Pacific Lutheran University (PLU), founded by Norwegian Lutheran pioneers in 1890, is a private university offering liberal arts and professional school programs located in Parkland, a suburb of Tacoma, Washington, United States. PLU is sponsored by the 580 congregations of Region I of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. PLU has approximately 3,100 students enrolled. As of 2017, the school employs approximately 220 full-time professors on the 156-acre (630,000 m²) woodland campus.
PLU consists of the College of Arts and Sciences (including of the Divisions of Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences), the School of Arts and Communication, the School of Business, the School of Education and Kinesiology, and the School of Nursing.
Pacific Lutheran University was chartered by the State of Washington on December 11, 1890. In naming the university, the Norwegian pioneers who founded it recognized the role that a Lutheran educational institution on the Western frontier could play in the region. They wanted the institution to help immigrants adjust to their new land and find jobs, but they also wanted it to produce graduates who would serve church and community. Education—and educating for service—was a venerated part of the Scandinavian traditions from which these pioneers came.
Classes first began in 1894 with the student body consisting of 30 students. Tuition at the time cost $1 per week. Bjug Harstad was the school’s first president. The entire university was housed in one building from 1894-1912. This building was formerly known as Old Main but has since been renamed Harstad Hall in honor of the school’s founding president.
In 1898 the university's name was changed to Pacific Lutheran Academy and Business College. Attempting to eliminate the debt plaguing the school, Bjug Harstad left for Alaska to search for gold. He spent one and one half years there but was unable to discover any gold. In 1902 the PLA athletic club celebrated its first victory in men's basketball with a 15-12 win over the University of Washington. Five years later women would be allowed to play basketball.
In 1912 a second building, a gymnasium, was constructed on the university campus. It included a track, a stage, and a science laboratory in the basement. Two years later students built a tennis court in what is now Red Square. By 1914 PLA received full accreditation meaning students could transfer to universities and retain their credits.
Although founded as a university, the institution functioned primarily as an academy until 1918, when it suspended instruction for two years. It reopened as the two-year Pacific Lutheran College, after merging with Columbia College, previously located in Everett. Further consolidations occurred when Spokane College merged with PLC in 1929. Four-year baccalaureate degrees were first offered in education in 1939 and in the liberal arts in 1942. The institution was reorganized as a university in 1960, reclaiming its original name.
In 1920 the school merged with Columbia College in Everett, Washington, and reopened as Pacific Lutheran College. The reopening of the school also saw the construction of a new building, the Chapel. Classes were held in the Chapel until 1967. The Chapel was also the home of Trinity Lutheran Church until the congregation built its own church in 1937.
The school's first football team was launched in 1926. They were originally known as the "Greyhounds", then the "Gladiators" (although they are unofficially referred to as the "Lutes"). That same year Polly Langlow, a member of PLC's women's basketball team, scored 270 points in 12-games setting a national record. A year later in 1927 the college's great musical tradition, the Choir of the West, was founded. The Choir acquired its name on a trip to the Great Lakes region.
Another merger occurred in 1929 when Spokane College, another Northwest Norwegian Lutheran school, closed. Its academic records were merged with PLC's, and several of its faculty members came to PLC. In 1937 the university acquired the golf course through a generous donation. The same year the cornerstone was laid for the new library. 1939 saw the first of several visits by Norwegian royalty when Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Märtha came to PLC's campus.
During the early 1940s PLC's student body was almost all female as most men were fighting in World War II. People returning to college post-war, specifically veterans using the G.I. Bill, caused a boom in enrollment. The student body at that time was half veteran and no longer mostly female. A number of new buildings were completed in the following years including Ramstad Hall, Memorial Gymnasium, and the Student Union Building (now renamed as Anderson University Center). In 1952 the new Chapel-Music-Speech Building was constructed and later named Eastvold Chapel (renamed in 2013 as the Karen Hille Phillips Center for the Performing Arts). Chapel became mandatory for the first time with attendance being taken and seats being assigned. Two years later North and South Halls, the first dormitories, were built (later renamed Hong Hall and Hinderlie Hall, respectively.) Until that time students had lived in Old Main or boarded with Parkland families.
