Established on January 18, 1856, 11 founders established what is now known as Western Oregon University. It started with a group of Disciples of Christ members looking to establish a church community and an institution of higher education in Oregon.

With the help of settlers who donated land and money, and financial support from members of local government members, Monmouth University was founded.

The founders were Reuben Boise, Hezekiah Burford, Ira F.M. Butler, Thomas Hutchinson, David R. Lewis, Thomas H. Lucas, William Mason, John E. Murphy, Samuel Simmons, John B. Smith, and Squire S. Whitman.

In 1882, the establishment became a center for training teachers for public and private elementary and secondary schools, titled Oregon State Normal School, but decreased funding resulted in OSNS being closed for a year. When it reopened, it became Oregon Normal School, another teacher training institution that hosted national and regional leaders in education who paved the way in formulating curricula that were adopted by schools throughout the state.

WOU is known today for its College of Education, which offers bachelors and graduate degrees in American Sign Language, Education, and a bachelor degree in community health and exercise science.

Other popular degrees include psychology and business.

The university has gone by many different names since its establishment in 1856, originally called Monmouth University.

From there, it took on the titles of Christian College (1865-82); Oregon State Normal School (1882-1909); Oregon Normal School (1911-39); Oregon College of Education (1939-81); Western Oregon State College (1981-1997), and finally, in 1997, Western Oregon University.

Some interesting facts about WOU throughout the years:

In 1887, members of that year’s graduating class planted the now-123 foot Sequoia tree that is used for the annual holiday tree lighting.

In 1962, the secretary of the American Communist Party, Gus Hall, gave a controversial speech at OCE that created an uproar from parents, alumni and church groups prior to Hall’s appearance, and ended up being known as the Gus Hall Affair.

On Columbus Day in October 1962, a storm swept through the campus of OCE and severely damaged parts of it, including ripping off the gothic-style tower on Campbell Hall that had been its landmark.

Many of the buildings are named after the leaders and graduates of WOU throughout the years since its foundation, such as John H. Ackerman, ONS President and state superintendent of schools; Roy E. Lieuallen, OCE President and Chancellor of the State System of Higher Education; and Jessica Todd, dean of women at ONS.

The school athletic teams prior to 1928 were known as the Normals. That September, football coach Larry Wolfe suggested that the school needed an official mascot, and on November 13, 1928, the Wolf became the school’s official mascot.

A fun fact: it is said that the ghost of Jessica Todd still lingers around the university, continuing to watch over students.

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