Undergraduate Catalog

History of Lewis & Clark

Lewis & Clark's journey from pioneer vision to premier institution of higher education began 60 miles south of present-day Portland. In 1867, the Presbytery of Oregon—desiring "an institution of learning in which shall be taught all the branches of a complete college education"—secured a charter from the state legislature. The church partnered with Albany to fund and build a two-story building on the town's College Square site. Albany Collegiate Institute was born.

The school educated women and men equally within a common curriculum that focused on the classics and traditional courses. The first class, consisting of five women, graduated in 1873.

In 1905 the trustees officially adopted the name Albany College, transferred ownership to the Synod of Oregon, and established the bachelor of arts degree.

In 1934 the institution opened a lower-division extension in Portland. Enrollment grew so rapidly on the extension campus that in 1938 the trustees voted to move all operations to Oregon's urban center. They persuaded Morgan Odell, a widely respected scholar of religion and philosophy at Occidental College, to assume the presidency of the institution in 1941. The following year, through a gift-sale made possible by the generosity of the Lloyd Frank family, the trustees acquired a tract of 63 acres in Portland's southwest hills. The deeply forested landscape was home to Fir Acres, a grand estate developed in the 1920s by Lloyd Frank and designed by Herman Brookman.

To mark the transformation made possible by the acquisition, the trustees sought a new name. They unanimously selected Lewis & Clark College as a "symbol of the pioneering spirit that had made and maintained the College," thereby grounding the future of the institution in a heritage of exploration and discovery.

In the decades that followed, Lewis & Clark enhanced its undergraduate studies, added a law school, and refined graduate programs in education and counseling.

From the Fir Acres campus, now known as the undergraduate campus, the College of Arts and Sciences has launched innovative academic and experiential initiatives such as its overseas and off-campus study program, gender studies program, international studies, collaborative research between faculty and students, rigorous interdisciplinary studies, and student-initiated projects—funded by student fees—in the arts, sciences, and humanities.

Lewis & Clark's law school, founded in Portland in 1884 as the state's law school, reorganized as the private Northwestern College of Law in 1915. In 1965 the school merged with Lewis & Clark and was renamed Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College. Soon after, the law school built a new campus just west of the undergraduate campus. During the 1970s, the law school emerged from the position of a highly respected regional institution to that of national prominence, distinguished for its legal education, research, and service.

Lewis & Clark has educated teachers since its earliest days, and in 1984 postgraduate programs in education, counseling psychology, and public administration were consolidated into what is now the Graduate School of Education and Counseling. The public-administration program was transferred to Portland State University in 1996. In 2000, Lewis & Clark purchased from the Sisters of St. Francis an 18-acre estate immediately south of the undergraduate campus. It is now home to the graduate school, which develops thoughtful leaders, innovative decision makers, and agents of positive change in the fields of education and counseling. In 2004 the school initiated a program leading to a doctorate in educational leadership, and the first cohort received degrees in 2007.

In 1966, almost 100 years after Albany Collegiate Institute was chartered, Lewis & Clark and the Synod of Oregon agreed to sever their formal bonds. While affirming its historic ties to the Presbyterian Church, Lewis & Clark became an independent institution with a self-perpetuating board of trustees.

Five presidents have succeeded Morgan Odell. John Howard was president from 1960 to 1981, James Gardner from 1981 to 1989, Michael Mooney from 1989 to 2003, Thomas Hochstettler from 2004 to 2009, and Barry Glassner from 2010 to 2017. David Ellis began serving as interim president in 2017.

Today, as global thinkers and leaders, Lewis & Clark students, faculty, alumni, and staff thrive as they explore new ways of knowing, develop innovative collaborations, and strengthen civic leadership. In doing this they embrace and promote the shared objectives that draw the College of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School of Education and Counseling, and the School of Law to a common endeavor, and that form Lewis & Clark's official motto: Explorare, Discere, Sociare (to explore, to learn, to work together).