Reclaiming the original name, Pacific Lutheran College became known as Pacific Lutheran University in 1960. Along with the name of the school being changed the PLU mascot was also changed from the Gladiators to the Knights. The 1960s saw decade-long construction boom as ten buildings were built by 1970, almost as many as had been built in the previous 70 years.
The 1960s and 1970s were a time of great change on PLU's campus when restrictions on student life began to loosen. Chapel was no longer required and two dormitories become coed. Girls' dormitories' restrictive hours were replaced with a card-key system, and opposite-sex visitation was allowed 3 times a week instead of 2 times a year. Dancing was allowed for the first time on campus in 1963. Several well known entertainers performed at PLU including Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, The Steve Miller Band, The Righteous Brothers, B.B. King, Ike & Tina Turner, and Bob Hope.
Throughout its history PLU has remained close to its Scandinavian roots. In 1975 the school played host to King Olav V of Norway. Three years later in 1978, 14 members of Stortinget, the Norwegian Parliament, visited PLU. In 1982 King Carl XVI Gustav and Queen Silvia of Sweden visited PLU and the following year Princess Astrid of Norway also paid a visit to the university. That same year a monument was erected in Valle, Norway, to honor the Rev. Bjug Harstad, founder of PLU. By 1989 a Scandinavian Cultural Center would be completed on the lower floor of the University Center. King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway came to PLU in 1995 with Queen Sonja receiving an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. Crown Prince Haakon of Norway visited PLU in 1999. To mark its 125th anniversary in 2015, PLU awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree upon King Harald V of Norway.
The President of the Pacific Lutheran University is the principal executive officer of Pacific Lutheran University.
The first President of the Pacific Lutheran University was Rev. Bjug Harstad. The entire university was housed in one building from 1894-1912. This building was formerly known as Old Main but has since been renamed Harstad Hall in honor of the founding president.
The 14th and current President of the Pacific Lutheran University is L. Allan Belton, appointed in 2017.
|Number||Name||Years in office|
|1||Rev. Bjug Harstad||1894–1895, 1897–1898|
|2||Rev. Ole Grönsberg||1895–1897|
|3||Nils Joseph Hong||1898–1918|
|7||Seth C. Eastvold||1943–1962|
|8||Robert A. L. Mortvedt||1962–1969|
|10||Richard P. Jungkuntz||1974–1975|
|11||William O. Rieke||1975–1992|
|12||Loren J. Anderson||1992–2012|
|13||Thomas W. Krise||2012–2017|
|14||L. Allan Belton||2017–present|
Tuition for the 2016-17 school year is $39,080 with room and board costing $10,115. Tuition, Fees and Payment Information for the year 2016-17. More than 97 percent of PLU student receive some sort of financial support. The 2012 U.S. News College and University rankings listed PLU as the sixth best value university in the west region. The 2014-2015 student body is as follows: 62 percent female, 38 percent male; 23 percent are students of color; 76 percent are from Washington state; 19 percent are Lutheran; 5 percent are international students representing 26 countries.
The academic calendar at PLU is divided into two semesters, fall and spring, with a one-month term during January known as J-term. Summer classes are also offered. During J-term students take one class for the entire month of January which counts as a normal 4-credit class one would take during a semester. PLU offers 44 majors and 54 minors in a wide array of disciplines as well as the following graduate and professional degrees: Master of Arts in Education; Master of Arts in Education with Initial Certification; Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy; Master of Business Administration; Master of Science in Finance; Master of Science in Marketing Research; Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Master of Science in Nursing; Doctor of Nursing Practice.
|Graduate Areas of Study
|Business||MBA (Master of Business Administration)|
|Creative Writing||MFA (Master of Fine Arts)|
|Education||MAE (Master of Arts Education)|
|Finance||MSF (Master of Science in Finance)|
|Marketing||MSMR (Master of Science in Marketing Research)|
|Marriage & Family Therapy||MFT (Master of Family Therapy)|
|Nursing||MSN (Master of Science Nursing), DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice)|
PLU is a member of The New American Colleges and Universities, a national consortium of 22 selective, medium-sized (2,000-7,500 students) independent colleges and universities dedicated to the purposeful integration of liberal education, professional studies, and civic engagement.
