiate athleticism by beginning the construction of a new athletic field.

Constant Progress

Once WSU got rolling, nothing moved slowly. Subsequent years saw them opening up their veterinary school doors, the first graduates received their diplomas, they began a home economics and pharmacy course & the cougar was voted to be mascot.

Panorama of the Washington State University campus, Pullman, WA

By the time 1920 rolled around President Taft came and payed the college a visit. The Washington State College was proving to be progressive for its time- within one year the first African American student was graduating, and the college celebrated its first Women’s Day.

Before they knew it they were opening up a hospitality program, training soliders for WWII under government contract and re-enrolling over five thousand students per year. In 1959 the school voted to change the name to Washington State University and opened up their honor’s program.

The Later Years

The 1960’s brought more progression for this budding university. They opened the State of Washington Water Research Center, welcomed 37 into their new nursing class, and by 1970 had over 15,000 students.

Among one of those fifteen-thousand students was Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, and in the following year, the 50,000th student graduated. The school was proving to be more successful than anyone had dreamed it would be. They soon were branching out to smaller campuses across the state in Vancouver, Spokane and the Tri-Cities area.

WSU Campus

But they weren’t just branching out within the country. They were opening exchange programs in Russia and learning labs in Jordan & other countries across the world.

The 90’s brought the schools’ first large gift from Boeing to the tune over seven million dollars, which helped open their engineering, teaching and research lab. And before entering the new millennium the 150,000th student graduated.

WSU Pullman campus

Since then, the school has opened a medical school; thanks to Jay Inslee changing the legislature that previously mandated that only the University of Washington could teach medical professionals. WSU has also been rated the safest school in the state three times in a row and has celebrated 125 years of education.

More Information 

As of 2022, the school is 132 years old, and is welcoming thousands of new students a year. To find out more detailed information, check out this website.

MacKenzie Passegger

MacKenzie Passegger is the face behind our various social media accounts, and also routinely writes articles on our blogs (that you’re hopefully enjoying). She's a Washington state native who found herself settling in Austria after bouncing around Europe. When her toddler isn’t keeping her on her toes, she enjoys cooking, craft beer & traveling back home. Being away from Washington allows her to have a different perspective and has deepened her love for the Evergreen State.

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