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Washington State University
Office of the President Past Presidents

George W. Lilley


George W. Lilley was appointed for a one-year term as president of the Washington Agricultural College and School of Science on May 1, 1891. This was just a few days after Pullman was chosen as the site of the new land-grant college for the state, today Washington State University. The new institution had been established by the Legislature on March 28, 1890, and signed into law by Elisha P. Ferry, the state’s first governor.

The fledgling institution opened for classes on January 12, 1892, with 59 students, 13 in collegiate and 46 in preparatory courses. Instruction began in agriculture, mechanic arts and engineering, and sciences and arts.

A native of Illinois born about 1850, Lilley studied at Knox College in Illinois from 1869 to 1873. He also studied mathematics at the University of Michigan and earned a master of arts degree from Washington and Jefferson College in 1878. He was president of Dakota Agricultural College, 1884-1886, before coming to Washington.

Lilley served as president until the end of 1892 when the Board of Regents selected a new leader for the institution.

Academic field

Mathematics, master’s degree, Washington and Jefferson College

Major challenges

Launching a new college with little support from the Regents, who limited his appointment to one year

Life after WSU

Served as principal of Park School, a public school in Portland, Oregon, then became a professor of mathematics at the University of Oregon in Eugene