History of Presidents

Principal Mathes

Principal, Dr. Edward T. Mathes

May 1899-July 1914

  • Degrees: BS, MS, Heidelberg University (Ohio); University of Omaha (later Bellevue College) non-resident graduate study for six years, PhD in cursu. (Source: Annual Catalogue 1913)
  • Initially taught history and pedagogy in addition to serving as principal, later listed as teaching history and method
  • Presided over much of the initial growth of what was then New Whatcom State Normal School. The initial building was constructed in 1896 following the opening of the school in 1899 the building was added on to three times: 1902 Training School Annex, 1908 Science Annex, and additionally they added on to the Training School Annex in 1914. Enrollment went from 264 in 1899 (not counting the Training School with 80 students) to 615 for the 1913/14 year.
  • Faculty grew from 9 in 1899 to approximately 38.
Principal Deerwester

Acting Principal, Frank Deerwester

July 1st-31st, 1914

  • Degrees: AB Butler College; B.Div State Normal School (Warrensburg, Missouri); M Div New York University; Graduate work Harvard University, University of Jena and University of Berlin; PhD New York University.
  • Came to Western in 1907.
  • Taught psychology and education
  • Served as acting principal in July 1914.
President Nash

Principal, then President, Dr. George W. Nash

August 1st, 1914-March 31st, 1922

  • Initially known as principal he began service August 1, 1914, designated president in September 1914
  • Degrees: BS, MS Yankton College (Yankton, SD); Graduate student University of Minnesota and University of Leipzig, Germany; LL.D Yankton College.
  • Interestingly automobiles were banned from campus in 1916 and by 1919 they were considering building sheds for automobiles on campus.
  • At least two land purchases were made during his time in office. This allowed for the building of Edens Hall, and land for a future library.
  • Lakewood property (then Normalstad) was purchased during this time, though that was more driven by the students
  • Enrollment went from 743 in 1914/1915 to 1373 in the 1921/22 year.
  • Faculty now numbered approximately 58.
President Waldo

President, Dwight B. Waldo


  • Degrees: LL.D Kalamazoo College; Ph B Michigan Agricultural College; AM Albion, Michigan, College; student Harvard University;
  • He was particularly popular with the students and was credited with the school getting a track field which it named in his honor, Waldo Field. (Basically located where Miller Hall is now).
  • Enrollment reached a high of 1437 in 1922/23
President Fisher

President, Dr. Charles H. Fisher

July 1st, 1923-August 31st, 1939

  • Degrees: AB Lebanon Valley College (Annville, PA); AM University of Pennsylvania; attended Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania
  • He presided over a difficult time and a steady drop in enrollment for much of his time here from 1308 1923/24 year to a low of 756 in 1933/34 and a steady rise to 1124 in the 1938/39 year.
  • Despite student numbers he was quite successful in getting funds for a campus plan, a new Library (1928) and a new Physical Education Building (1936)
  • State law also authorized the granting of the Bachelor of Arts in Education (1933)
  • Western changes its name from Washington State Normal School at Bellingham to Western Washington College of Education. (1937)
  • Helped secure the Carnegie Corporation grant for the library ($9000 or $3000 each year for three years) (1938)
  • He was forced out in the summer of 1939. Supposedly the editor of the Bellingham Herald, Frank Sefrit, had hounded him for years about his leftist leanings.
  • Summer of 1939 (July 22, 1939) was also when the avalanche at Mount Baker took the lives of six students. Dr. Fisher was very involved in the recovery of their bodies etc.
President Haggard

President, Dr. William Wade Haggard


  • Degrees: BA Maryville College; MA University of Michigan; PhD University of Chicago; EdD (honorary) Maryville College
  • Famous for telling people to not walk on the grass in front of Old Main; also for putting notes in faculty mail boxes asking, “For a moment of your time.”
  • Enrollment fluctuated from 1225 1939/40 to a low of 418 at the height of the war (1943/44) to 2879 Haggards final year (1938/39)
  • Campus Building: Campus Elementary School (1942; today known as Miller Hall) ; Industrial Arts Building (1949); Auditorium Building (1951); Men’s Residence Hall (1947); Edens Hall North (1955); Highland Hall (1956); Student Union Building (1959) and the Heating Plant (1948)
  • Considerable land was also acquired for future development
  • Master of Education degree authorized (1947) and the Bachelor of Arts degree.
  • Faculty ranking introduced in 1949
  • Haggard was our longest serving president to date.
  • Haggard Hall of Science was named for him (1960).
President Jarrett