This type of institution was called a New American College by Ernest Boyer in a series of influential essays and speeches in the 1990s. Since Boyer coined this term, most of the institutions that have aligned with this identity are referred to as universities; so, the term has tended to become New American University.
Within the intellectual tradition of Lutheran education, PLU presents seven elements as distinguishing marks as the "genetic encoding" of Lutheran education — an education committed to the advance of knowledge, thoughtful inquiry and questioning, the preparation of citizens in service to the world, and its own ongoing reform.
The seven uplifted elements:
Prominently highlighted in all academic programs is the opportunity for international education. PLU holds the distinction as being the first American university to have students studying abroad on all seven continents at the same time  In 2009 PLU became the first university in Washington state and the first private university on the west coast to receive the prestigious Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization. In the same year PLU matched a $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create a $2 million endowment to assist low-income students to participate in study away programs. The Wang Center for International Programs opened in 2002 as the result of a $4 million donation from Peter, a 1960 PLU graduate, and Grace Wang.
Nearly 50% of PLU students study away.
The Pacific Lutheran University campus is located six miles (10 km) south of Tacoma, Washington, in suburban Parkland, on a 156-acre (63 ha) woodland campus. Joint Base Lewis-McChord is less than a half mile (800 m) west of Parkland. The campus is unofficially divided into two sections, upper campus and lower campus.
Upper campus is home to many of the academic and administration buildings including the Phillip Hauge Administration Building, Mortvedt Library, Ramstad Hall and Xavier Hall. In 1964, the Board of Regents engaged Richard Haag—'the father of Northwest Landscape Architecture'—to design the landscape architecture plan for upper campus. Haag is famous for his work on Gas Works Park in Seattle, Washington and on the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island as well as the Seattle Center.
The Mortvedt Library offers over 260,000 volumes of books as well as over 23,000 full-text journals. The oldest book in the PLU collection is a psalter by Johann Bugenhagen published in 1524. Built in 1937, Xavier Hall served as the library until the Mortvedt Library was built in 1967. Since then the Division of Social Sciences has been housed in Xavier. In 2000 Xavier underwent a $5 million renovation project that saw the addition of the Philip Nordquist Lecture Hall. The University Center is also located on upper campus. This building houses the all-campus cafeteria, called the University Commons, and the Old Main Market. In addition it houses the offices of Campus Ministry, Student Involvement and Leadership, Residential Life, the Diversity Center, the Scandinavian Center, Student Media, Residence Hall Association, the Associated Students of PLU (ASPLU), Dining Services, Conferences and Events, and the Chris Knutzen Lecture Hall.
Along with the academic and administration buildings upper campus also houses PLU's art programs. The Mary Baker Russell Music Center was built in 1997 and is the home of PLU's Department of Music. The acoustically impressive and well-known Lagerquist Concert Hall houses the Gottfried and Mary Fuchs Organ (the largest University-based mechanical action organ on the West Coast) as well as state-of-the-art practice and performance facilities. Ingram Hall is home to a communication computer lab, a digital photography/graphic design lab, and studio art classrooms for painting, ceramics, sculpture, photography and printmaking. Ingram boasts two galleries: the University Gallery (which houses major shows and exhibitions) and the Wekell Gallery (which generally houses student and class work). Eastvold Auditorium, formal called Eastvold Chapel, seats 1100 and is the home of PLU Theatre. Eastvold hosts all main stage productions as well as a range of smaller productions throughout the year. In October 2011, PLU Theatre premiered a new addition to its arts department, the Karen H. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Named after the former Regent, this space is a symbol of the completion of phase one in Eastvold Auditorium's renovations. Eastvold is set to reopen with a new performing arts center in the fall of 2013.
