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SMS is celebrating 10 decades of service in 2005. The SMSU Centennial Celebration will be observed with a variety of events through June. Listen to the first in a series of centennial reports as Mike Smith has the story of how Springfield was chosen as the site for what would become Southwest Missouri State University:
Today, on campuses in Springfield, West Plains, and Mountain Grove, SMSU serves more than 20,000 students from every county in Missouri, 44 states, and 80 foreign countries. Every success story has its beginning, and for SMS, it happened July 26, 1905. That's the day Springfield was chosen as the site for Missouri State Normal School # 4.
Don Landon is an Emeritus Professor of Sociology at SMSU, and author of "Daring to Excel: The First Hundred Years of SMSU". He says the process by which cities were chosen as sites for the first of Missouri's Normal Schools dates back to 1870 when the first such schools were established at Kirksville, Warrensburg, and Cape Girardeau. Landon says cities interested in becoming sites for the Normal Schools used a bidding process, which included offers of cash and land, to entice the site selection commission. Several cities in Southwest Missouri wanted to be home to State Normal School # 4, including Webb City, Marshfield, Aurora, Pierce City, Monett, and Lebanon. Springfield was not bidding.
So how was Springfield chosen even though the city seemed not interested in becoming home to State Normal School # 4? Don Landon says the site selection commission, while on a 2 day tour through the nearby towns which were interested, passed by the corner of National and Grand streets in Springfield, stopped their carriage after the head of the commission saw the land there and said something to the effect of "Now that's where the school should be!" Commission members then walked around the 38 acre site and seemed impressed at what they saw. On July 25th 1905, in a role reversal of sorts, it was the site selection that made an offer to Springfield. Don Landon says that offer was this: If Springfield could raise $25,000 and throw in the 38 acre Hedley Tract at Grand and National, the city would be chosen as home to State Normal School # 4. As the story goes, on July 26th, a prominent member of the Springfield Club, which would later become the Chamber of Commerce, called a meeting of the club, locked the doors and said to the club's members "no one leaves this room until the money is raised to get the school here!" The money was raised, and the rest as Don Landon says, "is history."
The first classes at Springfield State Normal School # 4 were held at the former John Taylor Springfield Normal School and Business College at Cherry and Pickwick.
The first graduation ceremony was held in the spring of 1907. Class President was Clyde Hill, who in 1918 would succeed W.T. Carrington as President of State Normal School # 4.
When work was complete on Academic Hall (which would later become Carrington Hall) in January 1909, the first classes on the main campus at Grand and National were held. In 1919, the institution became known as the Southwest Missouri Teachers College. In 1946, it was named Southwest Missouri State Teachers College, and in 1972 became Southwest Missouri State University.
Don Landon's book "Daring to excel: The first Hundred Years of SMSU", is almost complete and should be available in the middle of September. Advance orders for the book are being accepted now at the SMS Bookstore. For information about the SMS Centennial celebration which will continue through June 2005,
visit www.smsu.edu/centennial. For KSMU News, I'm Mike Smith.