Class of 1961
Members of the Class of 1961 march in the 2011 Commencement processional. Pictured from the front of line to back: Karen McCormic Beierle; (marching in pairs) Pris Alsip Lange and Jerry Hillis; Nancy Greenawalt Washburn and Claire “Mimi” McLaughlin McCall; Patricia Boll Stevens and Diana Yansen Wisen; Dan Lindsey and, beside him with arm raised, Susan Vinyard; and Patrick Smith.

Fifty years ago, members of the Class of 1961 marched onto the grass of the campus Amphitheatre to receive their diplomas from Whitman’s eighth president, Lou Perry. In May 2011, many of them made that same march, although this time it brought them to the Memorial Building lawn, where the college’s 13th president, George Bridges, honored them collectively for reaching this half-century milestone.

In preparation for the 50-year reunion, Nancy Greenawalt Washburn ’61 polled her classmates and penned a report that illustrates their collective journey to, through and from Whitman. Out of their original class of about 200 students, 74 responded to the survey. Washburn’s report is excerpted here, along with some direct quotes from her classmates. An informal poll of the 2011 class yielded responses to some of the same questions their predecessors answered.

Here are complete answers from the 2011 informal surveys of the Classes of 1961 and 2011. (The 1961 survey was conducted and reported on by Nancy Greenawalt Washburn ’61 for the Class of 1961’s 50th reunion. The survey of 2011 students was informally conducted via e-mail during the week before Commencement.)

Making family history

1961: 19 were the first in their family to earn a degree.

2011: 44 were the first in their family to earn a degree.

At every Commencement, the graduates’ joy is rivaled only by the excitement of family and friends. (At left) Fans cheer for the 2011 graduates as the processional moves along Boyer Avenue and onto the Memorial Building lawn. (At right) At the 1950 Commencement, happy graduates and families move across campus from the Amphitheatre.

Where we came from

1961: Fifty-three from Washington state; nine, Oregon; seven, California; four, Idaho; one, Montana; one, Poland.
“We got to Whitman from high schools as varied as we were. Graduating classes ranged from five to 1,000! We did the usual activities, only with gusto, as evidenced by the fact that you didn’t have enough room to write them all. The highest math course question brought the expected results for that era. Only 15 women went beyond geometry to take Trig or Math Analysis with 23 men going as far as their high schools would teach them. … Surprising to me was that 40 percent of our class took Latin. Most students had at least two years of it and then gobbled up two years of another language.”

2011: Thirty-eight states; and eight countries. High school graduating classes ranged from one (home-schooled) to 1,000.

2011 Marshall

1967 Marshal The tradition of marshals — the juniors with the highest academic standing — leading the graduates in the processional dates to at least 1905 at Whitman. Pictured at left: Ryan Lutz ’12, one of 10 assistant marshals. (Above) The junior marshal leads the processional from Memorial Building to the Amphitheatre for the 1957 ceremony.

Making ends meet

1961: “It seems many of us hashed, or washed dishes, or had something to do with food service while we were students! The SUB sponsored many of our college careers, bless (SUB director) Vern Kinsinger’s heart, and Ruby (“cook and caterer and everything in the SUB kitchen/eating area”) was like a mother to more than a few of us. The library, music conservatory, even Health Center Director Genevieve Rasmussen in the infirmary helped us out. Many worked off-campus in fraternities, the Marcus Whitman Hotel, Odd Fellows Home, Continental Can pea cannery, and who was it that lived above the mortuary?”

2011: They funded their educations in these ways (on-campus jobs): website upkeep for Harper Joy Theatre; Teach for America; clerk, paper pusher, tour guide, student caller and senior intern in the Admission office; food delivery for Prentiss Dining Hall; cataloging and archive help in the library, America Reads/Counts; trip leader, trip coordinator, climbing instructor for the Outdoor Program; van driver for geology department; sociology department; Physical Plant; research assistant, lab assistant in biology; technology consultant in the Multimedia Development Lab; GLBTQ intern in Intercultural Center; bookstore; biology lab dishwasher; aide in Olin office; art history department scanner; studio assistant for art professor; printmaking lab assistant; Kid’s Place Preschool; phonathon caller for Annual Fund; intern, Community Service office; babysitter for professors; Baker Ferguson Fitness Center; costume shop in HJT; economics tutor; information desk at Reid Campus Center; writing center tutor; music theory tutor; IM Committee; athletic training room; stock room and lab assistant for chemistry; Language Learning Center technician.

Faculty and dignitaries are always an essential part of the processional and celebration. For faculty, Commencement is the happy culmination of a fruitful year and an opportunity to celebrate their now-former students’ successes. (Left) Faculty walk in the 2011 processional. (Right) Commencement speaker Norman Archivald MacRae MacKenzie, president of the University of British Columbia, center, and Whitman President Winslow Anderson, at MacKenzie’s right, participate in the processional for the 1946 Commencement.

