A letter from
an alumnus about the naming of Whitman College
November 22, 2002
A hundred and sixty years ago, Marcus Whitman, a missionary of Walla Walla,
Washington, on learning that the missionary board back East intended to
close two local missions, rode horseback to Boston that winter to protest
the abandonment. He followed this up, in Washington, by urging President
Polk to stengthen the country's interests in the Northwest to compete
with those of the British.
Assured by the president that he could grant the request if Whitman could
lead more settlers into the area, Whitman led a thousand people into the
fertile valley of the Willamette River, thereby saving for the U.S. the
great empire of what became the Oregon Territory.
In 1847, Whitman and his wife were among those massacred by the Cayuse
Indians, but their reputation lives on. The mascot for Whitman College,
of Walla Walla, Washington: "The Fighting Missionaries."
Princeton's evolving Whitman College could hardly have a more dramatic