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10 things you didn’t know about UW history (Part 1)

Next month, the UW Alumni Association will debut an interactive timeline that puts your story next to 149 years of UW history. Disposable diapers, Baskin-Robbins and MySpace were all created by UW grads, but your piece of the story is just as important as theirs.

After all, what’s a world-class university without its alumni and friends.

That said, let’s take a trip down memory lane. From the Sept. 2004 issue of Columns, here are five things you probably didn’t know about UW history. We’ll recap the other five next week.

10) Down and dirty
Unofficially dubbed the “World’s First Trash-In,” Feb. 26, 1970 was a memorable day on the UW campus. Students were invited to bring trash from home as well as from the surrounding U District to special bins in front of the HUB. The items were to be separated into different categories (paper, plastic, glass and metal) and returned to the original producers with the request that they be reprocessed. The “trash-in” emphasized the excess of American life and helped boost Seattle’s recycling revolution.

9) UW Vikings
Washington’s athletic teams were nicknamed the Vikings for a short time in 1922. That came about when students wanted to dump the unpopular moniker Sun Dodgers but couldn’t come up with anything else. So, during semester break in December 1921, officials decided to go with Vikings. When the students returned to campus, however, they immediately protested the name change and the UW became the Huskies a few months later.

8) Madame President
For six months in 1874, the University of Washington had a female president. Mary “May” Thayer was born in 1838 either in New York, Massachusetts or Michigan (the records are unclear). She graduated from the State Normal School in Ypsilanti, Mich., and in March 1874 was named temporary president of the Territorial University of Washington. She served in that post until August.

7) Branching out in Bellevue
In the mid-1980s, higher ed officials in Washington state considered opening a trio of “branch campuses” to accommodate the growing number of UW applicants. Three sites—in Tacoma, Everett and Bellevue—were considered, but due to political reasons it was Bothell and Tacoma that were awarded campuses. Bellevue officials did not protest being dropped as a campus site and instead threw their support behind Bothell.

6) Fit to a tee
Had different decisions been made in the 1890s, the UW campus could have been located where Jefferson Park Golf Course stands in Beacon Hill. When the UW was moving from its original location in downtown Seattle, the Legislature specified that its new home must be situated on at least 100 acres. Potential sites included Fort Lawton (in Discovery Park), Interlaken Park (near the Arboretum) and what is now Jefferson Park, which became Seattle’s first public golf course in 1915.

Stay tuned for the remaining five things you didn’t know about UW history, and check out the interactive timeline when it launches Sept. 23.


6 Responses to “10 things you didn’t know about UW history (Part 1)”

  1. Bill Crumbaker wrote:
    August 26, 2010

    Who were the first 3 chancellors of the university of washington?

    • Derek Belt wrote:
      August 26, 2010

      Asa Shinn Mercer was the first president of the Territorial University of Washington. He served from 1861-1863 and was later elected to the Washington State Senate.

      William Edward Barnard was president from 1863-1866. He was also a successful lumberman and died on the steamship Magnolia while en route from China to Japan in 1910.

      George Frederick Whitworth twice served as president of the Territorial University: 1866-1868 and 1874 to 1876. He went on to found Whitworth College in Spokane.

      • Bill Crumbaker wrote:
        August 30, 2010

        Great Job – do you know if a John C Lawerence ever held this postion?

        • Derek Belt wrote:
          August 30, 2010

          It doesn’t look like a John C. Lawrence was president of the University of Washington. I ran the name through the UW’s search engine and came up with a few listings, but none of them were very helpful. I’ll keep an eye out, though, and if I find something will let you know.

          • Gary Keizur wrote:
            September 8, 2010

            It looks like John C. Lawrence was Superintendent of Public Instruction for the Territory of Washington from 1885 to 1887 (having held a county-level school superintendent position prior to that) and was elected to the first State Senate in 1889. After that he held several public service jobs until his retirement in 1912, but none as president of the University:


            In this document he describes the University as having six faculty members and sixty-five students. It’s a pretty interesting read.

  2. Omar Bushnaq wrote:
    August 27, 2010

    Great work Derek, this is great!

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