WSU renames President’s House in honor of Ida Lou Anderson

Anderson was one of few female faculty members, struggled with polio during college

The+Board+of+Regents+voted+to+approve+a+new+name+for+the+Presidents+House+on+Nov.+18.

CATHERINE CIBOTTI

The Board of Regents voted to approve a new name for the President’s House on Nov. 18.

JOSIAH PIKE, Evergreen reporter

WSU’s President’s House will be officially renamed in honor of former faculty member Ida Lou Anderson, following a vote of approval by the Board of Regents on Nov. 18.

WSU Pullman Chancellor Elizabeth Chilton has been the resident of the house since January because many of the responsibilities of hosting campus-level events fall to the chancellor.

Talks began about renaming the house about a year ago, during which Chilton spoke with many faculty members across departments about who to rename the building after, she said.

“I immediately began talking with folks on campus about ‘do we have someone on WSU’s campus who really embodies a lot of the values that we hold dear?’ We have a lot named after past presidents,” Chilton said.

Chilton said she first heard the suggestion of Anderson from Trevor Bond, associate dean for digital initiatives and special collections. Anderson, who was born in 1900 and lived to be 41 years old, was involved with radio broadcasting at WSU. 

“We had very few women who were part of the faculty in the 1920s and ’30s,” she said. 

Bond said he learned about Anderson early on in his career at WSU and was interested in not just her work, but her life in general. From an early age, Anderson had to overcome a lot of obstacles.

“She had contracted polio as a girl and went through a whole range of treatments as a teenager. There was actually a period where her parents sent her to a sanatorium for children with polio in St. Louis,” Bond said. “She graduated from Colfax High at an accelerated rate and started at Washington State College.”

Early on in her tenure at WSC, Anderson had such a rough time that she considered dropping out in her first semester, he said. She felt like an outcast due to her polio and curvature of her spine. Through perseverance and encouragement from faculty members, she found the strength to press on.

Anderson graduated from WSC in 1924 and earned a Master’s degree in speech at the University of Chicago, Bond said. She returned to WSC as an instructor and ended up teaching one of the most well known alumni in WSU’s history, a man then known as Egbert Roscoe Murrow.

“The two really clicked, they took many many classes together,” Chilton said. “She really helped him become an amazingly accomplished public speaker and prepared him for his career in radio.”

Bond said Murrow and Anderson kept in communication after Murrow’s graduation, but they most likely never met in person again after Murrow moved to New York City. He was not Anderson’s only well known student radio announcer Art Gilmore also was a pupil of hers.

Anderson’s teaching career was short lived, as she retired around 1940 due to exhaustion brought about by her struggle with polio, Bond said. She died only a year later, but her impact on WSU is still felt today.

“When I heard the story of Ida Lou, I felt I need not look any further because it checked all the boxes for the person I was hoping to find,” Chilton said.

Bond said Anderson has no buildings named after her already and he sent a letter to the Board of Regents strongly recommending her name be used for the house. 

“I think she represents the best of WSU faculty, professors who really care about their students and who are engaged in their teaching.” he said.

Another strong supporter of the motion is Bruce Pinkleton, dean of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication. He said her story is an inspiring one and sets WSU apart from other universities.

When he heard about the proposal to rename the house, Pinkleton said Anderson was one of the top picks in his mind to be the new namesake. Additionally, there are no other buildings named for Anderson at the WSU Pullman campus, he said.

Much like Bond, Pinkleton voiced his support to the Board of Regents and wrote a letter to them. He said Murrow’s legacy of journalism may not have happened without Anderson, making her one of WSU’s most influential figures.

Chilton said an official renaming ceremony for the house is currently being planned for March or April, but no official date has been set.