The inauguration of Edward B. Lindaman as Whitworth’s 14th president, in 1970, took place during a turbulent time for the country. In May of that year, the Kent State (Ohio) University shootings resulted in the death of four students; this took place amid Vietnam War protests and the ongoing aftermath of the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy, in 1968.
At Whitworth, students talked often about the moral and ethical dilemmas of the war and of civil rights, and these arguments divided the campus. In seeking a president to lead the college after the 1969 retirement of Mark Koehler, faculty and administrators sought a leader who could respond to the complex cultural shifts that were at work in society and in higher education.
President Lindaman possessed the guiding vision Whitworth needed. He articulated hope and was well known throughout the country for his work as a futurist. He came to Whitworth from an executive position in the aerospace industry, having worked on the Apollo space project as director of programming with the North American Rockwell Corporation. In addition, he published two books about the future, and he had a strong background in lay leadership within the Presbyterian Church.
Lindaman embraced the spirit of change and reform that was influencing society across the country; he infused Whitworth’s academic and student-life programs with new energy by hiring young administrators trained in the most current theories in higher education. His presence defused much of the divisive energy on campus as he encouraged new teaching methods and curricular styles. Though the faculty was sometimes split over these changes, Lindaman helped Whitworth survive tumultuous times and emerge with its Christian identity still intact.
During Lindaman’s tenure, Whitworth’s Core curriculum and Jan Term programs bloomed; chapel attendance became voluntary rather than mandatory; the Forum program was established to heighten intellectual life; and new opportunities arose for students outside the classroom, such as the six-week Arctic Barrens program, in which students paddled and portaged through the largest road-less area on the planet. But financial difficulties plagued the college throughout the decade, as did a fear of failing to maintain steady enrollment in the late 1970s. Lindaman announced his resignation in 1979, effective the following February.
After his departure, Lindaman’s vision for service and for responding to the needs of the world remained etched on the college community. The board of trustees honored him with the titles President Emeritus and Futurist in Residence. He died tragically in 1982, after contracting viral encephalitis while co-leading a Whitworth-sponsored tour of China with Professor of Political Studies Dan Sanford, ’65. Whitworth mourned the passing of this leader whose spirit remains associated with Whitworth, both in the unique decade of the 1970s and today.