Thomas Milton Gatch was born in Milford, Ohio in 1833. He earned his A.B. degree in 1855 and his A.M. in 1860, both from Ohio Wesleyan University. Gatch then entered Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. In 1856, he accepted a position at the University of the Pacific at Santa Clara, California. Later, he moved to Salem where he served simultaneously as President of Willamette University and mayor of the city of Salem. In 1887, Gatch became President of the University of Washington where he remained until 1895. From 1897 to 1907, Gatch served as the President of Oregon Agricultural College. During this time, OAC saw major growth including the construction of several new buildings and a sanitation system, the formation of new students groups, the admission of the college's first international students, the development of new curricula, and the creation of the first Branch Experiment Station. Following his retirement from OAC, Gatch returned to Seattle where he died on April 23, 1913 at the age of 81.
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