Ralph Wesley Hanna

One of the real founders of Clark College, Ralph Wesley Hanna, worked for $25 a month in the beginning — and felt fortunate to get even that small stipend.

Hanna was one of the first five instructors hired when the college was founded in 1933 and the only charter faculty member to make Clark College a career. He remained as an instructor until his death.

Classes in the original college were conducted in the Hidden House, now a restaurant. Hanna was hired as a professor of languages after his graduation from Vancouver High School and the University of Oregon.

During its first year of existence, Clark College had 25 students taught by the five faculty members. However, during those Depression days, many of the students were not able to pay tuition, and there were no tax funds available. As a result, after paying rent, utilities and other costs, the faculty shared the remaining funds, about $25 a month.

After the first year, only Hanna and Robert T. Oliver and his wife, Mary, elected to stay on, and the Olivers left the following year. Hanna remained with the struggling college during his entire professional career, which ended with his death in July 1952 at the age of 44.

Hanna was described as “a profound scholar, a gentleman and a master of four languages.” For his contributions to Clark College, a major building on the campus, Hanna Hall, was named in his honor.

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