UW 150th Timeline

Fun Facts about the UW

Here is a selection of fun facts about the University of Washington:

  • Asa Shinn Mercer, the first faculty member and president of the Territorial University of Washington, helped to build the foundations of the UW in ways that his successors never had to — he was a laborer who helped construct the building that housed the Territorial University.
  • Clara McCarty of Puyallup became the first student to receive a bachelor’s degree, which was based on the “scientific course.” She became a teacher, the usual career for an educated woman at the time. In 1879, she was elected superintendent of schools in Pierce County. McCarty Hall, a UW student dormitory, is named in her honor.
  • The Territorial University closed four times in its first 15 years (in 1863, 1867-69, 1874 and again in 1876 after granting its first bachelor’s degree to Clara McCarty). It might have closed forever when the Territorial Legislature failed to appropriate any funds for it in the session that ended Dec. 7, 1881. It was financier Henry Villard’s two gifts of $4,000 that paid the salaries of faculty and provided operating expenses.
  • The UW Board of Regents asked the state Legislature to authorize moving the University to a larger site because “Ampler grounds … removed from the excitements and temptations incident to city life and its environments.”
  • The process that brought us color television was invented by UW alumnus Willard Geer, a 1927 physics graduate.
  • The University of Washington football team played its first collegiate opponent — Stanford — on Dec. 29, 1893, losing 40-0 before 600 spectators in West Seattle. Thirty years later, Washington’s team was good enough for its first Rose Bowl appearance, which ended in a tie against Navy: 14-14.
  • After seeing couples “spooning” in the shadows of the Columns one spring evening in 1929, UW President Matthew Lyle Spencer banned kissing on campus.
  • Bubble gum, vinyl, synthetic rubber and the color TV tube were all invented at the UW.
  • The idea for the Wave was conceived at the UW in 1981.
  • Husky Stadium has the record for having the loudest game in college football history: 130 decibels in 1992 against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
  • Washington’s athletic teams had been called the Sun Dodgers since 1919, but a lot of people thought that didn’t do much for the school’s — or the region’s — image. An attempt to adopt the nickname Vikings in 1921 was met with protest by the students, and a joint committee of students, coaches, faculty, alumni and businessmen proposed new names. The Huskies nickname for athletic teams was officially adopted on Feb. 3, 1922.
  • On Feb. 26, 1970, students on the UW campus organized the “World’s First Trash-In” during which they brought in trash from their homes and separated the paper, plastic, glass and metal, then returned the trash to their owners with the request that they be reprocessed. The event brought attention to the waste associated with American life and propelled Seattle toward becoming a leader in recycling.
  • In 1981, Robb Weller, ’72, a former UW yell leader, and Bill Bissell, the Husky Marching Band director, came up with the idea for the Wave. It caught on as a staple in sports stadiums nationwide.