Our History: 1991–Now

Engaging the Culture, Changing the World: 1991–Now

By the 1990s, Seattle Pacific University had become one of the nation’s premier Christian universities. In 1991, the University celebrated its Centennial, celebrating with leading scholars and artists from around the world. In 1994, it opened a $10-million Library that now serves as the heart of the academic program.

Under the leadership of President Philip W. Eaton, who took office in 1996, SPU built upon its historical commitment to outward-focusing involvement in the community and beyond and forged a bold, new vision for engaging the culture and changing the world. The “Common Curriculum,” a creative, cohort-based approach to general education, launched in 1998. In 2003, as part of a successful $52 million capital campaign, a 64,000-square-foot science building opened, and Otto Miller Hall (formerly the Miller Science Learning Center) underwent a major renovation. In all, the University invested $42 million in classroom and laboratory space for undergraduate science research and learning.

Other significant capital projects built during President Eaton’s tenure include the award-winning Gwinn Commons student dining facility and Emerson Hall, a suite-style residence hall accommodating more than 300 students.

In 2005, President Eaton unveiled 2014: A Blueprint for Excellence that created a strategic plan for the University’s future. By 2012, SPU had fulfilled much of the Blueprint and remained focused on taking the University to a new level in academic achievement and cultural engagement.

On September 20, 2011, President Eaton announced his retirement, effective July 1, 2012. After a nationwide search, on April 10, 2012, the SPU Board of Trustees elected Dr. Daniel J. Martin as the 10th president of Seattle Pacific University. On May 23, 2012, the SPU Board of Trustees also announced it had named the science building in honor of the Eatons: the Philip W. and Sharon K. Eaton Hall.

At Seattle Pacific University beginning in July 2012, President Daniel Martin, who had previously been the president of Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Ohio, oversaw multiple strategic planning efforts, renovation of the historic Alexander and Adelaide Hall, and the addition of a state-of-the-art nursing-training facility and state-of-the-art Nickerson Studios. He also guided the University through the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, which initially required SPU to make a rapid transition to remote learning, enabling SPU to serve students safely and continuously using a hybrid-learning model. Seattle Pacific University was named a Best National University by US News and World Report, beginning in 2017.

In keeping with SPU’s vision, he was committed to facilitating the University’s active participation in helping to address the needs of the city of Seattle, the Pacific Northwest region, and the world. President Martin left the University in April 2021.