This year, in 2015, SPU celebrates one hundred years since changing its name from “Seattle Seminary” to “Seattle Pacific College” – later to become “Seattle Pacific University”.
The Board of Trustees of Seattle Seminary met on March 10, 1915. The minutes of that meeting record that they discussed the hiring and retaining of faculty; voted to retain Alexander Beers as president of the school and his wife Adelaide as preceptress (head teacher); heard a report on the finances of the school; and discussed the continuation of the College Course.
College level classes had been offered at Seattle Seminary beginning in 1910. In that year, a few freshman classes were added to the catalog, with a tentative goal of establishing a junior college program. Enrollment in the new program was strong enough for the Board to consider a full four-year program instead of a junior program, and they began to move in that direction. New classes were added each year to keep up with the original freshman class. The Free Methodist denomination, however, opposed the move toward a college program, and delayed the curriculum for a year. Despite this initial opposition from the denomination, the Board persisted and the first college class graduated in 1915.
On March 10, 1915, the Board of Trustees decided that the college program should be continued, and that a name change was needed to reflect the new reality of the institution. According to the minutes from that meeting, the new name decided on was “Seattle Pacific College.” The text of the minutes along with a transcription follows:
After much discussion with reference to the nature of the college course so presented in the school it was moved and carried that the College Course of 4 years be continued in the school. The change of the name of the institution being ordered on account of the college work being done, after much discussion and on motion the Secretary was instructed to cast a ballot bearing the ^new name of the institution. The name of on the ballot read – “Seattle Pacific College”.
The “Seattle” and “College” portions of the name are self-explanatory. However, the minutes are silent on the origin of “Pacific,” and the archival record gives no indication of where the full name came from. Tradition had it that C.S. McKinley, president of the Board of Trustees in 1915, came up with the name, but no written record has been found to substantiate the claim.
Despite its uncertain origin, the name “Seattle Pacific” has now remained with the institution for 100 years.
- Adrienne Meier, University Archivist