Past, present and future: Columns keeps telling UW’s story

In the year 1908, Henry Ford sold his first Model T, Jack Johnson became the world’s first black boxing champion and E.M. Forester published Room with a View. At the University of Washington, Football Coach Gilmour Dobie was in his first year (he would coach here for nine seasons without a defeat), tuition was free for residents and the alumni association published the first issue of its magazine—the Washington Alumnus.

Somehow, despite budget cuts, student riots, two world wars, the Great Depression and the Internet, this magazine has survived for 90 years. Twice it ceased publication entirely—during World War I and in the mid-’30s—yet each time it was revived. Nine years ago, at the launch of the UW’s first capital campaign, the magazine was redesigned, its circulation jumped to cover all UW alumni, and the name changed to Columns.

The pages of Columns tell the history of the University of Washington—and give us insights into the politics and culture of the 20th century. As we poured over thousands of articles, we found a description of a World War I gas attack, an encounter with Ernest Hemingway, an account of the Japanese-American “evacuation” during World War Two, praise for the Civil Rights movement (and scorn for the anti-war movement), reaction to the fall of the Berlin Wall and a recounting of the Seattle “grunge rock” scene. There was so much history, that we had to divide the highlights into two parts, running the first part now and the rest in September.

However, we didn’t want to wallow in nostalgia. For this anniversary issue, we also asked UW experts for their vision of the world 90 years from now. You may find they tell us more about late 20th century America than they do about the world of 2088.

There have been many changes since 1908 and many more to come in the next 90 years, but the reasons for starting this magazine haven’t changed. In the first is­sue, the lead editorial stated, “The time has come when the alumni should take an active part in the conduct of the University …. Through these columns the alumni will be kept informed of the developments at the University, both as a matter of interest to them and in order that they may make known … the conditions and opportunities existing at the present time.” For this issue, we might amend that sentence to read “the past, present and future times.”