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Varied, Rich History Marks PSU's 95 Years

(originally posted on The Morning Sun website, Tuesday, September 29, 1998)
As Pittsburg State University, formerly known as Manual Training Normal School of Pittsburg, celebrates its 95th year, the university also marks a varied and rich history.
"The history of (the school)," Russell S. Russ once wrote, "is the history of the evolution of an educational idea."
Russ brought the concept of some form of industrial or manual training into the city schools when he took over the city school superintendency in the fall of 1897.
At that time, the concept of workbenches, tools and sewing machines in schools was foreign to the public and educators alike.
It was not long, however, until the manual training program began to attract favorable attention in Pittsburg and surrounding communities.
State Senator Ebenezer F. Porter, who served for several years as a member of the board of education in Pittsburg, took a keen interest in manual training and was receptive to suggestions from the Social Science Federation of Kansas when it suggested that these subjects be taught in high schools throughout the state.
In 1903, Porter drafted a bill mandating such education, which was passed early that year.
At that time there was no institution in Kansas that prepared teachers to teach the manual arts and superintendents and boards of education were suddenly confronted with the problem of finding competent teachers for the new classes.
Russ, who himself had difficulty finding properly trained teachers for the manual arts classes, reasoned that there should be a school that would undertake the task of preparing such teachers.
The committee had a difficult task ahead. The bill for the establishment of the Manual Training Normal School at Pittsburg was bitterly fought by many interests. Other cities wanted state schools and existing state educational institutions were opposed to the measure on the ground that money spent in Pittsburg would be taken from their institutions.
After a long and exhausting battle, victory was won when the bill passed the House of Representatives on Feb. 20, 1903, and was signed by Gov. Willis J. Bailey. The new school was established as an auxiliary of the State Normal School at Emporia and an appropriation of $18,000 was made to pay current expenses and improvements.
The Board of Regents met in Pittsburg on May 2 of 1903 and selected the Central School Building at 5th and Walnut as the first home of the new school. R.S. Russ was chosen principal and Miss Odella Nation was named secretary to the principal and librarian. An appropriation of $300 was made to purchase books.
Although a beginning had been made, Russ would soon discover that the battle was just beginning. One of the greatest threats to the continued life of the Manual Training Normal School in Pittsburg came from the new school's parent institution in Emporia. Faculty for the new school was the first immediate problem and Emporia's President Wilkinson had assured Russ that he would take care of hiring the faculty. In August, however, Wilkinson had still not taken steps to employ any teachers for the new school and there was a real danger that opening day would arrive in September without teachers at the Pittsburg school.
Russ Hires First Faculty
Russ took charge of the process and speedily assembled the first faculty for the Auxiliary Manual Training Normal School.
The doors opened on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 1903, with an enrollment of 54 students and a faculty of five.
The institution offered only elementary courses in manual training, domestic science and domestic art, with a few academic subjects ordinarily required for teachers seeking to teach through examinations.
The school offered only one certificate, awarded at the completion of two years of study following graduation from the eighth grade and that certificate was good for one year only. No fees were charged at the school, although a fee of $1.25 was assessed for materials used.
In 1905, the Legislature approved a bill expanding the curriculum at the school to three years and students completing the three-year curriculum were awarded a teaching certificate good for three years.
That same year, again following a bitter fight, the Legislature approved purchase of a site for a permanent building for the Normal School.
Selection of a site for the new building began in April 1905 and the choice was narrowed down to one of three sites: Lincoln Park, a 15-acre tract south of Lakeside School and a 17-acre site on Broadway between Cleveland and Lindburg Streets. The third site was eventually chosen.
Finally, in 1907, the Legislature made a $150,000 appropriation for the construction of the Normal School's first building and construction began in August of that year.
The construction of the building, now known as Russ Hall, was begun in August, 1907, and was completed in December, 1908.
The last chapel exercises of the Manual Training Normal School in the old Central School building were held on Dec. 18, 1908, just before school was dismissed for the Christmas recess. The school was moved into the new building during Christmas recess of that year.
As the school was moving into new, more permanent quarters, it was also developing a more complete curriculum.
By 1908, a four-year high school curriculum was added that allowed students to move directly into a course of study for life-diploma certificate, which was also added in 1908.
