Building Boom to Biotech: the UW Evolves
When forward-looking Henry Suzzallo began his UW presidency in 1915, the University was just over 50 years old. He was known for telling University friends that the work of this time was “…building a university of a thousand years.” His conviction inspired many, and his era of leadership ushered in a period of remarkable expansion in enrollment, buildings and programs.
Foundations, industry, individuals and the state began investing in the University. Buildings rose across campus, from military buildings in support of the war effort to the commanding Suzzallo Library and the liberal arts “quad.” Through partnerships, individual passions, public needs and health care, the UW’s growth continued to shape the region and the people who call it home.
From Land to Air: An Economic Shift
When entrepreneur William Boeing shifted his sights from a timber business to airplane manufacturing, he soon realized he would need trained engineers and facilities to test his new planes to really make his dream soar. In early 1917, Boeing hired UW students Clairmont L. Egtvedt and Philip G. Johnson to be his engineering staff. Next, he donated a wind tunnel to the University on one condition: an aeronautics program be developed. His gift resulted in one of the first programs in aeronautical engineering in the U.S., as well as a long-term, mutually-beneficial partnership that continues today with educational and research opportunities for both institutions.
Boeing’s gift set off a chain reaction, and from this partnership that shaped both the UW and the region came a gift from the Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics to build Guggenheim Hall, home to the new Aeronautical Engineering within the College of Engineering. With UW alumni, students and faculty as partners in the process to advance their work, The Boeing Company became one of the signature corporations of Seattle and the Northwest, dominating the regional economy for much of the twentieth century.
Diverse Passions Add to the Local Way of Life
It wasn’t only community and business leaders open to this giving spirit. Student football fans, squeezed by the growing crowds to see their football team, acted on their own desire to secure funding for a stadium. To raise funds, nearly 500 students traveled the state selling bronze plaques guaranteeing premium seats for season ticket holders. At $50 for two seasons and $100 for five seasons, the plaques were an investment. Along with student fees and the sale of bonds, the UW broke ground for the 30,000 seat stadium off Lake Washington in May 1920, and the first football game was played that fall. Several expansions have increased Husky Stadium’s capacity to 72,000. And nearly one hundred years after the original stadium was built, it is undergoing its first full renovation with the support of alumni and friends.
Railroad builder and banker Horace C. Henry joined forces with the UW with a different pastime in mind. Believing that art was vital to enriching society, he built a wing in his Seattle home where neighbors were invited to view his large collection of American and French art. Wishing to create a more permanent home for the collection, in 1926 he donated the art to the UW, along with funding for a gallery to house the collection. The gift proved foundational in terms of art education and developing an art-lover’s soul within the community. In 1997, the Henry Art Gallery expanded to four times its original size with a modern addition funded by private gifts. Today, it is one of the Pacific Northwest’s premier modern and contemporary art museums and draws more than 75,000 visitors a year.
With the University gaining in reputation for its cultural and academic stature, people began to consider the UW as a steward and beneficiary of their lifelong achievements and saw other ways they could enrich the community. Maud Walker Ames and her husband Edwin Gardner Ames had managed a highly successful timber business and wished to pass on their legacy. In 1931, they bequeathed the University securities, real estate and personal property that included a library of more than 3,000 volumes. It was their gifts that allowed for the UW’s first public lecture series featuring noteworthy speakers available to the UW community, Seattle citizens and Washington residents. They also left their 35-room Seattle mansion to the University as the official residence for the university president.
From Public Enrichment to Public Needs
Despite great growth at the UW, times grew strained and challenging for residents as they came to face the Great Depression. Many lost their livelihoods, their homes and often, their hope. In response to the need for social services, public policy makers and community organizers, the UW created the School of Social Work in 1934. With funding from the Red Cross, a social casework course in the Department of Sociology was established to train caseworkers to provide home services to families. More than 75 years later, ranked fourth in the nation, the school and its graduates have influenced global social change from poverty to disease research to the empowerment of older adults.
Next, the end of World War II brought another period of explosive growth and need — one that saw veterans streaming back to school under the GI Bill and the federal government’s provision of a college education for returning veterans. Regionally, the post-war shift toward manufacturing further defined the region. With the societal changes, the Washington community benefitted from new legislation establishing the School of Nursing in 1945 and the Schools of Dentistry and Medicine in 1946. With these new programs came not only an influx of newly educated and trained professionals, but also outreach and research. Caring for our community expanded further when the University Hospital opened in 1959.
Now the UW Medical Center, it is one of the top-ranked teaching hospitals in the country. UW studies of cancer and heart ailments motivated donors such as Dr. Maimon Samuels, a Seattle surgeon, to support construction of a research laboratory, and contribute toward a new wing of the growing Health Sciences Center, which opened in late 1960.
Evolving into a Research University
As the 1950s and 60s ushered in a new focus on research it was faculty members like inventor Wayne Quinton, ’58, also known as the “father of bioengineering,” who helped bring about a new chapter in discovery and outreach at the University with the birth of biotechnology — the fusion of medicine and engineering. In addition to inventing the cardiac treadmill, he pioneered more than 30 devices with physicians at the UW including a shunt that made long-term dialysis therapy possible for patients with kidney disease, saving millions of lives. UW faculty also invented the portable Doppler ultrasound, transforming health care around the world.
This shift toward greater discovery through research would build on the solid teaching and outreach already established at the UW and prove one of the most transformative periods in the University’s history.