Evergreen: Making History Since 1967

In 1967 the State of Washington signed legislation to create a new 4-year college in southwestern Washington—from the ground up.

Governor Dan Evans, along with the state Legislature, wanted more than “just another four-year college,” and urged the Trustees to unshackle their “educational thinking from traditional patterns.” At this college, faculty would go beyond awarding letter grades; they would instead provide meaningful and constructive feedback through narrative evaluations. At this college, students would experience the depth and rigor of a liberal arts education through an intentional coordinated studies approach. This college–a courageous experiment at inception–would become The Evergreen State College.

In 1971, Evergreen welcomed its first students. The 1,000-acre campus and 3,000-foot Puget Sound beachfront became a living laboratory for creative and scientific inspiration and research. Since then, the college has earned accolades from national publications; Princeton Review, Fiske Guide, U.S. News & World Report, and Sierra Magazine, regularly rank Evergreen as a top college and has been named one of the few “Colleges That Change Lives.”

Check out highlights of some of the most memorable historical events that have shaped our community, as well as additional video footage as part of the Evergreen Visual History Collection.


Washington state’s only four-year college founded in the 20th century gets underway. Amid Vietnam War protests, the college is dedicated to residents of Washington. Twenty-one students receive diplomas at the first graduation. Maxine Mimms and two students begin a seminar that evolves into the Tacoma campus. Mary Ellen Hillaire establishes Native American Studies. The dragon mural is painted on the library stairwell. The geoduck became the official mascot. Also:

  • KAOS-FM goes on the air at 10 watts. The first song is “Success” by Dan Hicks
  • Governor Dan Evans rappels down the clock tower at the opening of the College Recreation Center
  • In more clock tower news, the faces tell different times
  • Students exploring alternative energy get a 1946 Ford running on scrap wood
  • Recycling gets underway. Tuborg, Hamms and 13 other brands of beer bottles require special handling
  • “Why Do We Get All the Weirdos?” a CPJ headline asks
  • Commencement speakers include U.S. Senator William Proxmire


 A History of Evergreen from Newspaper Headlines

“A History of Evergreen from Newspaper Headlines,” 1971. A talk at the faculty retreat on Evergreen’s founding and early history by Dick Nichols, Evergreen director of information services.


“Viewpoint,” Seattle’s KOMO 4 Television public affairs program, 1972. Evergreen’s founding president Charles McCann and state legislator Ken Eikenberry debate a wide range of issues involving Evergreen’s past, present, and future.

 Dreams and Goals—Round Table Discussion With Women of Evergreen

Round Table Discussion with Women of Early Evergreen, 1974. Student Tina Peterson, faculty member Wini Ingram, and program secretary Pearl Vincent discuss their experiences at the college.


Graduate placement reaches 94 percent. Expansion of Evergreen: The Tacoma program, underway since 1972, becomes an official part of the college and the Organic Farmhouse is dedicated. Three master’s degree programs are established, in public administration, environmental studies, and teaching. Contraction also, as the Vancouver campus is turned over to WSU after 13 years in operation. Plans for a Bangor campus are scrapped. Also:

  • Facilities halts use of highly toxic pesticides
  • Roller skaters are threatened with suspension
  • Sea Wulff is launched
  • Super Saturday becomes Thurston County’s largest event
  • Before Enron and the WTO — students debate draining of the domestic economy by U.S. multinationals
  • A computer DTF foresees an electronic campus by 1989
  • Commencement speakers include Native American activist Vine DeLoria Jr., Shirley Chisholm, first African American woman to run for President, and poet William Stafford


 First Draft

First Draft, 1989. Faculty and staff discuss Evergreen’s philosophy and practices of teaching and learning.


The first Gulf War begins despite efforts of protesters who take over the state legislative chamber. The House of Welcome Longhouse Education and Cultural Center is dedicated, the first in the country on a college campus. A proposal to arm campus police stirs controversy, results in limited arming. Student sights Bigfoot near the Organic Farm.


  • Toxic fumes force Library evacuation, beginning of air quality issue
  • Rally against music censorship
  • Greeners chain themselves to trees along Overhulse Road, stall logging near campus
  • Free bus passes for Evergreen students, faculty, and staff
  • Gov. Gary Locke refuses to share commencement stage with Mumia Abu-Jamal’s taped speech. Other commencement speakers include authors Robert Fulghum and Sherman Alexie, activist and presidential candidate Winona LaDuke, activist and educator bell hooks, and cartoonist/Evergreen alum Lynda Berry


 20 Years of Making a Difference

20 Years of Making a Difference, 1991. Collage of photos and headlines from Evergreen’s first 20 years.

 Women at Evergreen—Telling Our Stories

Women at Evergreen, 1997. Interview with some of Evergreen’s founding mothers.


Earthquake! 6.8 temblor knocks 60 percent of library’s books off shelves. Elwha retires, new email system installed. Last of the founding faculty members retires. Opening of Seminar II and the Center for Community-Based Learning and Action.  Annual Science Carnival begins, bringing K-12 students to campus for interactive workshops with science students. Evergreen Parkway transformed to two-way vehicular traffic, with expanded bike and pedestrian lanes. Evergreen accepts 15 students displaced by Hurricane Katrina. KAOS named in the top 15 of college radio stations nationwide.


  • Super Saturday ends its 30-year run amidst state budget cuts
  • Josh Blue ’01 wins Last Comic Standing. He is also a member of the U.S. paraolympic soccer team. Student Theresa Nation discovers new species of bacteriophage
  • On-line registration – sign up for classes in your underwear.
  • Library lobby banners: Join the Freaks of Nature, Grassroots Organizing Training, Explore Nicaragua, Got WashPIRG?
  • Men’s basketball has best-ever season, plays at nationals
  • Vagina Monologues staged
  • Drummers still on Red Square
  • Commencement speakers include U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders, “Simpsons” creator and Greener Matt Groening, broadcaster Amy Goodman, author Ken Kesey


 Celebrating Dr. Maxine Mimms (2007)

Maxine Mimms, founder of Evergreen’s Tacoma program, talks about her philosophy of education and life, weaving music, culinary arts, and teaching into her “Opera of Maxine Mimms.” Faculty member Gilda Shepherd recorded the 2007 interview on the occasion of Dr. Mimms’s 80th birthday celebration.

 Dr. Maya Angelou at Evergreen, “Rainbow in the Clouds.”

Maya Angelou, renowned author, poet and literary legend, spoke to more than 3,000 people in the College Recreation Center’s gym in 2007. She was welcomed by President Les Purce and introduced by Tacoma campus director Joye Hardiman.


Evergreen’s 40th anniversary brings together almost all living presidents, past and present. How many colleges can do that? The college weathers several years of budget cuts as state funding of public higher education decreases. Remodels of the Library, CAB, Communications Building, Arts Annex, and Lecture Hall Rotunda. Supreme Court makes marriage equality the law of the land. Work of faculty member Stephanie Coontz cited in the court’s decision. Flaming Eggplant, student cooperative food service, opens.


  • Longhouse strengthens ties with Pacific Rim artists. Expands with carving and weaving studios
  • Veterans Resource Center opens
  • Real food pledge that 28 percent of campus food will be local, sustainable
  • Commencement speakers include activist Angela Davis, travel guru Rick Steves, author Sherman Alexie, Native American activist and Green Party presidential candidate Winona LaDuke