It was at this time that agitation for separation from the parent school at Emporia began to reach a high pitch. The separation movement was fueled by opposition to legislative appropriations for the Pittsburg school by officials of the State Normal School of Emporia.
Southeast Kansans feared that as long as the Pittsburg school remained a branch of the Emporia school, the Pittsburg school's future would be uncertain.
In 1911, following mass meetings of citizens to consider separation of the Pittsburg Normal School from the Emporia Normal School, a bill was introduced in the Legislature to accomplish that objective.
The bill, opposed by Gov. Walter Roscoe Stubbs, failed but it sparked a controversy that would forever determine the fate of the new school.
Russ is Dismissed
The Board of Regents, intent on ending the quarreling between the two schools by dismissing Principal Russ, headed for Pittsburg.
It was widely reported at the time that Gov. Stubbs, a backer of the Emporia school, had ordered the Board of Regents to fire Russ. Stubbs, however, denied interfering in the matter in any way.
As the Regents met with Principal Russ, a crowd of several hundred angry students gathered in Russ Hall. The Regents dismissed Russ and called for Professor David M. Bowen, with the apparent intention of dealing with him in a like manner.
Bowen reportedly argued his case before the Regents with great force as the angry students milled outside. In the end, the Regents were persuaded to decide against Bowen's dismissal and to conclude their business in Pittsburg.
Despite several mass meetings of students and citizens, Russ' firing was final and the administration of R.S. Russ came to a close. It ended on a positive note, however, as the Legislature approved an appropriation of $50,000 for the construction of the school's second permanent structure, the Industrial and Applied Arts Building.
Construction on that building was begun in 1911 and completed in early 1913.
Myers Inherits Campus
The Pittsburg Normal School's second principal, George E. Myers, inherited an unenviable role. He followed a popular leader and found himself at the helm of a divided ship.
Despite the turmoil of the time, Myers' two-year tenure continued to be one of growth for Pittsburg Normal. In 1912, the school's announcement for the first time described the school as a "College for Teachers."
Enrollment continued to increase and in 1912, 1,183 students were on the rolls.
During the Myers administration, an active campaign for independence was carried on almost continuously.
A committee of Pittsburg citizens was organized under the leadership of J.T. Moore of the Pittsburg "Headlight," and Senator E.F. Porter. A considerable majority of the faculty supported the separatist movement and the students took an active hand in the campaign as well.
The faculty made the typewriter room in Russ Hall available to students during certain hours who worked there, typing letters to key persons across the state.
The Brandenburg Years
Fortunately for the school, political realignments took place in the election of 1912.
In the campaign of 1912, Arthur Capper, an opponent of independence for Pittsburg, was narrowly defeated by George Hodges, an outspoken friend.
Under the administration of Gov. Hodges, the Board of Regents was abolished and a new, temporary board was appointed to govern the state's normal schools.
The temporary board met on May 7, 1913, and one of the first official acts was to wipe the slate clean, dismissing President Hill of Emporia and Principals Myers and Picken of Pittsburg and Hays.
At that meeting, the board also changed the name of the Pittsburg school, dropping the word "Auxiliary," making it, the Kansas State Manual Training Normal School of Pittsburg.
Finally, on July 15, 1913, the new state board of administration voted to abolish the office of principal at the Pittsburg Normal School and to create the office and title of president.
After a careful search, the board elected William A. Brandenburg, then superintendent of schools in Oklahoma City, to be the first president of the Kansas State Manual Training Normal School.
Brandenburg, who would serve as president of the school for 27 years, presided over a period of growth and expansion.
Brandenburg was a tall man who was described as having a commanding figure, a resonant voice and an effective manner of speaking. He was enthusiastic about teacher education and often spoke for higher standards for teachers and better opportunities for children and youth.
One of Brandenburg's major contributions was the transformation of the Manual Training Normal School into a college for teachers both in fact and in name.
He worked to raise the standards of the institution to the point that it merited and received recognition as a liberal arts college, as well.
School Gains Respect and Changes its Name
The struggle for recognition was won in 1923 when the Legislature authorized the change in the name of the institution to the Kansas State Teachers College of Pittsburg.
Another of Brandenburg's major achievements was the establishment of graduate programs leading to a masters degree, authorized in 1929 by the Board of Regents.
