1891-1893: George Whitaker

Dr. George Whitaker, an alumnus of Wesleyan University, was serving as president of Wiley University in Texas when he was elected president of Willamette University on July 25, 1891. Described as a “long legged lank New Englander who knew nothing about young men and women,” Whitaker implemented “Blue Laws” upon his arrival. To emphasize his point that no talking should take place between the sexes he announced that no male or female should walk together without a ten-foot pole between them. He was “scandalized” when the next day he saw a young man and woman walking with a pole between them. Not all Whitaker’s initiatives had to do with student behavior. He began a capital campaign to raise money for a much needed new academic building and established graduate programs although few students were able to complete the two extra years necessary for the graduate degree. Whitaker felt strongly that the entire control of the campus, buildings and finances should reside with him rather than the Financial Agent and when the Board refused to grant his request to transfer responsibilities, Whitaker resigned.