Yearbook of the Disciples of Christ for 1920-21 has an advertisement for Spokane University. The Spokane Spokesman-Review of December 10, 1927 has a special report on the school. College Organization and Administration has enrollment data for Spokane University. Spokane Public Library provided the image of the Ministerial and Religious Education organization from the Spokannual.
Ministerial and Religious Education organization, Image from Spokannual, Courtesy of Spokane Public Library
Spokane Bible College, founded by Benjamin E. Utz, in 1912, was created to train ministers for the Disciples of Christ (Christian) Church. A year later the church approved the founding of Spokane University, classes beginning on September 15, 1913.
College Organization shows that classes at Spokane University were very small, with an average class size of six. The student body averaged 111 students, 65% of whom were Disciples. Enrollment in 1927 was 127. Spokesman-Review notes that more than half of Christian Church pulpits in the Spokane area were filled by Spokane University faculty, alumni or students. That source states that 45% of SU graduates were involved in “some form of religious work,” and that 90% were engaged in altruistic activities. In addition to musical groups such as pep band, orchestra, and glee club, Spokane University students had a strong forensics tradition, being involved in intercollegiate debate as early as 1922.
Despite a $600,000 gift in 1920, Spokane University experienced financial problems throughout its history. The gymnasium burned in 1924 and had to be replaced. In that same year, the school started a drive to raise $250,000 for an endowment. Spokesman-Review noted three problems in 1927—the need for present operating capital as enrollment had increased, the need to pay off accumulated debts of $91,000, and the need to build an endowment fund. The onset of the Depression exacerbated these problems. In 1933 Spokane University merged with Eugene Bible College.
Bricks and Mortar
The above school advertisement emphasized the Spokane Valley as an ideal college location, Called “the college among the pines,” the campus was located in a virgin pine forest. Spokane University had three buildings—Science Building housed administrative offices, classrooms, and the library; Redford Hall, a three-story brick structure, housed the women’s dormitory, the reception area and the dining facility; and the Gymnasium. Spokesman-Review called the new gymnasium the best in the Columbia Valley.
After Spokane University closed, the campus was leased to Spokane Junior College for two years. A 1936 auction disposed of some building contents. The buildings themselves were sold in 1946 for a sanitorium. Science Buildings is now Administrative Building for the Sunshine Gardens Nursing facility.
Team name: Crusaders
Colors: Purple and White
One of four Spokane area colleges, Spokane University was first a member of the Spokane Intercollegiate Conference, and later of the Columbia Valley Intercollegiate Conference. Sports included football, basketball, track, tennis and baseball. In a 1925 write up of the school, Spokane Daily Chronicle noted that Spokane University had four baseball championships, two basketball championships, two tennis championships and one football championship.
SU played a limited schedule in most sports. Conference rivals included Cheney Normal (Now Eastern Washington), Lewiston Normal (Now Lewis and Clark), Whitworth, and now defunct Columbia College and Spokane College. Occasionally, the team tackled one of the major schools such as Idaho or Washington, but more often they played a freshman team from the larger schools. In 1931 SU became the first team from the Northwest to fly to a football game, when they flew to La Grande, OR to play Eastern Oregon Normal.
Among their first football games was a 33-0 loss to city rival Whitworth College in 1916. But during World War I, SU dropped all athletics in favor of compulsory military training.
1918 Spokane University basketball team. Official National Collegiate Athletic Association Basketball Guide accessed 11-24-2017 (<https://archive.org/stream/officialnational02nation#page/104/mode/2up/search/Spokane>)