Helping hands

1961: “We found most professors helpful and encouraging. Those receiving two or more nominations for being most helpful included Thomas Howells (9), George Ball (7), Robert Whitner (3), David Stevens (3), Richard Stuart (3), Art Rempel (2), Glenn Woodward (2) and Merle Meyers (2). Many others received a single nomination, as did President Perry! Professors named more than once as ‘confounding’ included Thomas Howells (4), William Hutchings (3), Frederic Santler (2), Bill Soper (2) and Ronald Sires (2).”

2011: Most helpful professors (received two or more votes): Robert Sickels, Nohemy Solórzano-Thompson, Nancy Simon, Susan Pickett, Irvin Hashimoto, Sharon Alker, Michelle Janning, Bob Carson, Deborah Wiese, Nick Bader, Pat Spencer, Don Snow, Allison Calhoun, Tim Machonkin and Helen Kim.
Seniors lauded the efforts of many other professors as well: David Schmitz, Theresa DiPasquale, Jay Tasson, Gary Rollefson, Lee Thompson, John Cotts, Roberta Davidson,  Michelle Janning, Keith Farrington, Kay Fenimore-Smith, Melissa Wilcox, Aaron Bobrow-Strain, Dana Burgess, Janis Breckenridge, Christopher Leise, Wally Herbranson, Kate Jackson, Delbert Hutchison, Heidi Dobson, Tim Parker, Kurt Hoffman, Charly Bloomquist, Pat Keef, Carolyn Chandler, the art department, the sociology department, Jonathan Walters, Daniel Kent, Akira Tekemoto, Mare Blocker, Dennis Crockett, Charles Timm-Ballard, Michelle Acuff, Ashley Esarey,  Mitch Clearfield, Jackie Wood, Marion Götz, Leena Knight, Gaurav Majumdar, Jan Crouter, Haleform Belay, Barry Balof and Kari Norgaard.

Ian Gill ’11 waves and smiles as he walks down Boyer Avenue as a new Whitman alumnus.

Describe the “Whitman Experience”:

1961: When asked to describe the “Whitman Experience” in a few words, we got some wonderful comments that should go in the next admissions recruiting brochure!

  • “Professors who cared about you.”
  • “Intellectually challenging, a firm launch into adulthood.”
  • “Wouldn’t trade it for anything!”
  • “Good background for my Ph.D. program.”
  • “Hardest I’ve worked in my life.”
  • “Best environment for personal growth.”
  • “Learning how to learn, think and question.”
  • “Associated with highly intelligent students.”
  • “Made lifelong friends.”
  • “Great ‘family’ and home away from home.”
  • “More laughter than I’d ever experienced before — or after.”
  • “Threw open the doors of my mind.”
  • “Wonderful combination of intellectual and social growth.”
  • “Great to know most students and faculty by name.”
  • “Eye-opening, world expanding … I felt as if I’d landed in Oz!”
  • “A place that allowed kids with varied degrees of sophistication to develop at an acceptable rate to them.
  • “Four of the best years of my life!”


  • “A dream.”
  • “Frustrating, enlightening, humbling”
  • “Broadening, enlightening, and so so SO much fun”
  • “Challenging, rewarding, maturing”
  • “Exciting and challenging”
  • “Ups and downs. Where did the last four years go? I am going to miss beautiful Walla Walla.”
  • “My time at Whitman has made me a better student, athlete, friend and person.”
  • “The greatest gains are no where near academia, but rather lie in the person I have become.”
  • “Life changing, fun, amazing”
  • “Foundational, motivational, transformational”
  • “I fell in love with Walla Walla.”
  • “Awesome, tough, rewarding”
  • “Soul-dilating”
  • “Filled with lots of diverse activities. I could have been more academically oriented, but I wouldn’t trade better grades for the experiences I had in DG, Rugby, IM sports and Panhellenic.”
  • “Meaningful, inspired, tiring, exhilarating!”
  • “Amazing professors, sweet little town”
  • “I have grown in ways unexpected.”
  • “Full of lots of bumps but in the end successful.”
  • “Challenging and enlightening”
  • “Nurturing. Whitman allowed me to become who I am now, without imposing too much external pressure.”
  • “Life changing”
  • “Challenging yet very rewarding”
  • “Tumultuous but ultimately rewarding. It took studying abroad to realize it though.”
  • “Perfect, work hard play hard, lovely people”
  • “Wacky and wonderful”
  • “Incredible adventure full of learning, happiness and beautiful people”
  • “Instead of learning facts, I learned to think. I learned to enjoy every moment. But above all I learned who I wanted to be, and I found out that others love me for exactly who I am.”

