When Frank Warren took the helm as Whitworth’s 12th president, in 1940, the campus comprised two buildings and less than 200 students. When he died while still in office, in 1963, Whitworth’s enrollment had grown to 1,700 day and evening students; the campus had 20 buildings; and Whitworth’s assets totaled more than $6 million.
A beloved president, Warren brought Whitworth through some of its hardest days as World War II took a toll on colleges across the country. He also set the college along firm conservative theological lines. In addition to building the campus physically, he sought to integrate Whitworth’s liberal arts program with religious studies, and through that effort brought some of Whitworth’s most highly regarded professors to Spokane. The student body not only grew in size, but also became more diverse due to Warren’s work recruiting beyond Washington state and U.S. borders.
Warren still holds the distinction of being the college’s longest-serving president. In his memorial sermon, Robert Munger, Whitworth trustee and pastor of University Presbyterian Church of Seattle, provided a tribute that aptly captured Warren’s devotion to Whitworth: “No one could be in his presence more than two minutes before he would be sharing some enthusiastic word about the school. To him the faculty members were always the greatest, the students always the sharpest and finest. He could look objectively at their aberrations and immaturities, but usually, even when relating some of the inevitable problems of the undergraduate, he would lean back and with an expressive gesture of outspread arms, he would exclaim, ‘What a grand bunch! I love ’em.’”
Warren held three honorary degrees; chaired the Washington State Parks and Recreation Department; was named “Mr. Presbyterian of the Year” in Spokane; was a regular radio host during his weekly Chapel Hour; and served as president of both the Independent Colleges of Washington and the Association of Presidents of Colleges of Washington.
Warren’s children and grandchildren, several of whom have since graduated from Whitworth, are direct links to a man who devoted much of his life to building the school for the future and ensuring that its foundation remained strong.