Founding the College
After more than a decade of false starts, Rev. Edward R. Geary joined with the Monteith brothers to establish a Presbyterian college in Albany, Oregon. Thomas and Walter Monteith founded the town of Albany in 1848, and by the 1860s it was the prosperous seat of Linn County with a population of 600. Backed by funding from local citizens, Geary and William Monteith chartered the college on four blocks of downtown Albany. The Albany Collegiate Institute opened its doors on October 14, 1867. In the 150 years that followed, the institution changed its name, moved campuses twice, and grew into a well-regarded liberal arts college.
Albany’s curriculum emphasized classics and religion. It was initially a six-year combined preparatory and collegiate institution. By 1874, Albany abandoned the preparatory curriculum and instead offered three distinct courses of advanced learning: classical (a four-year intensive study of Latin and Greek along with English literature); Latin-scientific (a four-year program which dropped Greek for more intensive studies of science and mathematics); and normal (a two-and-a-half year certificate for students who intended to become public school teachers).
Albany was coeducational from its founding in 1867. The first graduating class of five, in 1873, was entirely female. Most of the early students were local to Albany and remained there after graduation, but by the end of the 1880s alumni could be found as far east as Philadelphia and as far south as Arizona.