During the Brandenburg years, the campus changed immensely. In his fourth year, Brandenburg persuaded the board of administration to employ Hare and Hare, a Kansas City firm of landscape architects and city planners, to landscape the grounds and to draw up a building plan for the future of the institution.
The plans, adopted in the summer of 1917, show the familiar oval for the first time.
By the summer of 1940, Brandenburg was showing signs of fatigue. Soon after the close of the summer session, he left for a short vacation in Colorado, hoping that some time in the mountains would help restore his characteristic vigor.
The vacation failed to restore his health and early in October, upon the advice of his physician, Brandenburg went to St. Louis to consult with specialists and to spend some time in the home of his daughter. The president died there on Oct. 29, 1940.
O.P. Dellinger
When Brandenburg died, the Board of Regents was faced with the monumental task of appointing a successor for this very successful and popular leader of the college.
To guide the school until the selection process was completed, the board chose O.P. Dellinger.
Dellinger, a biologist known across the country for his scholarship and his research, came to the new school in 1909.
From that day until 1923, Dellinger was the only member of the faculty who held a Ph.D., with three exceptions, none of whom stayed at the school long enough to exert much of an influence.
Rees H. Hughes
On July 1, 1941, Dellinger stepped down from his position as interim president and Rees H. Hughes took over as president.
Hughes had been president just five months when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and life changed drastically in Pittsburg and across the country.
By the afternoon of Dec. 7, troops moved onto campus and took over the gymnasium of both the college and the high school.
By 1943, with most college-age men in some form of service, the regular enrollment of the school was down considerably.
So much so, in fact, that there was doubt that the school would be able to field a football team. Then the Navy came to the rescue with its V-12 officers' training program.
The new program brought about 250 men to campus and as a bonus provided personnel to fill out the football squad.
Even with the 250 Navy men, enrollment on campus in 1943 was down to 650 students. By 1944, however, enrollment bounced back and more than 1,500 students, including the 250 Navy men, were enrolled.
With the end of the war, the campus braced for the inevitable post-war boom. Scores of young men returned from the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific to Pittsburg and many came to the campus to complete their college education.
These were not traditional 18-year-old students. Many of these young men had wives and young families and living space was at a premium.
Leonard H. Axe
When President Hughes retired in 1957, he was replaced with Leonard H. Axe, then the dean of the School of Business at the University of Kansas. Axe inherited an institution in the midst of great growth and change.
Rising enrollments caused the construction of a series of residence halls to house the new students. Bowen, Trout, Shirk and Tanner Halls quickly filled with men.
Meanwhile, the women's dorms, Willard, Mitchell, and Nation had to be expanded to meet the growing demand. Also at this time, married student housing was built to the east.
In addition, there were also 11 sororities and fraternities with more than 400 members.
Hughes Hall was finished by this time and construction was begun on the new building for mathematics and physics and the industrial arts building was added to the south of Whitesitt.
The college was growing in stature as well as size and in 1958 Gov. George Docking signed a bill into law officially changing the name of the school from Kansas State Teachers College of Pittsburg to Kansas State College of Pittsburg.
College sports dominated the news of the '50s as the football team, under the leadership of Carnie Smith, took back-to-back national championships in 1957 & '58.
Carnie Smith went on to record his 100th career victory and was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame. In basketball, John Lance coached the Gorillas to the NAIA playoffs, picking up his 600th career victory in the process.
By 1963, the college boasted 23 buildings on 100 acres of land and had a $6 million annual budget. Axe predicted additions to Porter Library, Hughes Hall, McCray Hall and the Student Center. He also predicted the construction of a multi-level parking garage on campus.
George F. Budd
Axe reached the mandatory retirement age in 1965 and the Board of Regents appointed George F. Budd to replace him.
Budd, president from 1965-1977, came to campus at a time of increasing tension and turmoil. Although this campus escaped the violence common in other locations, it was not without its problems.
Students here demonstrated against the war in Vietnam as they did in other college towns across the country.
In 1970, more than 500 students and teachers gathered on the Oval to protest the invasion of Cambodia and President Budd sent a telegram condemning the invasion to President Richard Nixon.
Fortunately, throughout these difficult times, no one was injured and demonstrations were largely peaceful.
The war was not the only issue on the campus during the Budd years, however, Racial tensions ran high at times during one particularly tense week, racial incidents broke out on campus and in the dorms.
