Our History

The story of Whidbey Institute began in 1966 when founders Fritz and Vivienne Hull purchased a late nineteenth century Finnish farm on south Whidbey Island. In 1972, the homestead and surrounding land became the Chinook Learning Community. Over the next 24 years, the Learning Community operated as a retreat center where gatherings and workshops convened individuals who hungered for community, a place for reflection, and a connection to nature in a place that felt like home. Our original 501(c)(3) non-profit status as a religious organization supported our exploration of matters relating to Earth, Spirit, and the Human Future.

In 1993 the Community founders, together with new collaborators, gathered on the Scottish island of Iona to envision a new organization. Its mission was to cultivate and nurture personal development and community vitality. Two years later, the Chinook Learning Community merged with this new organization, which was named the Whidbey Institute. While the emphasis was new, the guiding principles and core values adhered to the organization’s founding vision of thriving individuals, communities, and ecosystems. In 1997, the Whidbey Institute obtained new 501(c)(3) status as a non-profit educational organization.

The Whidbey Institute has been a direct outgrowth of the long and significant history of the Chinook Learning Community. Today, the Institute continues to serve the Cascadia bioregion through its commitment to cutting edge programs that contribute to a sustainable and life affirming future. While the Institute brings together people to engage with the most serious issues of our time, there has always been a foundation of optimism, a spirit of joy, and a confidence in our collective work to build a more vibrant, just and peaceful world.

We thrive on a home of 100 acres of forest and meadows – still known as Chinook. Much of this acreage is protected by a conservation easement in partnership with the Whidbey Camano Land Trust. The beauty of this shared place, and the potent sense of “home” it instills, has been remarked upon by countless visitors over the years.

We have grown from an inspiring idea to a beloved organization with professional staff, year-round programs, unique collaborative partners, new facilities, and nationwide presence and reach. The vision, wisdom, commitment, hard work, and generosity of many people have brought the Whidbey Institute to the present. On behalf of the founders, partners, staff, donors, and volunteers who make up the fabric of this place, we welcome you.


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