In 1887, Quaker settlers named their small Southern California community in honor of the famous abolitionist poet, John Greenleaf Whittier. Academies for elementary and high school students both called Whittier Academy, opened in 1891, and later developed into Whittier College. Coeducational from the beginning, Whittier graduated its first class in 1904.
While the College eventually severed its formal ties with the Society of Friends, the Quaker heritage remains a strong influence today. The College is characterized by a friendly atmosphere, concern for the individual and close faculty-student interaction consistent with institutional traditions for individual education in a community setting.
Whittier Law School was founded in 1966 as Beverly Law School to provide an intensive legal education program, especially for women and older students. In 1975, Beverly Law School joined Whittier College, a nationally recognized liberal arts college, forming Whittier College School of Law. The American Bar Association awarded accreditation in 1978, followed by admittance to the Association of American Law Schools in 1987.
In 1997, Whittier Law School moved to Costa Mesa and on April 24, 1998, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy formally dedicated the campus. Today, the Law School is proud of its 4,500 graduates in 48 states and 14 foreign countries, its extensive international outreach and experiential learning opportunities as well as its distinguished Centers for Children’s Rights, Intellectual Property Law, and International and Comparative Law.
In 2016, Whittier Law School celebrated its 50th anniversary. Read professor Patricia Leary’s speech from that event here.