Remembering Evergreen's Founding President Charles McCann

On Wednesday, July 8 founding president of The Evergreen State College Charles McCann passed away at his home in Olympia.

Photo of Charles McCann.

Charles McCann

He was 89 years old.

McCann was appointed to the Evergreen presidency by the college’s Board of Trustees in 1968 after the Washington State Legislature passed a bill in 1967 authorizing the college. He served as Evergreen’s president until 1977, when he stepped down to join the faculty and turn over the presidency to former Washington governor, Daniel J. Evans. McCann continued to be involved with Evergreen after he retired from the faculty in 1991, teaching classes and growing the two endowed scholarships he established during his long relationship with Evergreen.

Prior to working at Evergreen, McCann earned a Ph.D. in English from Yale University. He first joined the faculty at Central Washington State College (now Central Washington University) in 1956, where he progressed from an associate professorship to Chairman of the Department of English. He became assistant to the president in 1965 and later, Dean of Faculty.

Credited with leading the design of Evergreen’s unique educational model, McCann also hired founding faculty, oversaw the campus’ construction, opened the campus and graduated the first class of 21 students. Under his watch, Evergreen achieved accreditation one year ahead of schedule.

According to Evergreen’s Board of Trustees’ Chair Fred Goldberg, who knew McCann from the time he took the lead to establish the college, “he had a wonderful sense of humor and he never veered from his goal.”

In 1996, McCann received an honorary Master of Public Administration degree from Evergreen. In the faculty petition for the degree, S.R. (Rudy) Martin, described McCann as a visionary. “He specifically articulated his vision of what the college would become …” Martin went on to write, “During the McCann presidency, Evergreen became ... a widely acknowledged leader in American innovative higher education.”

Tom Anderson, ’73, who now serves on College Foundation Board of Governors, remembers McCann’s early years. “We would have potlucks (in the dorms) and it was not uncommon for Charlie to drop by for dinner. He was one of the most accessible ‘executives’ I ever met. He walked the walk and the students respected that. To a 20-year-old in 1971, he was talking my language.”

Donations can be made in memory of the McCanns to the Barbara McCann Art Scholarship or the Barbara and Charles McCann Scholarship. Visit the McCann scholarship page or call (360) 867-6300.