President, Dr. James L. Jarrett

September 1959-August 1964

  • Degrees: BS, MS University of Utah; PhD University of Michigan
  • Held faculty rank as Professor of Philosophy as well as President of the College
  • Dr. Jarrett had been president of the Great Books Foundation prior to coming to Western
  • He is credited with increasing the emphasis on high academic achievement and introduced a strong humanities core of courses
  • Re-organized and created new departments and programs
    • Honors Program established (1960)
    • Social Studies department splits into separate departments: History, geography, economics-business-government and Sociology-anthropology
    • Computer Center established (1962)
    • Physics Department established (1962)
    • Chemistry Department (1962)
    • Bureau for Faculty Research (1963)
    • Institute for Freshwater Studies (1963)
    • Master’s Degree in the Arts and Sciences authorized (1963)
  • Tremendous growth in faculty (he had hired 60 percent of the faculty that were here when he left in 1964)
  • Tremendous physical growth of campus during his time (Haggard Hall, Student Co-operative Book Store (1960), Highland Hall addition (1961), Degrees: BS, MS, PhD University of Illinois
  • Vikings Commons (1961), Ridgeway, Phase I, completed (1962), Humanities Building (1963), Ridgeway, Phase II (1963)
  • Enrollment: 1959/60 = 2954 and in 1963/64 = 4441
  • Many faculty members really appreciated Jarrett and the change he brought to Western. Many were hired by him. Some of those here when he came however had a different reaction – some of the industrial arts programs and the business education (typing) programs were targets and those faculty struggled to get tenure with a sudden change in the rules.
President Woodring

Acting President, Dr. Paul Woodring

July 16th, 1964-January 20th, 1965

  • Degrees: BSEd Bowling Green State University; MA PhD Ohio State University; Doctor of Humane Letters, Kalamazoo College; PhD (honorary)  Coe College; Doctors of Letters (honorary) Ripon College
  • Held rank as the Distinguished Service Professor of the College and Acting President
  • Served on Western faculty 1939 – 1974 (taught some until 1986).
  • Well known writer on education authoring over 10 books
President Bunke

President, Dr. Harvey C. Bunke

January 1965-September 1967

  • Degrees: BS, MS, PhD University of Illinois
  • Held rank as Professor of Economics and President of the College
  • There was a Forum on LSD on campus on February 4, 1967. This was controversial and Bunke apparently felt the need to move on.
  • Bunke favors maximum student press freedom” – The Collegian, November 20, 1964. This headline perhaps says it all. He believed in freedom of the press for students and equally expected them to be responsible. Another quote from this article, “Students should hear controversial speakers any time, regardless of circumstances.
President Flora

President, Dr. Charles J. Flora

September 1967-July 1975


  • Degrees: BS Purdue University; Med, EdD University of Florida
  • Held rank as Professor of Zoology and President of the College
  • Promoted from within the university. Came to Western in 1957 as faculty member, served as academic dean (1965-1967), before becoming interim and then president (1968)
  • He presided over a very contentious time in not only our history but that of the nation
    • Huge budget crisis and was forced to make a Reduction in Force which is still remembered by some at Western today
  • Returned to the faculty after his term as president ended
  • Enrollment when he started 7112 for the 1967/68 year roughly 8500 for the 1974/75 year.
  • See an interview with President Flora for Western Window Magazine
President Olscamp

President, Dr. Paul J. Olscamp

July 1975-July 1982

  • Degrees: BA, MA University of Western Ontario; PhD University of Rochester
  • Held rank as Professor of Philosophy and President of the College (later university)
  • He ended the All-College Senate and set up separate structures for the various constituencies
  • Department of Education became School of Education
  • Western became a university in September 1977
  • Olscamp left Western to become president of Bowling Green State University
  • Enrollment 1975/76 broke 9000 and in his final year 1981/82 broke 10,000 Fall quarter.
  • He also holds the Distinguished Service Professor of the University and is President Emeritus.
President Talbot

