Willamette University has its beginnings in the Oregon Institute. Founded by the Rev. Jason Lee and fellow Methodist missionaries in 1842, the Oregon Institute was organized to educate the increasing number of settler’s children. The doors opened for instruction in 1844 with Chloe Clarke Willson teaching a total of five students.
A co-educational institution from the beginning, Willamette awarded its first degree, Mistress of English Literature, to Emily J. York in 1859. By the late 1860s and early 1880s, Willamette was training future attorneys and doctors when it opened the first law and medical schools, respectively, in the Pacific Northwest.