Socio-Economic Diversity at WashU

At the 1905 Annual Banquet,  Alumni Association President Beebe said,

“When I was ready for college I was free to go anywhere. I chose Washington University and I have never regretted my choice. I believe that a Western man should go to a Western school if he would be in sympathy with the West. Wise men from time immemorial come out of the East, but I believe that the West has a bredth of thought and an openness of mind that are not found else-where. For these reasons I have no hesitation in urging a young man to attend Washington University, and I think every member of this association should do likewise. Let us all work together to increase the influence of the University in this community.

Many of the richest in mental development are the poorest in pocket, and it would be distinct losses to the state were they deprived of the opportunity to develop. It is this class of students, free from the distractions of wealth and under the pressure of financial necessity, who become the most useful citizens. One third of the entire undergraduate body of Washington University receives, through scholarships or special help, free tuition.”

brookings-worlds-fair_1904-corrected(above) View from Brookings Hall, looking out to just closed World’s Fair of 1904. Soon after this students began putting the campus to academic use.  University Archives Collections.


Not everyone has the options or opportunities to choose whatever school they want to go to, or go to school at all. There has been a lot of discussion on campus about where our resources are going and what we can do to promote economic diversity on campus.

Can you imagine how different our world would be if everyone had access to higher education regardless of race or class? Do you think that vision could ever be achieved, at least at WashU? What can we do to make our institution more inclusive, instead of increasingly exclusive of people with certain identities and backgrounds?

Explore these topics further:

In 1908, Chancellor David Huston delivered an address before the Commercial Club of St. Louis, titled A University for the Southwest.  This outlined his vision for the future of Washington University, with an early 19th century take on diversity.

And 100 years later Student Life addressees socio-economic diversity at WashU: and


This post is part of an occasional series, marking the 110 year anniversary of the Danforth Campus’ first use for academic programs, in 1904-05.  Read more about the dedication events and first commencement ceremony, June 1905, in the Alumni Bulletin available in full text on-line.

Update 8/22/2014:

For more information about contemporary  issues at WU and in St. Louis, see or #WashUVoices  on social media.

About the author

Miranda Rectenwald is Curator of Local History, Washington University Special Collections. More info.