Our History


Did you know that WACUBO turned 85 in 2022? That’s right...the organization that brings you premier professional development programs in the Western Region - from workshops to the Business Management Institute to the annual conference - held its first meeting in Stanford, CA during the height of the Great Depression and on the eve of the Second World War.

Today, our membership includes institutions in 14 western United States, three Canadian Provinces, Mexico and other Pacific Rim nations.

Past Presidents

View a list of our past presidents here.

Past Annual Conferences

A survey of the annual conference themes over the course of its 85+ years reveals that WACUBO has always strived to engage members on relevant topics informed by contemporaneous events, from the onset of the Cold War to the struggle for Civil Rights to the advent of the information age.

Annual Conference program pictorial

1930's and the Pre-WWII Years: WACUBO’s Early Years

1936-1937: WACUBO 1.0
The Board of Directors first recorded meeting minutes from their meeting held in Stanford, California.

1940-1941: Early Reach of the Feds
At the Board of Directors’ meeting, the “hot topic” was the Social Security Act, which had been enacted by Congress five years earlier. The meeting place was Pasadena, California.

1941-1942: On the Eve of Entering WWII
From Eugene, Oregon, the Board of Directors meeting minutes reflect the topic of discussion as “national defense problems”. Unsurprising given the historical context (WWII), there are no recorded minutes for the 1942-1943 and 1943-1944 program years.

1940's and the Post-WWII Years: The Paramount Role of Higher Education

1944: Turning on the Lights
What do coastal blackouts have to do with WACUBO? During WWII, residents on both the U.S. coasts endured many a blackout, lest we light the way for a German or Japanese aerial bombardment! At the 1944 annual meeting, WACUBO leadership tackled the subject of re-illuminating campuses after the end of the war.

1946-1947: Educating our Veterans
After the war, a deluge of returning soldiers flooded colleges and universities thanks to the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the G.I. Bill. WACUBO leaders turned their attention to this welcomed challenge! In the peak year of 1947, Veterans accounted for 49 percent of college admissions.

1950: Booming with Babies!
As we do today, our WACUBO Board was contemplating - and planning for - the impact of demographic changes. WACUBO leadership recognized the seismic shift engendered by returning soldiers’ getting married, starting families...and producing the largest generation of prospective college students in this country’s history!

1950's and 1960's: Optimism Amid a Cold War

1954: The Cold War Hits Higher Ed
“Radiological monitoring” was a marquee topic at the annual conference...a sign of the times.

1956: WACUBO’s Business Management Institute Opens its Doors
The advent of the BMI epitomizes the optimism of the period, when the enrollment boom at colleges and universities necessitated creating professional infrastructure to sustain these institutions for decades to come.

1958: Population Boom for Business Officers?
Or was it Carmel? Annual conference attendance had increased by 400% between 1937 and 1958!

1960: Women’s Rights
WACUBO held a “special session for the ladies” at the annual conference in Salt Lake City – you have to start somewhere!

1962: NACUBO is born!
The explosion in enrollment and increase in federal regulation catalyzed the regional associations, the “ACUBOs,” to form the National Association of College and University Business Officers. NACUBO represented IHE business officers with a consolidated voice in D.C. and elevated the standing of higher ed business professionals.

1966: WACUBO and the Cosmos
At the peak of NASA’s Gemini program, the annual conference featured “exploration of space” as a topic in Vancouver.

1970's: Tension and Turmoil

The protest culture hit colleges and universities like a storm, with students questioning whether institutions served them well against a backdrop of anti-war and civil rights protests.

  • Tragedies at Kent State and Jackson State Universities in 1970 fueled a perception among legislators and governors that administrators were failing to control their campuses.
  • Watergate was a new nadir for public trust of institutions, in general.
  • Stagflation and concomitant economic malaise depressed enrollment at colleges and universities into the early 1980s.

This turbulence marked the onset of an era of flagging support for public higher education, a challenge that would become all too familiar for college and university business officers – and a recurring theme at WACUBO annual conferences.

1973: Injecting Order into Chaos
The Carnegie Classification, developed in 1970, was published to provide a taxonomy for institutions of higher education, a framework that undergirds NACUBO’s and WACUBO’s constituency groups.

1980's: Go Go 80s not so for Higher Ed

Enrollments in colleges and universities grew at the smallest rate in decades, but, an IT revolution was nigh! Technological change gave rise to “enterprise IT” at colleges and universities...the legacy systems many institutions just started to replace in this millennium!

IT transformed the nature of the college and university business workforce, a challenge with which WACUBO presidents and their boards have repeatedly grappled since this time.

1984: WACUBO Hosts the Olympics!
The University of Southern California was a host village for Olympic athletes competing in the Los Angeles games. USC’s chief business officer, also WACUBO president that year, prudently leveraged federal funds to modernize the campus for its host village responsibilities to upgrade USC’s IT and telecommunications cable and wire network...an early public-private partnership?!?!?

1985: Supercomputing
The National Science Foundation established five supercomputing centers at IHEs across the country, including one at the University of California-San Diego.

1990's: Growth Returns and College Cost Concerns Emerge

As enrollment recovered, concerns about the cost of higher education surged. Between 1989 and 2000, enrollment grew just under 12%, to 15 million from 13.5 million. Between 1987 and 1999, average tuition, room and board at private colleges doubled to $20,000 from $10,000.

1996: Line between the Private Sector and Higher Ed Blurs
Responsibility centered management (RCM) and the role of external financing in higher education were on the annual conference agenda. The WACUBO president noted private sector lexicon - “best practices, leveraging partnerships, managing human resources” – had seeped into college and university dialogue.

1997: Survival in Brave New World
Sustaining “administrative improvement” is top of mind for the WACUBO board during this program year.

1998: It’s Official: College is Too Expensive!
The National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education released a report highlighting the increase in tuition over the last twenty years and called on colleges and universities to reduce costs and become more affordable.

2000's: 9/11, Campus Violence, Great Recession

Higher education continued to respond to demands that it demonstrate its “value proposition,” as evidenced by recurring topics on organizational change and effectiveness and performance measurement at WACUBO annual conferences.

However, the millennium commenced with the previously unfathomable 9/11/2001terror attack, and episodes of campus violence, such as the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting, marred the decade. “Violence” joined the list of frequent topics at WACUBO board meetings and annual conferences.

2001 and 2002: The New “Business as Usual”
Illustrating that higher education had internalized concerns about cost, the annual conference for these two year featured quality and outcomes, organizational change, the “business of learning” and public-private partnerships as topics.

2003: Shift in the Winds
Law enforcement under the Patriot Act, workplace violence and international travel risks were sessions at the annual conference.

Then came the Great Recession at the end of 2007.

2009 and 2010: The Economy
The impact of the economy was a marquee focus these conference years.

2011, 2012 and 2013: Returning to the New Normal?
Conversations about organizational effectiveness, process improvement and leadership for change returned to the forefront on conference agendas, signaling higher education’s adjustment to the contemporaneous economic climate.

2014, 2015 and 2016: More Cost Concerns...with a Global Dimension
In a nod to the international sphere in which colleges and universities exist, WACUBO recognized that higher education was expected to generate prosperity. The student debt burden, student financial literacy and cost control were complementary topics.