Whitman College has recently embarked on a $150 million fundraising campaign. The college's Now Is The Time campaign, the first major fundraising effort in a quarter of a century, aims to bolster Whitman's academic excellence, scholarship support and financial strength.
So why do folks in Walla Walla not directly associated with Whitman College care?
Simple. Whitman and Walla Walla make each other stronger.
Whitman is a large, stable influence on the local economy. It provides well-paying jobs for professors and staff. Whitman students live in Walla Walla, albeit mostly temporarily, but the money they spend becomes a permanent part of the local economy.
And many Whitman students remain in Walla Walla after graduation or find a way to move back years later.
The Whitman faculty contributes to the community in many ways, including being involved in civic and charitable organizations, local schools and basically being good citizens. Whitman students are also great volunteers and great citizens.
The college enhances the community by bringing to the Valley through the many events and speakers it hosts. Whitman's Cordiner Hall has been the venue for top performers such as George Carlin, Ben Vereen and Leo Kottke. Cordiner is also home to the Walla Walla Symphony.
The college also brings in many high-profile speakers who give great insight on politics, business, journalism, science and just about everything else.
In return, Walla Walla provides a tremendous background for Whitman students to learn.
This is the way Whitman President George Bridges put it in a column he wrote about the fund-raising effort that was published in the Union-Bulletin.
"The Walla Walla Valley is among the college's greatest assets, its geographic location compliments Whitman," Bridges wrote. "The town's relative isolation from large cities means there are fewer distractions than in urban settings, and, because of this, the relationships our students foster here often are stronger and last longer than those developed at colleges where students live far from campus or commute to school. It's a joy for me to talk to Whitman alumni whose best friends are still the ones they met while living in Walla Walla."
Bridges, in a recent interview with the U-B Editorial Board, said he hopes to strengthen the ties with Walla Walla with some of the money garnered through the fundraising campaign.
It is his hope that scholarship money can be provided to local high school students who earn admission. Bridges noted that several area students do attend Whitman but this campaign could result in boosting those numbers.
A strong Whitman makes for a strong Walla Walla. The Now Is The Time campaign should help make both even stronger.