History of Whittier College
Established in 1887 as Whittier Academy by the Religious Society of Friends (commonly known as Quakers), and chartered as a post-secondary institution by the State of California in 1901, Whittier College has built an illustrious legacy throughout its 125 years educating students. Named for prominent Quaker, poet, and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier, the College has faithfully upheld the academic mission, core values, and intellectual ideals set forth by its founders and its namesake. As such, it has offered a curricula that teaches – as well as a community that embraces – respect for the individual, freedom of conscience, integrity, social responsibility and justice, and internationalism.
The commitment to these guiding principles has ensured Whittier College’s place in history, and as a result, Whittier graduates have been at the forefront of civic and civil leadership for more than 12 decades. Alumni have gone on to careers and leadership positions in business, politics, science, education, and the humanities, all the while serving their respective communities with purpose, characer, and compassion.
Today, Whittier College is a cosmopolitan vanguard of 21st century society, recognized worldwide as a distinctive and relevant liberal arts college, offering additional graduate degrees in both education and law. More than 40 percent of Whittier College undergraduates, and three of its four Rhodes Scholars, are from underrepresented ethnic and international groups; this kind of cultural diversity, which permeates both classroom and campus community, profoundly strengthens intellectual discourse and provides a realistic exposure to the kind of world students will enter upon graduation. Students and faculty continue a long tradition of community service, echoing the Quaker conviction that helping others is a moral obligation. International study opportunities enrich every field and major, reflecting the Quaker idea that truth transcends the boundaries of race, culture, and nation. Whittier Law School, located on a separate campus in Costa Mesa, extends these educational values and core principles, preparing students for legal careers through a curriculum and practice that emphasizes social service, conflict resolution, international jurisprudence, and professional ethics.
Through its 125 years of history and heritage, Whittier College has had much to be proud of and celebrate.