Whitman’s Yard Sale Means More Than Cheap Furniture

Sarah Cornett

Last Friday, Sept. 6 marked the continuation of an event the Physical Plant has put on for 19 years –– the Whitman College Surplus Yard Sale.


Each year, employees of the Physical Plant gather unwanted furniture –– ranging from chairs to typewriters –– from Whitman classrooms and facilities. The items are then assembled at the Physical Plant for an annual yard sale, providing a cost-effective way for both students and locals to get cheap furnishings, with most costing between $5 and $10. In addition, the money made from the yard sale is used to fund the Physical Plant’s Non-Traditional Student Scholarship fund, a unique scholarship designed to help pay for the tuition of a student who might come to Whitman under special circumstances.

Physical Plant Director Dan Park said the sale is held in the early fall to provide an opportunity for upperclassmen to furnish their off-campus houses.

“We do it at this time of year because the returning students need furniture for their houses,” he said.

Park works with Physical Plant electrician Ken Kern to allow it to run smoothly. Kern has been running the Yard Sale for the past three years.

“During the year, we gather things that professors don’t need. We store it in a campus warehouse, then bring it down here and price it when it comes time for the sale,” he said.

However, the yard sale goes beyond providing just an easy way for the Whitman and Walla Walla community to buy couches and desks. The proceeds are allotted to the Physical Plant’s Non-Traditional Student Scholarship fund, a $2,000 per year award that goes to students who do not fit the typical profile of a Whitman first-year.

“The idea was to help someone who didn’t come to Whitman right out of high school,” said Kern.

Park oversees the process of granting the scholarship. 

“A committee from the Physical Plant reviews possible recipients, then decides how to grant the scholarship. It’s automatically renewed for each year the student attends Whitman,” he said.

The two students that are currently receiving the award are both older than the average college age and married. One of the recipients, senior Ryan Calvert, has two young children.

After attending Walla Walla Community College, Calvert began looking for a way to finish his degree without uprooting his family.

“I was a community college student, looking for a four-year school that wouldn’t require my family to move,” he said.

He found a solution with Whitman’s Gateway program, which offers talented students from the Walla Walla Community an opportunity to take one class at Whitman, then pursue admission after the one-class trial period. Students in the program are offered a scholarship that covers almost all of the costs of attending Whitman.

“Through the Gateway Scholarship program, I was able to take one class for free, and I was encouraged to apply,” said Calvert.

Calvert received the Physical Plant Scholarship in addition to his Gateway award.  The scholarship allows him to spend the $2,000 without any conditions.

“I used a lot of it this year to provide a good Christmas for my family,” he said. “Other than that, it helps with the day-to-day expenses of being a student while also having a family.”

As a Whitman student, Calvert has showed no hesitation in getting involved. He works as a chemistry teacher’s assistant while also taking a hefty class load, and is enjoying his time here.

“Whitman has warmly welcomed me,” he said.