WALLA WALLA, Wash.-- George Bridges, Whitman College president since July 1, will preside over Convocation ceremonies here Saturday, Aug. 27, at 10:30 a.m. in Cordiner Hall, welcoming students, parents, faculty and staff to the 2005-2006 academic year. Classes for approximately 1,450 new and returning students will begin at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 30. The college expects its entering class to include approximately 395 students.

  Bridges, 54, is the college’s 13th president. A Seattle native, Bridges succeeds Tom Cronin, who stepped down from the presidency June 30 after 12 years.

  Bridges, a University of Washington alumnus, had served as professor of sociology at the UW since 1982, as associate dean of undergraduate education since 1998, and as dean and vice provost of undergraduate education since 2002.

 Whitman will celebrate its 123rd opening week on a positive note. The college, which has seen a 36 percent increase in applications for admission during the past four years, received an all-time high of 2,648 applications for the entering class.

 Once enrolled, Whitman students remain among the happiest in the country, according to rankings such as those published in the annual Princeton Review study. Backing up the study’s results are the college’s retention and graduation rates, which show that once at the college, students return until they receive their degrees. Whitman posts a retention rate of about 94 percent for freshmen returning as sophomores, and its current graduation rate of 86 percent places it in the top four liberal arts colleges west of the Mississippi.

 Fully 25 percent of this year’s entering class is made up of American ethnic minority or international students, reflecting an upward trend in Whitman’s diversity enrollment. The entering class this year has a median SAT score of 1330 and a median ACT score of 30. 

  Whitman’s endowment and support network of private and corporate donors provide financial support to maintain an average class size of 15 and a faculty-to-student ratio of 1 to 10. About 50 percent of Whitman students receive need-based aid, with more than 80 percent receiving some form of financial aid from Whitman. For 2004-2005, the average need-based award was $19,500. 

  The college raised approximately $10.6 million during the 2004-2005 fiscal year, with contributors providing key funding for the Baker Ferguson Fitness Center and securing an endowed chair in global studies. In addition, the $4 million reunion gift from the class of 1955 will allow the college to add at least one more faculty position in the future. For the 22nd consecutive year, more than 50 percent of Whitman alumni contributed to the annual fund, placing the college, again, among the top 20 in the nation in percentage of alumni support.

  Donations and fund-raising efforts in recent years have yielded expanded science instruction facilities, the Reid Campus Center and additions to Penrose Library. The college broke ground on the Baker Ferguson Fitness Center this spring, will begin construction of a new health center this fall, and is currently raising funds for a new studio arts building.

  For more information about Whitman events, including opening week activities, please visit the Whitman College homepage at www.whitman.edu. For more information about admission, call 527-5176; for information on fund raising, call development at 527-5166; for other questions, call the news service at 527-5156.




CONTACT: Lenel Parish, Whitman College News Service, (509) 527-5156

Email: parishlj@whitman.edu