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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato


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In 1866, the Minnesota Legislature approved the establishment of a normal (or teacher-training) school in Mankato. This approval came upon the condition that the City of Mankato donate $5,000 prior to the State Normal School Board authorizing the founding of the institution. Another law in 1867 authorized the city to issue and sell bonds as a way of raising the $5,000 due to Mankato's difficulty in raising the needed funds. Mankato attorney, Daniel Buck, a member of the state legislature, was Mankato's leader in securing both the acts of 1866 and 1867.

1868 - Mankato Normal School

In October of 1868, Mankato Normal School opened its doors serving twentyseven students in its first year of operation. Its primary role was to train teachers for work in rural schools. (The institution's mission is far more "global" today, as it seeks to provide comprehensive educational opportunities for its diverse population of over 12,500 students, including 600 international students.)

In 1868, after weeks of classes, the school moved to semi-permanent quarters in the Shaubut building in downtown Mankato, Mankato Normal School established itself physically when the three-story Old Main was completed in 1870. Only fourteen subjects were taught then, none straying beyond the basic "3 Rs."

The original one-to-two-year curriculum of teacher training was gradually broadened to today's comprehensive undergraduate and graduate curriculum. George Gage was the first principal, succeeded in 1872 by his assistant, Julia Sears. In 1873, a retired Methodist minister, David John, abruptly replaced Sears amid some controversy about her continuance at the time of the women's suffrage movement. In 1880, Edward Searing became the school's first institutional head to be called president. His tenure also brought eighteen years of expansion and curriculum development. During that period, the school began offering courses above the high-school level as well as a five-year instructional program.

Searing was succeeded by Charles Cooper in 1899. The first women's dormitory, Daniel Buck Hall, was erected in 1913, followed by Cooper Hall in 1921 and Searing Hall.

1921 - Mankato State Teachers College

In 1921, the school became Mankato State Teachers College and was authorized by the State to offer a four-year curriculum. The institution's first four-year degree, a bachelor of education, was awarded in 1927.

The school experienced near disaster in 1922, when the first Old Main building was destroyed by fire. The state legislature responded in 1924 by approving funds for a new building, which also became known as "Old Main."

In 1930, Frank McElroy became president, the first head of the institution to hold a Ph.D. In 1933, tuition was charged for the first time. The tuition fee replaced the pledge to teach which granted students free tuition. Students were charged $10 per quarter, and non-resident students paid an additional $5 per quarter.

Between 1930 and 1945 enrollment averaged from 600 to 700 students. Around 1943, the Extended Campus program saw its beginnings when classes were held off campus for the first time. At the same time evening classes were established so that working people who needed further training were able to attend classes.

Clarence Crawford was named president in 1946. He and state senator Val Imm were the catalysts in first optimizing Mankato State's confined campus, blueprinting a new highland location that was a cornfield. (The winding scenic roadway to this new area was eventually named Val Imm Drive.)

1957 - Mankato State College

An enrollment surge in the late 1950s strained the capacity of the early campus and construction of a new campus began on the hilltop overlooking Mankato. In April 1957, "Mankato State Teacher's College" officially became "Mankato State College." The first academic building for the new campus was the Wilson Campus School (1959). In the Valley Campus, the Lincoln Library (1958) and a Nichols Hall addition (1960) were completed. Students rode the intercampus bus between classes held both on the lower or "Valley" campus and upper or "Highland" campus. Because of acute housing shortages brought on by a surge in enrollment, additional residence halls were constructed such as Crawford (1959) and McElroy (1961). For the first time, with the completion of Armstrong Hall in 1964, both campuses were equal in number of classes.

During the James Nickerson presidency from 1966-1972, enrollment grew to more than 12,000 students. In 1970 and 1972, demonstrations against the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War caused much controversy both on and off campus. The college was spared tragedies which befell other campuses, suffering little property damage and no life threatening injuries to local demonstrators on either side of this painful national issue.

Douglas Moore was president from 1973-1978, and has been credited with the 1978-1979 transfer and consolidation to the highland area of all of the activities on the two campuses thus eliminating the need for the Valley Campus. (Many of the buildings on the Valley Campus exist today though they serve different private or public needs. The old Main Annex no longer stands, nor does the Physical Education Building, However, the Nichols Science & Arts building, Lincoln Library and Old Main survived the wrecking ball and function today with remodeled interiors, changed names, and new owners. The "Old Main" administrative building on the Valley Campus resurfaced as "Old Main Village," a retirement community; the Lincoln Library was converted to the Blue Earth County Government Center; and Nichols is now a private sector office complex.)

1975 - Mankato State University

Enrollment expansion and Mankato State College's growing reputation for academic excellence led to its "University" status in 1975.

Margaret R. Preska became president in 1979. During her tenure, enrollment grew nearly 43 percent, resulting in a much-needed expansion and remodeling of many campus buildings. That year the shift to the Highland Campus was finally completed with the constructio n of the Wigley Administration Building.

New and expanded programs, along with the availability of a master's degree in several areas, contributed to MSU's largest enrollment during 1989-90 and 1991- 92 school years with over 16,300 on- and off-campus students in attendance.

President Richard R. Rush served as president from 1992-2001. Additions to the university's curriculum included a new Master of Science degree in nursing and a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. In late 1997 the College of Business achieved its long sought after goal of national accreditation.

1998 - Minnesota State University, Mankato

The institution's most recent name change occurred September 18, 1998, when the Minnesota State Board of Trustees agreed the name change better represented the university as one of the premier higher education institutions in the state and region.