By the early '70s, many of the problems on the campus had grappled with had begun to cool and the college had to face another worry: declining enrollments and funding cuts.
After three years of relying upon unfilled faculty retirements, the school finally had to begin cutting positions.
"It was a very trying time," Budd recalled later.
James Appleberry
In June of 1976, President Budd resigned and a search was begun to replace him. For the first time, a search committee including students, faculty and alumni screened applicants for the job.
James Appleberry, vice chancellor at the University of Kansas, was selected from 160 candidates to become the new president in January, 1977.
Just four months after Appleberry arrived in Pittsburg, the college received university status and officially became Pittsburg State University.
That fall the new McPherson Nurse Education Building opened and the new library was under construction.
The end of the '70s was a quieter time. Clothing and hair styles were becoming more conservative and the music of the counter-culture was giving way to disco.
In the years before Appleberry, student unrest was a concern. But by the end of the decade of the '70s, it was faculty unrest that the administration had to face. Relations between the faculty bargaining unit and the administration were, at best, rocky.
A second problem was declining enrollment. Enrollment began to decline slowly around 1980, taking a dramatic 4.5 percent plunge in 1984. That fall, enrollment dropped below 5,000 for the first time since the early '60s.
Donald W. Wilson
When Donald Wilson arrived at Pittsburg State in December of 1983, he did two things immediately: he dismissed the university lawyers and met with the faculty representatives in person and began a more aggressive student marketing campaign.
Relations between the administration and the faculty improved rapidly and by 1985, enrollment was on the rise again.
By 1989, the university had set a record for fall enrollment at 5,920. Wilson also put in place a university-wide annual and long-range planning process.
In his years at Pittsburg, Wilson guided the university through significant change and growth. One major emphasis was internationalization of the curriculum.
Wilson encouraged greater cooperation and involvement between the university, the community and the region.
That spirit of cooperation was especially evident in PSU's private fund-raising efforts. The university completed a $10-million capital campaign in 1990.
One of the major accomplishments that Wilson could point to was the establishment of KRPS FM 90, the University's 100,000-watt public radio station.
It took years of hard work, but finally, KRPS went on the air in 1988. The station, which relies on listener support to continue operation, reaches out about 80 miles in every direction, bringing the best in classical music, jazz, news and other forms of alternative programming to the region.
Another program begun under the Wilson years is the PSU Honors College, which strives to bring the brightest and best the state has to offer to PSU.
A third initiative begun during the Wilson years was planning and fund raising for the Kansas Technology Center
Wilson submitted his resignation from the presidency in April 1995. The Kansas Board of Regents named Ted D. Ayres, general counsel and director of Governmental Affairs for the Board of Regents, acting president for the university on April 20, 1995.
Ayres served in that position until May 1, 1995, when the board named Dr. Thomas Bryant, dean of the School of Education, interim president. Bryant served as interim president of the university throughout the presidential search process, which ended in December of 1995 with the naming of Dr. John Darling as the new president of the university.
John R. Darling
John R. Darling, a nationally recognized educational administrator and scholar lecturer and consultant in international business, is the seventh president of the university.
Darling has held positions that include Chancellor of LSU-Shreveport, President for Academic Affairs at Mississippi State and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Research at Texas Tech prior to his appointment at Pittsburg State in 1995.
Darling leads the institution at a time of growth and change at the university. Since his arrival, the university has completed the construction and the opening of the Kansas Technology Center. The university's private fund raising efforts have been very successful, topping more than $6 million annually, and the University Foundation's assets have grown to more than $25 million.
Currently the university is in the midst of several major renovation projects, the largest of which is the renovation of Russ Hall. Other buildings that are now or soon will be in the process of renovation include Willard Hall and Horace Mann.
A major statewide initiative has helped the university put considerable resources into the improvement of classrooms. Over the coming year, the university expects to invest about $1.3 million in instructional equipment, which is the largest infusion of technology into classrooms in the university's history.
Themes that President Darling is stressing for the current academic year include the support and continued development of a caring environment on campus, a commitment to innovation in all aspects of the university's life, investment in technology-based learning, developing a "barrier less" campus, and service to the region.
Information taken from "A History of Kansas State Teachers College, 1903-1041" by Harry Thomas Bawden, formerly head of the Department of Industrial Education and director of Publications, 1952, contributed greatly to this article.

 

 
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