By now you’ve heard of Gonzaga University. But what else do you know about the university?
When I moved to the east coast from Washington, I grew used to the fact that people only knew what and where Gonzaga is because of their basketball program. I didn’t mind, especially because it was a conversation starter. Besides, they are the only reason I got into March Madness in the first place.
For those that don’t know, I got my bachelor’s degree from Eastern Washington University, a school located about 15 minutes away from Spokane, Washington. Then, I continued my education, and graduated from Gonzaga University with my master’s degree in Intercultural Communications. (If you ever want me to talk your ear off, please just ask me about my experience in the program!)
So, having spent numerous years of my life in the Greater Spokane area, I thought I would share a few fun facts about the city and the school that aren’t necessarily basketball related.
- Spokane is the second largest city in Washington State. According to multiple demographic reports*, Seattle leads with a population of over 775,000. Spokane follows a population of ~227,000 and growing. Spokane is located on the far left side of Washington, and bumps shoulders with the Idaho border.
- Spokane was home to the World’s Fair in 1974, making it the smallest city to ever host. The U.S. Pavillion, which still stands erect in Riverfront Park and it was on the most prominent features in Spokane, was originally built for the fair. (History Link Org)
- The city is home to several of the “largest” events, including…
- The World’s largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament called Hoopfest. Streets are blocked and transformed into mini basketball courts. (Spokane Hoopfest)
- The World’s largest timed footrace, known as Bloomsday. The Lilac Bloomsday Run hosts tens of thousands of people from all over the World. In 1996, they hosted an all time high of 61,298 participants. In the most recent years, participants have consistently been in the 40,000s. (Bloomsday Run)
- The Nation’s largest Torchlight Military Parade known as the Spokane Lilac Festival. This parade is part of a week-long festival, which also includes a queen’s coronation, a tea party, a gala, and a golf tournament. (Visit Spokane)
- Father’s Day originated in Spokane in 1910. Sonora Smart Dodd was one of six children raised by her father, who was a widower. With the help of government officials, local churches and the YMCA, her attempt to celebrate the day statewide was successful. “However, it was not until 1972–58 years after President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day official–that the day honoring fathers became a nationwide holiday in the United States.” (History)
- Spokane is also home to the Spokane Indians (the High-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies) and the WHL hockey team the Spokane Chiefs. Both teams embrace the Native American culture of the Spokane Tribe, who are “one of the Interior Salish speaking tribes.” (Spokane Tribe)
- Gonzaga is a private Jesuit school. The name Gonzaga comes from Saint Aloysius Gonzaga.
- Famous Students; John Stockton (Utah Jazz Point Guard), Kelly Olynyk (Houston Rockets Forward Center), Seattle Mariners’ Ace Marco Gonzales, and quite possibly the most notable of them all Bing Crosby. While claiming Spokane as his hometown, Crosby only spent three years at GU and did not graduate.
- The university does not have a football team. Their last team played in 1941, just before sending men off to war.
- Gonzaga became a school before Washington became a state. First opening in 1887, Gonzaga beat the state by two years.
- Over half the students study abroad before graduating- including me! This makes sense, seeing as GU is not only named after an Italian Aristocrat, but also because they has a sister school in Florence, Italy.
** Information pulled from Gonzaga University website.