Lower campus is home to many of the university's athletic facilities. These include Olson Auditorium, Memorial Gymnasium, Names Fitness Center, and the university swimming pool. Also located on lower campus are the Rieke Science Center, Morken Center for Learning and Technology, Martin J. Neeb Building, and the Keck Observatory.
Additional buildings around the perimeter of campus are also used for University purposes, including offices, the Wang Center for International Studies, East Campus, the Women's Center, the University House and Trinity Lutheran Church.
PLU requires that all students under 20 years of age or junior status on or before September 1 live on campus or at home with a parent, spouse or child. Approximately half of all students enrolled at PLU live on campus. There are ten residence halls at PLU, with six located on upper campus and four located on lower campus.
Every year, the PLU Football team helps move new students into their PLU home.
The ten on campus residence halls:
Living on campus is an integral component of the PLU experience, adding to the learning that happens both in the classroom and beyond the classroom
First Year Wings
For first-year students, staffed by returning student leaders (RAs) to assist in the transition to PLU and the Parkland/Tacoma community.
New Transfer & Returner Wings
For new transfer and continuing students (second year and beyond with programming centered around academic support and major/career exploration.
Upper Division (UD) Student Housing
These communities promote an independent living experience to support students as they transition into post-collegiate life
Diversity, Justice, and Sustainability Community (in Stuen Hall)
For students interested in gaining an increased understanding of their cultural identities through reflection on values while learning how to create positive change in their communities. Hall floor themes include: First in the Family (first-year students), Students of Color (mixed-year), and Social & Environmental Justice (mixed-year). All first-year residents will co-enroll in a linked First Year Experience Program (FYEP) Writing 101 section on the topic of social justice.
Gender Inclusive Housing Wings
For students who want a gender inclusive living experience. Features gender inclusive bathrooms that have enhanced privacy (open to all users, regardless of biological sex or gender identity). Gender inclusive rooms are an option for students for whom biological sex does not match gender identity. There are three options, one wing per each hall: Hinderlie, Ordal, Tingelstad.
Harstad Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equity Hall
Community for women-identified residents with a focus on gender equality and community building., and programming that explores gender and empowers women. First-year residents can will have the ability to opt into a linked First Year Experience Program (FYEP) Writing 101 section on the topic of gender equity.
Hinderlie Community for Creative Expression Hall
For students interested in a co-curricular focus on creativity and expression across all disciplines. All first-year residents will co-enroll in a linked First Year Experience Program (FYEP) Writing 101 section on the topic of creativity.
Hong International Hall
For students who are interested in a global study focus, Hong offers language-immersion (Chinese, French, German, Norwegian, Spanish) and International Honors (IHON) wings. All non-IHON first-year residents will co-enroll in a linked First Year Experience Program (FYEP) Writing 101 section on the topic of global study.
Lavender Community (LC)
For students who want a gender inclusive living experience and also a co-curricular focus on exploring LGBTQ+ identities. Open to both first-year and new transfer and continuing students.
The STEM House (in Tingelstad) is for students interested in conversations and activities about Science, Technology, Engineering, and/or Mathematics, including those interested in majoring in a STEM-related field and those who just love the sciences.
For students interested in conversations and activities that promote and sustain healthy lifestyles, including transitioning to college in a way that develops healthy habits around mindfulness, diet, exercise, substance use, time management, and mental health.
PLU has a long history of being committed to a sustainable campus and leading the way as an example for institutions around the world. A certification program in environmental studies was developed in the 1970s, and a major was established in the 1990s. On April 22, 2004 PLU President Loren Anderson signed the Talloires Declaration, making PLU the first Pacific Northwest University to sign the declaration. Leading the nation as a charter signatory to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in 2007, PLU accepted the challenge, showing commitment to achieving carbon neutrality. The agreement called for universities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but PLU has taken the initiative to set their goal of becoming carbon neutral by December 31, 2020. The 2015 edition of The Princeton Review’s Guide to 353 Green Colleges recognized PLU as a green college leader. Highlights of the review include PLU dining services using 25 percent of its food budget to buy local and/or organic food and 95 percent of the products used by the cleaning services crew being Green Seal Certified.
