WSU History

WSU History Highlights by Decade

Thompson Hall

Thompson Hall is the oldest major building on the Washington State University campus and served as home of the WSU Administration until 1968. It is among the most recognized and photographed campus facilities.

WSU History Highlights

  • The institution opening its doors with 59 students
  • on January 13, 1892, under the name Washington Agricultural College and School of Science.
  • Instruction beginning in 1895
  •  in what has become the College of Veterinary Medicine.
  • The story of football player Butch Meeker, for whom the WSU Cougar mascot is named, noted in 1926.
  • Naming, in 1957, of Frances Penrose Owen as the first woman on the WSU Board of Regents.
  • Eruption of Mount St. Helens
  •  on May 18, 1980, covering the campus in one-half inch of volcanic ash.
  • Selection in 1986 of WSU biochemist Clarence A. "Bud" Ryan for membership in prestigious National Academy of Sciences, the first WSU professor so honored.
  • Grand opening of Honors Hall 
  • in 2001, the new home of the nationally-acclaimed WSU Honors College, celebrating the college’s 40th anniversary.
  • WSU is ranked among the nation's top 50 public research universities.
  • Elson S. Floyd taking office
  •  in 2007 as WSU's tenth president.
  • $25 million grant
  •  for School of Global Animal Health from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, largest in WSU history, in 2008.
  • The 20th anniversary
  • of WSU Spokane, WSU Tri-Cities and WSU Vancouver, all founded in 1989.

There's much more! Take a "stroll" through the decades by using the links at the left. 

Over the decades, Washington State University has developed a rich history. Founded on March 28, 1890, as the state’s land-grant college by the Washington Legislature, WSU has grown from a single campus in Pullman into an internationally respected, multi-campus university today ranked among the top tier of American research institutions.

Highlights include:

You also can explore the history of WSU through the eras of its presidents. Or visit the Our Story segment at Washington State Magazine online for informal WSU history articles written by alumni, faculty, staff and students.

WSU History Highlights by Decade was originally compiled by Bob Smawley, then updated in May 1994 by Mark Peck and in March 1996 by Christina Parrish and Cynthia Hulse. Since then, it has been updated by Tim Marsh and Barbara Petura of University Relations.

University Relations, Washington State University, PO Box 641040, Pullman WA 99164-1040, 509-335-7391, Contact Us