100 Year Anniversary of SPU’s Name Change

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 

Gold Stars on the Honor Roll: Remembering Then and Now

One of the larger sized items in the SPU Archives is the Honor Roll, or, more correctly, the Honor Roll of Seattle Pacific College Students in the Armed Service of Our Country.  It is a list of the students who served in various military branches during the Second World War.

Honor Roll

The top portion of the Honor Roll plaque held in the Archives – some of the letters have been lost

Looking for a way to honor their fellow students who had left school to fight for the United States, SPC students held a donation drive during the 1942-43 school year to fund a lasting tribute to those who served. An article in the May 27, 1943 Falcon newspaper states:

“The realization of the small part we [students still on campus] are playing in this great struggle for freedom as compared with the hardships you[students who enlisted] are enduring, has created a feeling about the campus that we must do more for you – honor you to the best of our ability.”

Out of this feeling arose the plan for a permanent plaque in your honor.That plan led to the plaque that is held by the Archives today. Subsequent issues of the Falcon mention adding names to the plaque as more students were called to serve.

Plaque Names

Some of the names of students who served – both men and women are recognized on the plaque

During the summer of 1944, the plaque was placed in the main hall of the Administration Building (Peterson Hall today) to help students remember their fellow students who were serving.

The Falcon, Nov 2, 1945The plaque on the wall in Peterson Hall, photo from the Falcon November 2, 1945.

Unfortunately, not every SPC student who served returned alive. Those who gave their lives had a gold star placed next to their names. Of the 309 names on the plaque, 10 names are accompanied by a gold star.

Names with Star

Some of the names on the plaque, including one gold star

The plaque is no longer in Peterson Hall; it is now housed in the University Archives. But the students’ vision of a permanent honor of those who served is still present on campus. The Chapel on the second floor of Alexander Hall has a memorial to all Seattle Pacific students who gave their lives in military service.

Alexander Chapel Memorial

The memorial in the Alexander Chapel – the bottom lines read: In honor of Seattle Pacific Veterans of Foreign wars/In Memory of Seattle Pacific Alumni who died/in defense of Liberty and Justice for All

– Adrienne Meier, Social Sciences Librarian and University Archivist


I receive many archives questions via telephone call, but this was definitely one of the most interesting. The woman on the other end of the line described her question: a family history search had turned up a family member name in a US census from the 1920s. This family member, George, had been a young boy, elementary age, at the time of the census, and the census taker had registered him as being an “inmate” at Seattle Pacific College. What could that possibly mean?

In the early part of the 20th century, teacher training was done at “Normal Schools,” and part of that training involved, as it does today, practice teaching on actual students. In current times, teachers-in-training go to elementary or secondary schools to do this practice teaching, but in the early part of last century, many Normal Schools had their own elementary schools attached, so that the trainee teachers wouldn’t have to go far to find students to practice on. Seattle Pacific’s Normal School (the forerunner to today’s School of Education) had its own small elementary school, which was also a boarding school. The students there would come from far away and live on campus during the school year.

Perhaps you, knowing this, can see why young George would be at Seattle Pacific College. He was one of the boarding students in the Normal School’s Elementary Department. A search of the SPC Catalog from the year in question revealed his name on a list of students in the Normal School Elementary Class, along with those of his classmates and the full-time teacher who taught the students when they weren’t being “practiced on” by the Normal School Trainee Teachers.

What about the term “inmate,” though? Think of the poor census taker, faced with a group of elementary aged boys and girls living at a college! He probably had no good term to use to classify them, and had to pick from a list of less-than-perfect words to describe the students. While some of the implications of the term “inmate” are unfortunate, it does get at the fact that the children lived on the campus, which is really all the census needed to know.

I sent a set of scans from the SPC catalog to the researcher, including George’s name on the class list, some information about the Normal School, including tuition and room and board rates, and a photograph of the building the elementary students had classes in. Another mystery solved by the archives!

To read more about the history of teacher training at SPC, read Clint Kelly’s Response article regarding the subject.

Adrienne Meier/University Archivist