Take it from us (pearls of wisdom to current and future Whitman students)

Said in 1984:
I have updated the Whitman Tradition to 1984. I present it to the graduating class today. It is this: “If you are truly educated — in heart as well as in mind — you go out into the world not for yourself alone and your own success, but with a degree of responsibility for the society around you.” This is the essence of the Whitman Tradition today. It is the legacy that I leave with you — from “Then” to “Now.“
Frances Penrose Owen ’19
businesswoman, first female Washington State University regent, and daughter of President Stephen B.L. Penrose

From the Class of 1961:

  • “Love, love more, laugh, cry, dare, feel everything.”
  • “Follow your passions as to choosing major”
  • “Learn all you can that will help serve others”
  • “Enjoy, these are friends forever”
  • “Be flexible, liberal arts education means you are not locked into a career pattern”
  • “If a class is difficult, take it anyway if it interests you”
  • “Take all the courses you can, challenge yourself”
  • “Dream. Find a vocation you are happy with as you’ll spend lots of years there”
  • “Work hard first year, rest will come easy. Don’t cram past 11!”
  • “Set your goals high, you can succeed”
  • “God is in control, you aren’t. You have influence, but not control.”
  • “Change the culture and restore the USA.”
  • “Be humble even though you will receive an excellent education at a special institution.”
  • “Stay strong in your convictions. Give back to your community after Whitman.”
  • “Wear sun screen daily, winter, spring, summer and fall”
  • “Be open to ALL possibilities, kind to everyone, find a church.”
  • “It’s not what happens to you in life, it’s how you face it positively.”
  • “Do what you love, not for money; leave things better than you found them.”
  • “Turn off your cell phone, I-Pad and computer, and think for yourself.”
  • “Change is the only constant; education is a lifelong pursuit.”
  • “Enjoy every pampered minute you are in college. Dig deep, inhale each class.”
  • “If accepted to Whitman, GO, if in, FINISH, then KEEP IN TOUCH, DONATE.”

From the Class of 2011:

  • “These days fly by, savor every second of ’em.”
  • “Go big in whatever you do. Burn with the fire which cannot be extinguished.”
  • “Procrastination is a bitch, but sometimes it really is necessary in order to experience Whitman (and college) fully.”
  • “It’s OK not to take on as much as you did in high school; don’t overwhelm yourself just because you want to be an overachiever.”
  • “Make the most of your time at Whitman because it will be gone in a flash. Enjoy every day to the fullest. And don’t be shy about seeking out help when you need it, from professors, the Academic Resource Center, the Counseling Center, etc.”
  • “Pick classes based on who is teaching them, you never know what you might learn from an amazing professor!”
  • “Go outside your comfort zone in any and every way possible — reach out to new people, activities, classes. You’ll discover something about yourself.”
  • “Don’t let studying prevent you from learning who you are — have fun!”
  • “Challenge yourself. You have to push your limits in order to find them.”
  • “Major in professor, not field of study — you will be infinitely more engaged and infinitely happier.”
  • “Even when your thesis is due tomorrow, if you see a sunny day, go enjoy the sun — and then go back to the library.”
  • “Resources are everywhere and all for you. Take advantage.”
  • “Do your work beforehand — do readings before class.”
  • “Your college experience is what you make of it.”
  • “Do what you want to do today and not tomorrow.”
  • “Don’t stress too much!”
  • “Bring costumes. You will need that sequined pantsuit. I promise.”
  • “Make long-lasting relationships with professors.”
  • “You don’t remember studying in the library or doing homework, so do things you WILL remember. It goes by so that fast that you really should jump on every opportunity you can and not worry about what people think of you.”
  • “Pants before boots.”
  • “You will never be able to experience anything quite like Whitman, so enjoy it to its fullest!”
  • “Instead of learning facts, I learned to think. I learned to enjoy every moment. But above all I learned who I wanted to be, and I found out that others love me for exactly who I am.”
  • “Be prepared to do whatever is necessary to get into the classes you need.”
  • “Suck it up, kids.”
  • “Synthesize, synthesize, synthesize. Your bio class and your philosophy class can work together to influence your worldview. Let them.”
  • “Despite what they tell you, it is helpful to come with an idea of what you want. That said, you should take as many distribution credits as possible freshman year in case something catches your interest that you didn’t think would.”
  • “It all depends on perspective: The ability to put things into new perspectives, and being able to see from other people’s perspectives. If you figure this out, you are one of the more perceptive and open-minded people; most people do not have this ability or think they do but haven't met enough people who aren’t from similar backgrounds or different enough to really understand.  Try it, it’s disturbingly sweet.”
  • “Current Whitties: Be as awesome as all the previous classes and Whitties that still show up in our daily lives. Future Whitties: Be as awesome as this class. I dare you.”