PLU seeks to educate students for lives of thoughtful inquiry, service, leadership and care – for other people, for their communities, and for the earth.
The Faculty of Pacific Lutheran University establishes the educational philosophy that shapes and supports the curriculum and programs of study. This philosophy is reflected in statements of educational goals, objectives and principles. Of particular significance to all students are statements about learning objectives, general education and writing throughout the curriculum.
Pacific Lutheran University was founded in 1890 by a group of mostly Norwegian Lutherans from the Puget Sound area. They were led by the Reverend Bjug Harstad, who became PLU’s first president. In naming the university, these pioneers recognized the important role that a Lutheran educational institution on the Western frontier of America could play in the emerging future of the region. They wanted the institution to help immigrants adjust to their new land and find jobs, but they also wanted it to produce graduates who would serve church and community. Education—and educating for service—was a venerated part of the Scandinavian traditions from which these pioneers came.
Although founded as a university, the institution functioned primarily as an academy until 1918, when it closed for two years. It reopened as the two-year Pacific Lutheran College, after merging with Columbia College, previously located in Everett. Further consolidations occurred when Spokane College merged with PLC in 1929. Four-year baccalaureate degrees were first offered in education in 1939 and in the liberal arts in 1942. The institution was reorganized as a university in 1960, reclaiming its original name. It presently includes a College of Arts and Sciences; professional schools of Arts and Communication, Business, Education and Movement Studies, and Nursing; and both graduate and continuing education programs.
PLU has been closely and productively affiliated with the Lutheran church throughout its history. It is now a university of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), owned by the more than six hundred congregations of Region 1 of the ELCA.
Many influences and individuals have combined to shape PLU and its regional, national, and increasingly international reputation for teaching, service, and scholarship. A dedicated faculty and staff have been extremely important factors. The school has enjoyed a strong musical tradition from the beginning, as well as noteworthy alumni achievements in public school teaching and administration, university teaching and scholarship, the pastoral ministry, the health sciences and healing arts, and business. At PLU the liberal arts and professional education are closely integrated and collaborative in their educational philosophies, activities, and aspirations.