by Rebekah Bresee
Students, faculty and trustee members gathered on the sunny lawn outside of East Hall on Thursday, April 16 for the last time. It’s not the last time such a community will be in front of the dormitory, but the last time the building will be a gathering place under the name East Hall.
The six-year-old dormitory has been renamed Oliver Hall in honor of the former chair of the Board of Trustees and ‘67 Whitworth alumnus Walt Oliver.
“This is a special day in the life of Whitworth University as we honor our good friend, Walt Oliver,” President Beck Taylor said at the ceremony.
The Board of Trustees made the decision earlier this year to dedicate the hall to Oliver. According to Whitworth’s website, Oliver joined Whitworth’s Board of Trustees in 1996 and served as its chair from 2008 to 2014. He stepped down from that position last year.
Renaming the hall in Oliver’s honor took a bit of arm-twisting from Oliver himself, Taylor said.
“This is the spirit of Walt—ever humble and understated, and always generous and encouraging,” Taylor said at the event. “Honoring you [Oliver] in this way will educate students for decades of the man you are.”
Oliver’s story and legacy will begin to be implemented in the script of campus tours as well as the resident orientation.
Current residents of the formerly named East Hall attended the ceremony wearing t-shirts with the dorm’s new name. The current resident director of Oliver Hall, Cris Tietsort used shared his experiences working in the dorm. While it is not a perfect hall, he said, those imperfections give the dorm personality.
“My prayer moving forward is that we honor Walter through the conduct of Oliver Hall,” Tietsort said.
It was under Oliver’s leadership that Taylor became the university’s new president, the Whitworth 2021 plan was launched and the campus received major additions, including Robinson Science Hall, the Hixson Union Building expansion, the University Recreation Center and the Lied Center for the Visual Arts, according to Whitworth’s website, In fact, the Lied Center’s Bryan Oliver Gallery is one of many gifts made by Oliver and is named in honor of his late son.
Additionally, Oliver and his wife Kay pledged a gift of $3 million to the Campaign for Whitworth in October.
“For your leadership, for your generosity, and for the role model you are, I hereby dedicate this building Oliver Hall,” Taylor said, revealing a replica of the naming plaque.
Oliver closed the ceremony with words of thanks. The crowd laughed as Oliver explained he simply wanted to walk by the building and made Taylor promise not to have a large ceremony.
Because of their own financial struggles, Oliver’s parents were insistent that he would have a better life that they did, he said. The cornerstone that they suggested would make the difference was education, he said.
“Having had that clarity, my prayer is that the students in this hall, in these rooms, on this campus can have the freedom of learning, and that that freedom will give them the clarity to follow Christ, honor God and serve humanity,” Oliver said.
Contact Rebekah Bresee at firstname.lastname@example.org