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Our History

In the Our History pages that follow, readers will be informed and gain appreciation of the heritage and extensive growth of the Graduate School of Education from its undergraduate “college” status to today’s 53 graduate programs that cover a large breadth of the education field. 

The founding history of the Graduate School of Education is similar to the history of many other academic areas at Portland State University. In 1946, following the end of World War II, course offerings in various fields of study began with the opening of Vanport Extension Center (VEC) in Portland’s Vanport City. What is unique and less well known, though, is that Portland State University was originally shaped by key administrators with extensive professional preparation and public school teaching and administrative experience. These ground-breaking administrators included John F. Cramer, dean of Oregon’s General Extension Division (Portland State’s first president in 1955), Stephen E. Epler, founder and director of VEC, Phil H. Putnam, assistant director of VEC, and Willard B. Spalding, GSE’s first department chair at Portland State Extension Center. Unlike many of their contemporaries at the time, all four of these early leaders of Portland State held doctoral degrees, all in education. In other words, administrators with exceptional backgrounds in education helped shape Portland State University, and laid the groundwork for teacher education to become a major area of professional preparation for future students.  

More than six decades later, the Vanport Extension Center is now Portland State University, the Department of Education has evolved to the Graduate School of Education, 14 deans have led the school, and the number of exceptional faculty and students has greatly expanded to the largest graduate school on campus. The Portland State University Graduate School of Education is the largest and most comprehensive school of education in Oregon. It prepares more teachers, counselors and administrators for licensure than any other institution in the state.