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Willamette University

In 1834, missionary Jason Lee came to Oregon to begin a school for Native American children. After a few years, a group of missionaries believed a college could serve their own children in the Willamette Valley. Lee organized a series of meetings, and in 1842, the Willamette University was founded. As the first university in the West, Willamette University takes pride in its pioneer heritage. It has held an important role in developing the West. When the university was founded, the cities of Portland, Seattle, and Tacoma did not exist yet. The Willamette University has educated many of the Northwest's first leaders, artists and business people. Not only was Willamette the first University in the West, but it established the first law school (1883) and the first school of medicine (1866) in the Pacific Northwest. Originally called the Oregon Institute, the name was changed to Wallamet University in 1853. The original building (first occupied in 1844) was a three-story frame structure that served the community as well as the school. The building was considered the most imposing edifice in the Northwest; it housed the first session of the legislature to meet in Salem and also housed the first court in the territory under United States auspices. Today, Willamette University continues to explore the frontier of higher education, while remaining aware of its pioneer founders' courageous leadership. The University is located in Salem and is across the street from the Oregon State Capitol; Willamette's campus now comprises 61 acres and has 37 buildings.