press release


New residence hall named after former WOU president John Henry Ackerman

for release: May 4, 2010

MONMOUTH – Western Oregon University has named its new live-learn residence hall, currently under construction, Ackerman Hall after John Henry Ackerman, president of Oregon Normal School from 1911 to 1921. Ackerman Hall is being constructed with the goal of achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification, the highest available, and would be the first NC (new construction) residence hall with that level of certification in the country.
This residence hall will open in time for students to move in fall term 2010 and will have about 330 beds and academic space for classes and meetings. This sustainable building will feature increased insulation to reduce energy costs, solar hot water, solar heat collectors, solar thermal panels, low-flow plumbing fixtures, rainwater reclamation system, reduced electrical plug loads, and motion sensor lights.

Ackerman’s commitment to students was paramount to his mission both during his entire career and while he was president of Oregon Normal School. He also held a commitment to a diverse and well-trained faculty. Ackerman was educated at the State Normal School of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and was a committed proponent of education, particularly at rural schools.  After completion of his studies, Ackerman moved to Portland where he was principal of the Holiday School and, later the Harrison School. In 1896, Ackerman was promoted to superintendent of the Multnomah County Schools until he assumed the office of state superintendent of schools in 1899.

As state superintendent, Ackerman worked hard to increase school standards in Oregon.  Among the changes he implemented were increases in the length of the rural school year and teacher salaries, improvements to the physical conditions of schools, and the establishment of a uniform curriculum.  Oregon school standards were considered among the best in the country when Ackerman was done.

In 1911, Ackerman tackled the task of reopening the Oregon State Normal School in Monmouth, which had closed the previous year due to lack of state funding.  Ackerman reopened the school and served as president of the newly renamed Oregon Normal School.  As president, Ackerman oversaw the construction of many new buildings on campus, including the school’s first dormitory, later named Todd Hall, and the gymnasium, now known as Maple Hall.  In 1920, Ackerman fought for the passage of a millage bill to establish adequate and stable funding for the ONS. He was also a support of tax measures designed to improve the conditions of rural schools which saw substantial improvement during his tenure.

Another highlight of Ackerman’s career was the effort he made to create a more diversified and strong faculty. It was the usual practice among normal schools and colleges, particularly in the pioneer west, to employ a substantial number of their own graduates as teachers.  It is notable that Ackerman avoided this practice.  Ackerman sought to recruit faculty from other parts of the country, including Laura J. Taylor from the Teacher’s College, Columbia University; L.P. Gilmore from Lehigh University; and Katharine Arbuthnot who was educated at Drake University, Ames College, State Normal School of Illinois and Columbia University.

Ackerman remained president until he died of a sudden stroke in 1921.  John Henry Ackerman left behind a legacy of family, friends and students that greatly admired him and his work to improve educational standards and quality in Oregon.

Due to the nature of the design of the new live-learn residence hall, there are three distinct wings that make up the building.  In keeping with John Henry Ackerman’s efforts to recognize talented and committed faculty, combined with University Housing’s goal to involve faculty as mentors in the educational aspect of the live-learn building, the three wings have been named after notable faculty Ackerman recruited to ONS. The west wing has been named after Laura J. Taylor, the east wing after L.P. Gilmore, and the south wing after Katharine Arbuthnot.

More information about Ackerman Hall, including Web cams showing the construction progress, can be found at

aerial view of residence hall construction

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