Jay P. Graves could well be considered Whitworth’s greatest benefactor: he provided the 200-acre property on which today’s campus stands. Although Graves was many years into his successful career in mining when Whitworth made its 1914 move to Spokane, his passionate interest at that time was to provide a place for young scholars to flourish.
Graves not only provided the land for the college; he also provided vision for the Whitworth’s earliest buildings, athletics fields, and campus grounds, where thousands of students would eventually come to study. He personally oversaw tree plantings and other beautification elements that would make Whitworth a destination for people from the region and neighboring states.
Graves knew that investing in a college such as Whitworth was not only an investment in students but also in his beloved Spokane. In a column for The Spokesman-Review, Graves wrote, “We strive to help our railroads and manufacturing enterprises because we know they in turn build Spokane, a city we love to call ‘home.’ It is also essential that we earnestly build our colleges, for they create a coveted atmosphere and also will provide for our Inland Empire youth along educational lines. We are thinking increasingly in terms of construction, and where can we build better than in Spokane as we assist our local colleges?”
Whitworth President Frank Warren described Graves as a lifelong builder. He arrived in Spokane in 1887 and promoted railway and mining ventures around the Inland Empire. Most notably, he developed the Granby Mining, Smelting & Power Company of British Columbia, the largest copper-producing mine in Canada, and he founded and was president of the Inland Empire Railway, which would later be absorbed by the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railways.
Graves served as a Whitworth trustee until his death, in 1948. His ashes were scattered across the campus to which he devoted so much of his life and fortune. Several years before his death, the Whitworth College Bulletin recognized the contributions of Whitworth’s senior board member, stating, “It is a great experience to work with Mr. Graves and to discover that when our strength lags and vision grows dim, he is constantly thinking and planning for the Whitworth of his dreams. Spokane has no better citizen, and we are happy and proud that he is our friend.”