The Legacies Project will examine the university’s historic role in the region, deepen community relationships, and offer educational opportunities for students.

Since its founding in 1888, University of Puget Sound has played a pivotal role in the unfolding history of Tacoma and the Pacific Northwest. Today, the university announced it will launch the Legacies Project, an initiative to examine and reckon with its long and complex past, understand how those legacies continue to resonate in the present, and take steps to create a more welcoming and inclusive future.

“We must understand and teach how our present is shaped by our history as a university and a community, from the expulsion of Chinese immigrants and incarceration of Japanese Americans to the Fish Wars protests and the Northwest Detention Center,” said Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity Lorna Hernandez Jarvis. “The university’s own history includes blackface minstrelsy, antisemitic vandalism, and connections to the Cushman Indigenous Boarding School. The Legacies Project supports Puget Sound’s goal to more fully develop a welcoming environment that acknowledges and understands the university’s past, leading us to a more inclusive present and more equitable future.”

The Legacies Project aims to deepen the ways a Puget Sound education equips students to engage with issues of justice; offer campus and community members space in which to respond to difficult histories around environmental justice, racism, indigenous rights, education access, and more reflectively, creatively, and with empathy; and enable students to develop the skills and experience to lead with integrity and courage. To support the initiative, the university will establish an endowment for theme programming; a fund to support grants and fellowships for research, scholarship, and creative work; and a permanent campus history exhibit with rotating displays of current Legacies Project efforts. The project’s work will be prominent across campus, including legacy-aware curriculum, lectures, exhibits, the performing arts, film and reading series, campus discussions, and other events. Puget Sound will also invite the wider South Sound community to engage with these discussions, especially as they intersect with local history.

“Institutions of higher education occupy a complicated place in their communities and we are called to engage honestly and productively with that history,” said President Isiaah Crawford. “The Legacies Project will allow us to boldly face and learn from our history through teaching, research, and reflection.”

The new initiative comes out of Puget Sound’s Leadership for a Changing World strategic plan, which calls for the university to build an inclusive and diverse community in order to continue to provide an exceptional education for its students and prepare graduates to thrive and lead in a rapidly changing world. The Legacies Project will courageously examine the university’s historic role in the Northwest, deepen relationships in the community, and enrich the educational opportunities available to Puget Sound students.

The Legacies Project is made possible thanks to a $2 million gift from Puget Sound graduate Ellen Ferguson ’72. Ferguson earned a double major in political science and history from the university before embarking on a career working in museums. She is a longtime supporter of the university, establishing the Ellen Ferguson Endowed Scholarship Fund for student financial aid and participating as a founding donor for the university’s LGBT Leadership Fund. She credits her Puget Sound education for helping her develop an understanding of the critical importance of social justice, especially for historically marginalized communities.

“My time at Puget Sound informed my values and provided a foundation for my lifetime commitment to social justice. My studies in political science at the height of the Vietnam War, getting involved in campus activism, and living in a close community with a diverse group of students changed my life,” said Ferguson. “I was captivated by the Legacies Project and its goal to create a more welcoming and inclusive campus environment for an increasingly diverse student body and university community. I’m honored to invest in an initiative that both addresses past harms and promotes healing.”

About Puget Sound

A nationally ranked residential liberal arts and sciences college in Tacoma, Washington, University of Puget Sound enrolls 1,800 undergraduate students from across the country and around the world, as well as 300 graduate students in education, counseling, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and public health. A low student-faculty ratio provides Puget Sound students with personal attention from faculty members who have a strong commitment to teaching and offer 1,200 courses each year in more than 50 areas of study. Puget Sound graduates include Rhodes and Luce scholars, notables in the arts and culture, scholars and scientists, entrepreneurs and elected officials, and leaders in business and finance locally and throughout the world. A top producer of Fulbright U.S. Students, Puget Sound is the only nationally ranked independent liberal arts college in Western Washington, and one of just five independent colleges in the Northwest granted a charter by Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society.