Cushing Eells

Feb. 16 marks the day Cushing Eells, Whitman College founder, was born in 1810 and died 83 years later, in 1893.  To honor his legacy, two celebrations of Founder’s Day were held –one on campus and another in Portland.

On campus, students, faculty and staff celebrated with “birthday” cake and viewed old issues of the Pioneer as well as a slideshow of photos from the 1800s through today.  Rogers Miles, senior adjunct assistant professor of religion, again dressed as and portrayed the role of Cushing Eells as he welcomed and greeted attendees.

A second event was held in Portland, where President Bridges delivered a Founder’s Day message to Whitman alumni, parents and friends who live in the greater Portland area.

The Reverend Cushing Eells founded the forerunner to Whitman College. He established Whitman Seminary in 1859 in memory of missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and others murdered in the Whitman massacre of 1847. Eells said he wanted to build a school, “to erect a befitting monument to the memory of our martyred missionary co-laborers in the form of a school of high moral character.” Cushing also played critical roles as trustee and fundraiser during the college’s early history.

“The history of an institution is important; it gives one a sense of place, of belonging,” said Nancy Mitchell, associate director of alumni directions and event organizer.  “It gives one a sense of pride and a sense of gratitude to those who have gone on before us.  Huge sacrifices were made to make this college what it is today, and we should never forget that.”

Celebrating Founder’s Day had been a long-held Whitman tradition that fell out of practice several years ago.  The Documenting the Past Committee of the Alumni Association Board of Directors is reviving the tradition with the goal to educate students and remind alumni about Whitman’s rich history.  The committee, formed by the Alumni Association in 2005, works in concert with the Whitman College and Northwest Archives. Members work to encourage alumni to send memorabilia – items that shed light on student life, including diaries, correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks, course-related materials, records of student organizations and activities – to the archives. Recent reunions have included open houses at the archives to invite alumni to see what has already been preserved.

--Ashley Coetzee