Seattle Pacific’s own private island

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Photo by Jessica Hancock.
The first view of Blakely Island people see as they pull into the harbor.

Just before the tip of the Orcas Islands, there is a small 5,000 acre private island known as Blakely Island. Virtually untouched, the island is home to a handful of residential homes as well as Seattle Pacific University’s very own Blakely Island Field Station, which includes a dormitory, dining hall and lab.

The island is worth billions of dollars, and most of the residential inhabitants are members of the wealthiest families in the United States, but SPU did not and has not paid a dime to own property on this coveted island.

In 1892, a man by the name of Thomas Crowley formed and founded Crowley Maritime Corporation. His organization was one of the first companies to provide transportation services using fleets of over 300 vessels across the world.

Since its creation, Crowley Maritime Corporation has grown exponentially–it has gained over 2.2 billion dollars in revenue and has been listed as one of America’s largest private companies.

This has allowed the Crowley family to travel across the world, but they discovered there was only one place they loved visiting most: Blakely Island. The family decided to make the island their home and purchased everything that had not already been developed.

With their new gem, they were determined to share the private oasis with a cause that would benefit their passion for education. The Crowley family searched for a college they could donate a portion of Blakely Island to, for educational use.

By chance, the family formed a relationship with a professor from Seattle Pacific University, and in 1976 the Crowley’s gifted 1,000 acres of the island to the school. Along with that land, the Crowley family put money into a trust for SPU.

Year after year, that trust accrues a substantial amount of interest. That money has been used to build, operate and maintain SPU’s land on Blakely Island.

“It doesn’t cost you tuition dollars; we pay our own way here,” LeRoy Hubbert, SPU’s hired Blakely Island caretaker, said.

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