PLU is currently in the process of remodeling and reconstructing multiple buildings throughout campus. The goal is for each building to obtain a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating of Gold. Currently two buildings have been awarded a Gold rating by LEED. In 2006 the Morken Center for Learning and Technology became the first building to earn the award. The Morken Building is home to the School of Business and the Computer Science department. This 55,000 square foot (5,100 m²), $21 million building requires no fossil fuel to operate and is heated and cooled by using a geothermal heat-pump system that regulates its temperature with water stored in 85 wells located 300 feet (100 m) underground. In 2009 a second building would earn the LEED Gold rating when the Martin J. Neeb Center was completed. This building was home to the radio station 88.5 KPLU and at the time of the award being presented it was the only radio facility in the nation with a LEED Gold ranking. The University Center was the third building to receive a LEED rating. Following the completion of the 2006-2007 academic year, the University Center underwent $14 million in construction renovations and as a result earned a LEED Silver rating.
As of 2013, PLU diverted more than 70% of its waste. For its record on sustainability, the university was recognized with a Gold Award from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). In 2008, a student-led initiative brought awareness about saving money by consuming tap water instead of buying bottled water. Bottled water is not sold in any of our campus restaurants as a result of the student-run initiative in 2011. All of the programs in the PLU Sustainability Office are student-led i.e. Bike Coop, Community Garden, surPLUs store, and habitat restoration.
A central tenet of Lutheran higher education – and core to PLU’s mission – is the emphasis on education for lives of service, and finding one’s calling, or vocation. To support students and faculty as they explore life's big questions and engage in fulfilling and meaningful work, the university established the Wild Hope Center for Vocation, originally through a grant from the Lilly Endowment.
PLU offers a wide variety of musical ensembles for students to participate in. The instrumental groups include the University Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Concert Band, Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Combo, and Chamber Music. Along with these groups the university has a wide variety of vocal groups which include the Choir of the West, University Chorale, University Singers, University Men's Chorus, Choral Union, and Chapel Choir.
The most famous of PLU's musical groups is the Choir of the West. Founded in 1925 the choir has toured extensively in America, Europe, and Asia. In 1964 the choir performed the world premier of Hungarian composer Miklós Rózsa’s major vocal piece, “The Vanities of Life.” A decade later the choir would perform the west coast premier of Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki’s “Passion According to St. Luke”. Another notable performance came in 1987 when the choir gave the first performance in the northwest of Benjamin Britten’s enormous War Requiem. The choir has been chosen to perform at several American Choral Directors Association conventions including the national conventions in 2005 and 2013. In the summer of 2011, the Choir of the West toured Germany and France. That tour featured performances at the Harmonie Festival in Lindenholzhausen, Germany, a world competition that takes place once every six years. Choirs from 47 countries participated in the 2011 festival. The Choir of the West won a Gold Certificate (second place) in the Large Mixed Choir division, and the men of the choir won a Gold Certificate (first place) in the Male Chamber Choir division. The women of the choir were awarded a Silver Certificate in the Women’s Chamber Choir division. The Choir of the West recently performed at the Northwest ACDA Conference in Seattle in 2012. Since its founding in 1925 the Choir of the West has had six conductors. They are as follows: Joseph Edwards (1927–1935), Gunnar Malmin (1937–1964), Maurice Skones (1964–1983), Richard Sparks (1983–2001), Kathryn Lehmann (2001–2006) and Richard Nance (2006–present).
