Spokane Journal of Business

Celebrating mind-and-heart legacy


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Not only are we celebrating Avista’s 125th year of serving the Inland Northwest, but Whitworth University, my alma mater, is also celebrating the 125th anniversary of its founding.

This weekend, the university will hold a monumental celebration and will make a big announcement regarding future plans for its campus. What we envision will enable the university to sustain and build upon its distinctive mission to “provide its diverse student body an education of mind and heart.”

As the recently elected chair of Whitworth’s board of trustees, I wanted to share with you a bit of Whitworth’s history and the impact the institution has had on the region.

Whitworth’s story doesn’t begin in Spokane. After its founding in Sumner, Wash., in 1890, and then moving to Tacoma, in 1899, Whitworth College (the school was renamed Whitworth University in 2007) relocated to Spokane when developer Jay P. Graves, who had been looking to attract a college to the city, donated acreage to the school.

Money was still needed to complete the move, however. Enthusiastic Spokane citizens launched a campaign in January 1914 and reached their $70,000 goal within months. Whitworth broke ground in May 1914 in north Spokane, where the current 200-acre campus stands along Hawthorne Road. Whitworth has called Spokane home ever since.

Today, Whitworth’s relationship with Spokane continues to flourish. More than 7,000 alumni live and work in Spokane, and the university employs about 500 people. Each September, more than 1,000 Whitworth students, faculty and staff spread throughout the city on Community Building Day, volunteering thousands of hours at more than 30 organizations in Spokane. Serving others is integral to Whitworth’s mission. To that end, the university will begin tracking the hours of volunteers who serve in Whitworth’s name and who demonstrate this collective commitment of the university.

 Whitworth opened its downtown campus in 2009, making its nationally ranked education easily accessible to working adults who live in the region.

Among the class of 2014, 45 percent of the students studied abroad, becoming equipped to serve and lead in today’s global society, and bringing diverse cultural perspectives back to Spokane.

This fall, 624 freshman joined Whitworth as the class of 2018. These students represent the most diverse class ever at Whitworth, and they are among the most academically competitive classes we’ve had.

 In total, there are 2,260 undergraduate and 210 graduate students enrolled at Whitworth. Whitworth will provide nearly $50 million in grants and scholarships to these students this year, and over the next four years, they will be instructed by more than 150 teacher-scholars. These teachers are committed to open, rigorous intellectual inquiry and to the integration of faith and learning.

As a 1992 alum, I’m very proud to be a part of the Whitworth community as we embark on an exciting new chapter in the university’s history, and I’m even more proud that Spokane is where it’s all taking place.

Jason Thackston is senior vice president of energy resources for Spokane-based Avista Corp.

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