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GU History: 1980-1989

A guide to the history of Gonzaga University


In the spring of 1980, the Gonzaga Alumni Association purchased the former boyhood home of Bing Crosby for $60,000.  With this purchase the Alumni Association had a place to house events on campus.  This home was built by Bing’s father, Harry Crosby  in 1913 to house his family. 

 Crosby Alumni House

Crosby Alumni House,

 John Stockton

John Stockton and
Mark Matthews, 1984

John Stockton played his senior year at Gonzaga in 1983-1984.  Coached by Jay Hillock, Stockton helped his team achieve a 28-11 record, despite the fact that three starters did not finish the season. At the time, he was Gonzaga’s career leader in assists and steals, and placed sixth on career scoring with 1,340 points. He will be remembered for 30 point effort to forge a 64-62 come from behind win over Santa Clara in 1983.  (This was before the 3 point line was added.)  He held single Gonzaga season records for assists and steals for that year.  He led the West Coast Athletic Conference in assists, steals, and scoring average.  He was named the league’s most valuable player.  After graduation, Stockton began playing professionally for the Utah Jazz.

Herak Center for
Engineering, 1984

The Kennel Club started in the 1983-1984 school year from a request of basketball head coach Dan Fitzgerald to baseball coach Steve Hertz asking for help to fill up the gym for home games in the Martin Centre. Hertz agreed to encourage his players to attend and to bring their friends. At first there were just a handful of students, mostly baseball and rugby players. They would get together for a pregame social to get prepared for the opposing teams by deciding which player and maybe coach to pick on.

The Engineering School continued to grow and in the 1980s there was a need to expand its facilities again.  The $4 million fund raising project paid for a 35,000 square foot addition, lab equipment, and scholarships.  The building was renamed the Herak Center for Engineering after the benefactors, Donald and Carol Herak, in May 1984.  By the fall of 2002, the Engineering school enrolled 413 students.     

 Johnston Family Mall

Johnston Family Mall,

 To make the campus more beautiful and similar to its beginning, the busy corridor of Boone Avenue just outside the Administration Building was closed and became a walking mall.  Three blocks of Boone Avenue were vacated. Cul-de-sacs, gentle curving walkways, sculpted grounds adorned this mall.  Over a million ornamental red bricks were used to make the walkway.  The mall was dedicated in 1984 as the Johnston Family Mall, Gonzaga benefactors.

 Bob Newhart
Bob Newhart with his wife Virginia
during reception at the Spokane
Sheraton Hotel tohonor his Gonzaga
benefit performances, 1985

Actor and comedian Bob Newhart performed at the 1985 Parents’ Weekend.  Newhart presented two performances to capacity crowds to benefit Gonzaga.  His eldest son, Rob, was a Gonzaga junior majoring in broadcast journalism at the time.

 GU Centennial
Centennial Celebration,
Sept. 17, 1986

For over a year, Gonzaga celebrated its Centennial in various events.  A campus-wide birthday party was held on September 17, 1986 on the lawn behind the Administration Building.  For the Centennial, Gonzaga officially embarked on its largest fund-raising effort in its history, a capital campaign to raise $33 million in five years.      

 Martin Center
Martin Centre under
construction, c.1986

Another major construction in the mid-1980s was the addition to the Kennedy Pavilion.  Renamed after the major donor, Charlotte Y. Martin, the Martin Centre opened in 1986.  With 121,000 square feet,  it doubled the Kennedy Pavilion’s recreation space.  There were now 3 full sized basketball courts, 8 racquetball courts, an elevated indoor running track, weight room, dance studio, and arts and crafts room with sewing machine and loom. 

Students playing “Pictionary”,

By 1986 there were 3,400 graduate and undergraduate students and approximately 50 Jesuits of the 250 faculty on campus. This made for a rate of 1 Jesuit for every 74 students and 1 professor per 14 students.
In April 1987, Alphonse and Geraldine Arnold gave Gonzaga 4,250 ounces of gold.  Proceeds for the sale of gold totaled $2 million, the largest single gift in GU’s history at the time. A trust was set up to be used for professorships, scholarships, and a Presidential Fund for support of unrestricted programs such as faculty research and development and campus renovations and improvements.

 Jepson Center
Jepson Center, 1987

Like the other professional schools at Gonzaga, the School of Business continued to grow.  In 1987 it moved into its new building the Jepson Center.  This $2,750,000 building had 34,000 square feet of space for 190 seat auditorium, classrooms, computer lab, reading room, and student and faculty lounges. 

 Fr. Coughlin and John Clute
President Coughlin and John
Clute launch the second phase
of the $62 million capital
campaign at the Martin
Centre, 1989

Phase one of Gonzaga’s Capital Campaign launched in 1985 was topped in 1988.  More than 1,400 student scholarships were awarded and five professorships were endowed as a result of these new resources.  Phase Two’s goal to raise an additional $29 million for capital improvements, scholarships and endowments began in 1989.  By this time, Gonzaga had an economic impact on Spokane for $133 million.

G.U.T.S., 1998

Gonzaga University Theatre Sports or G.U.T.S started in 1988.  With no costumes and no script, G.U.T.S. was total improvisational theater in which the stage was converted into a competitive arena. Divided into two teams of five on the Russell Theatre stage, students engage in a variety of stage competitions.  In the “line” game, players who crossed the imaginary line became characters in a scene chosen by the audience.  By 1991, G.U.T.S. had 30 members who performed once a month.  The shows usually attracted an attendance of over 250 people.

 Jesse Jackson
Jesse Jackson chatting with
students after his speech,

Two notable people visited Gonzaga in 1989.  One was Jesse Jackson, who was invited by the Associated Students of Gonzaga University as part of its annual speaker series in February.  The Martin Centre was packed.  Campaigning for President of the United States, Jackson marveled at how a predominantly conservative, white community would turn out in such numbers to see a black Baptist preacher from the South.

 Commencement 1989
Lou Holtz, front center, surrounded
by Gonzaga Administrators,
Gonzaga’s commencement, 1989

The other notable visitor to Gonzaga was Lou Holtz, legendary Notre Dame football coach.  Holtz gave the commencement address at the 1989 graduation.  Nearly 5,000 people, with 486 graduating seniors, heard him.  Those unable to find a seat in the Martin Centre were seated in Hughes Auditorium and the Martin Centre field house for live, closed-circuit viewing of the ceremony, which also was televised over a cable channel.  Holtz’s speech made for one of Gonzaga’s most memorable graduations.


Updated March 2015

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