Acting President, James Talbot

July 1982-January 1983

  • Degrees: BA University of Cambridge; MA University of California, Berkeley; PhD University of Adelaide
  • Held rank originally as Vice President for Academic Affairs/Provost and Professor of Geology; then Executive Vice President for Academic  Affairs/Provost and then Acting President
President Ross

President, Dr. G. Robert Ross


  • Degrees: BS, MS Texas A & M; PhD University of Denver
  • Held rank as Professor of Educational Administration and Foundations and President of the University
  • Had open meetings with campus constituencies including faculty and classified staff authorizing release time for all individuals wishing to attend.
  • Did a lot to support engineering technology
  • Started exchange program with Asia University
  • Started the China Language Program (which also sent teachers to China as TESOL)
  • Supported community involvement which included the chili cook-off (fund raiser)
  • Served as president of the Fourth Corner Development Group
  • Improved “town and gown” relationship
  • Effective lobbyist with state legislature
  • Enrollment Fall 1983 9,617; Enrollment Fall 1987 9,559
  • Killed in a plane crash with two other Vice Presidents in November 1987
President Froderberg

Interim President, Dr. Al Froderberg

November 1987-September 1988

  • Degrees: BS, MS, PhD University of Washington
  • Under Ross he had become Special Assistant to the President for State Government Relations; then Assistant to the Vice President for Academic Affairs, John K. Yost, who in fact though hired never came to Western. Thus Froderberg was the default Vice President for Academic Affairs when Ross was killed in the plane crash, and Froderberg became interim president.
  • Steady hand during a traumatic time
  • Enrollment Fall 1987 9,559; enrollment Fall 1988 9,838
President Mortimer

President, Dr. Kenneth P. Mortimer

September 1988-March 1993

  • Degrees: AB (1960), MBA (1962) University of Pennsylvania; PhD (1969) University of California-Berkeley.
  • Goals:
    • Improving the quality of undergraduate education
      • Initiated assessment efforts
      • Moved to selective admissions policy
      • Sought to improve degree completion time and assure adequate course offering to achieve this
    • Increasing the diversity of faculty, staff and student body
    • Improving community relations (though many credited Ross with having done this)
    • Sought more faculty involvement in governance
  • Initiated Strategic Planning process for Western
  • Initiated the development of a Library Information System (made it a priority)
  • Much building initiated under his administration: Science complex, State Archives building
  • His appointment president of the University of Hawaii system and chancellor of the University of Hawaii at Manoe was announced November 25, 1993
  • Enrollment Fall 1988 9,838; enrollment Fall 1992 10,150 (Spring 1993 9,096)

Interim President, Dr. Roland DeLorme

March 1993 – August 1993

  • Degrees: BA University of Puget Sound; MA University of Pennsylvania; PhD University of Colorado.
  • Held rank as Professor of History; Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs; Interim President.
President Morse

President, Dr. Karen W. Morse

August 1993-August 2008

  • Degrees: BS (1962) Denison University; MS (1964) and PhD (1967) University of Michigan
  • Held rank as President and faculty member, 1993-2008
  • Enrollment Fall 1993 10,302; Enrollment Fall 2008 [12,100]
  • Big growth in the physical plant (some initiated under Mortimer):
    • Chemistry Building completed (1993)
    • Biology Building
    • Science Math and Technology Education
    • Renovation of Haggard Hall with skybridge to Wilson Library (1999)
    • Wade King Student Recreation Center
    • Campus Services Building
    • Communications Building
    • Academic Instructional Center (2008)
    • Renovation of Bond Hall, Viking Union and Edens Hall.
  • Under her Western entered into discussions for expansion to the Bellingham waterfront
  • Credited with fostering
    • collaborative student-centered academic environment
    • Innovative faculty teaching
    • Increased faculty-student research collaboration
    • Supported green energy and alternative transportation
  • Western became one of the premier public master’s granting universities in the nation
President Shepard

President, Dr. W. Bruce Shepard

September 2008-June 2016

  • Completed accreditation process underway following Morse’s retirement
  • Secured solid Legislative budget support during very tough times
  • Continued to build on fund-raising efforts initiating a capital campaign
  • Completed the first contract (and succeeding ones) with the faculty union