4
arches
winter
2013
leadership
W
e celebrate the 125th anniver-
sary of the University of Puget
Sound. But it might have been
otherwise. We might instead
be reading in the “Looking Back 100 Years”
section of the local newspaper that in 1913 the
University of Puget Sound closed its doors for
good after a valiant 25-year struggle.
Puget Sound University, established by the
Methodist Episcopal Church in 1888, was from
the beginning subject to “an extraordinary
succession of misfortunes,” as former presi-
dent Edwin Randall (1903–1904) wrote in the
1930
s. A large, elegant building was erected
downtown, and classes began in 1890. The 1893
recession—almost a depression—was especially
severe in the Pacific Northwest and had a devas-
tating impact on the fledgling university’s abil-
ity to raise or borrow money. In 1891 the school
leased and then sold its new building to pay the
construction debt, and had to rent less desirable
facilities. A new vision opened up when land
west of Tacoma became available. In 1894 the
trustees created the University Land Company
to sell lots around what they hoped would
become the new campus in the suburb that
came to be called University Place. More than
1,000
lots were sold, but the commissions paid
to land company agents were so high that little
money came into the trust fund set up to build
a campus there. To meet operational expenses
the school’s officers borrowed money from the
trust fund, something that was not strictly legal.
The financial house of cards finally collapsed
in 1903, bringing Puget Sound University to a
corporate end.
Its successor, the University of Puget Sound,
was created in 1903 by the same conference
of the Methodist Church that had given birth
to Puget Sound University 15 years earlier.
Optimism was high for the reborn institution.
The college moved to a new location at Sixth
and Sprague avenues and for the first time
had a real—although small—campus. The
Methodist churches of the conference pledged
to contribute 50 cents per member each year
Edward Howard Todd:
The man who saved
Puget Sound
by John Finney ‘67, P’94