The Pacific Lutheran University Chorale is a mixed choir comprised primarily—though not exclusively—of freshmen and sophomore singers spanning a variety of academic disciplines. The choir meets four days a week for a ninety-minute rehearsal and sings many times each year in concerts, tours, and campus ministry events. The choir tours regionally and appears on PLU Christmas compact discs. The Chorale has recently performed for conferences of the Washington Music Educators Association (2010) and American Choral Directors Association (2006). In March 2012, the ensemble performed for the ACDA Northwest Division Conference. University Chorale is conducted by Dr. Brian Galante. Brian Galante is Associate Director of Choral Activities at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, where he conducts the University Chorale, Men’s Chorus, and University Singers (Women’s Chorus). He also teaches undergraduate courses in Vocal Pedagogy for the Choral Music Educator, Choral Methods, Choral Literature, and Conducting. University Chorale Website
The Mast is PLU's student-run newspaper. It was first printed in 1924 in the basement of the university chapel. It is now a converged media group which includes Mast TV and Lute Air Student Radio. It was originally named "The Mooring Mast," but was changed in Fall 2015 to simply "The Mast." The unusual, original name "The Mooring Mast" came from the USS Shenandoah, a U.S. Navy airship. In nearby Fort Lewis there was a large mooring structure for the airship and the students derived the name from this in honor of the famed ship.
PLU has a US Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) detachment that each year commissions officers into the active Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve. In addition to Army scholarships, PLU provides a room and board scholarship. The Lute Battalion of Army ROTC won the McArthur Award—the highest award available—in 2010, 2012 and 2013.
KPLU-FM (88.5 MHz) is a news & jazz format National Public Radio member station that was owned by Pacific Lutheran University. While PLU held the license for the radio station and all KPLU staff members were also university employees, the station operated nearly independently. PLU supported the station with infrastructure amounting to more than $1.5 million annually.
On November 12, 2015, it was announced to KPLU staff that PLU intended to sell the radio station to the University of Washington, which already operated KUOW.  On May 26, 2016, Friends of 88.5 FM announced that they had raised $7 million to match the offer made by the University of Washington.  On June 28, 2016, PLU announced that it had reached an agreement to transfer the license for 88.5 FM to Friends of 88.5 FM.  The sale was consummated on August 30, 2016.
PLU is a member of NCAA Division III, as well as the Northwest Conference. PLU has a rich tradition of athletic success: in the Northwest Conference, no other school has won the All-Sports Trophy as many times as PLU has. In 2014, PLU was honored as first recipient of Diversity Spotlight award for LGBTQ inclusion efforts by student-athletes.
PLU offers the following varsity sports: Baseball, Men's and Women's Basketball, Men's and Women's Cross Country, Football, Men's and Women's Golf, Women's Rowing, Men's and Women's Soccer, Softball, Men's and Women's Swimming, Men's and Women's Tennis, Men's and Women's Track & Field, and Women's Volleyball. Along with these varsity sports PLU also offers Men's Rowing, both Men's and Women's Lacrosse and Ultimate Frisbee as club sports.
|Pacific Lutheran Lutes National Championships
PLU Sports Statistics
|1980||Football||Frosty Westering||Tacoma, Washington||NAIA Division II|
|1987||Football||Frosty Westering||Tacoma, Washington||NAIA Division II|
|1988||Women's Cross Country||Brad Moore||Kenosha, Wisconsin||NAIA|
|1988||Softball||Ralph Weekly||Oklahoma City, Oklahoma||NAIA|
|1988||Women's Soccer||Colleen Hacker||Abilene, Texas||NAIA|
|1989||Women's Soccer||Colleen Hacker||Due West, South Carolina||NAIA|
|1991||Women's Soccer||Colleen Hacker||Boca Raton, Florida||NAIA|
|1992||Softball||Ralph Weekly||Pensacola, Florida||NAIA|
|1993||Football||Frosty Westering||Portland, Oregon||NAIA Division II|
|1999||Football||Frosty Westering||Salem, Virginia||NCAA Division III|
|2012||Softball||Erin Van Nostrand||Salem, Virginia||NCAA Division III|
During the academic processional at commencement, Processional of Joy by Dr. Lawrence J. Meyer is traditionally played by the University Symphony Orchestra. Composed in as a unique ceremonial score in 1969, Processional of Joy has been played at each commencement since 1970.