Ralph Jarron Cordiner, a Walla Walla native, was born on March 20, 1900. Cordiner received his degree of Bachelor of Science from Whitman in 1922. After graduation, Cordiner joined the sales staff of the Pacific Power and Light Company. Soon thereafter he joined the sales staff of the Edison General Electric Appliance Company based in Portland. In 1927, he became the Northwest manager of this company and by 1930 he was chosen as Pacific Coast Manager. In 1932, Ralph Cordiner was appointed manager of the heating appliance division of the General Electric Company.
In 1939 he became president of Schick, Inc., but three years later Cordiner was called to Washington to serve as Director of War Production Scheduling. Not long thereafter he became the Vice-Chairman of the War Production Board.
After the war Cordiner returned to General Electric Company in July of 1943 as Assistant to the President. In 1945 he was elected to the office of Vice-President within the company. He was then elected President and Chief Executive Officer in 1950 and Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer in 1961. Cordiner retired from the General Electric Company in 1963.
Upon his retirement, the Board of Directors of the General Electric Company wished to commemorate Mr. Cordiner's services not only to the Company but to the nation by erecting a suitable memorial to the man in recognition of his contributions to almost every field of human endeavor. Upon Mr. Cordiner's recommendation, it was decided to establish the memorial on the campus of Whitman College.
After considerable study it was determined that a first-class auditorium with outstanding acoustics would best serve the needs not only of the College but also of the community of which Mr. Cordiner was a citizen. The General Electric Company gave $500,000 towards the establishment of this auditorium, the completion of which was made possible through the generous gifts of hundreds of dedicated friends of Whitman College.