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Early Leadership

Portland State's founding institution was Vanport Extension Center, popularly known as Vanport College. Soon after the school’s relocation to Portland, Willard B. Spalding, EdD, arrived in the Park Blocks in 1952 to head the Department of Education at the newly relocated and renamed Portland State Extension Center (soon to become a college). Housed with other academic units in Old Main (now Lincoln Hall), Spalding responded to the national shortage of teachers by strongly advancing teacher education. Willard Spalding’s guidance proved to have widespread impact on the development of Portland State. His leadership helped ensure the institution’s emergence as Portland State College in 1955, the awarding of the first bachelor’s degrees in Elementary Education and General Studies in 1956, and the establishment of the School of Education in 1965.

Harvard University educated, Willard Spalding brought outstanding credentials to Portland State. He was a former superintendent of the Portland public schools, and dean of the College of Education at the University of Illinois. When achieving college status in 1955, Portland State’s President, John Cramer, established four academic units, wisely choosing Willard B. Spalding to chair the Division of Education (1955-1963). Dr. Spalding had extensive responsibilities as he oversaw the Education Division, which initially included elementary and secondary education, art and music education, and health and physical education. 

Dr. Spalding’s knowledge and talents in promoting teacher education impacted the entire institution during its formative years of the 1950s and 1960s. Recognized as an important leader by his peers and other professionals campus-wide, Willard Spalding’s service at Portland State included: Acting dean of the faculty; Chair of Curriculum Committee; Chair of the Teacher Education Committee; Chair of the Search Committee for Branford Millar, second PSU president; and member (triumvirate) of the Educational Policies Committee. As Chair of the Division of Education, Dr. Spalding was lauded by his peers for insisting that the teacher education curriculum be a college-wide responsibility, not just limited to education.   

Also of significance, Dr. Spalding was chosen to represent Portland State at the state legislature and worked successfully to gain certification and bachelor’s and master’s degree status for teacher education. Such efforts were also successful in advancing the cause for parallel degrees in other academic areas at Portland State.

In creating and developing a teacher education program unique to Portland State, Dr. Spalding deserves recognition as the founder of the Graduate School of Education. He should also be recognized for the significant contributions he made in helping lay the foundation for Portland State University. 

“Willard Spalding was an outstanding leader, administrator, and teacher at a significant period in the university’s history,” stated Steve Brannan, professor emeritus of the GSE and the Class of 1957. (GSE Historian, Steve Brannan, attained a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education under Spalding’s administration.)