Centennial: 100 Years of Transforming Lives

Historical Timeline

1915 Junior College Opens.

The St. Joseph Junior College opens on Sept. 20 with 35 students and eight faculty members, the second public junior college in the state and the eighth in the nation. Tuition is $40 per year for residents of St. Joseph and $60 per year for non-residents. The Junior College is housed in Central High School, 13th and Olive.
The first class

1917-18 The Griffon, half lion and half eagle, is adopted as the symbol of the college. The Griffon was designed by student Norman Knight ’18. In a letter to Missouri Western in 1970, Knight said, “I can’t remember exactly how I decided on the Griffon. I think it was accidental. Somewhere I read that the Griffon was considered a symbol of wisdom and a guardian of buried treasure. It occurred to me that an education could be considered as a sort of buried treasure that one must ‘dig for’ by dint of hard study.”
1925 The Junior College moves to its own building at 14th and Olive. This is the former Everett School that is next to the Central High School Building. Junior College photos
1931 Nelle Blum becomes dean while continuing to teach and serves as dean until 1957. After she retired, she remained in St. Joseph and died in 1991 at the age of 101.
1933 The Junior College moves into the former Robidoux School, 10th and Edmond, and remains there until 1969. 1933 swim team
1954 In June, the Junior College quite possibly becomes the first public school in a previously segregated state to desegregate when five African Americans students enroll for the summer session.
1961 Legislation passes that provides for the establishment of junior college districts by a vote of the people in those areas. Such a district was a prerequisite to a four-year college for St. Joseph.
1965 The Missouri Western Junior College District is approved by voters, and the college’s name is changed to Missouri Western Junior College. The Junior College is now funded by residents of five counties: Andrew, Buchanan, Clay, Clinton and Platte.
1965 In July, Gov. Warren Hearnes signs a bill to fund a four-year college in St. Joseph. This bill provides for the establishment of an independent state senior college, to be known as Missouri Western College, when the Junior College acquires a campus, meets the requirements established by the Board of Curators of Missouri University and enrollment trends constitute sufficient justification.
1966 Bond issue passes to build four new buildings on a new campus on Frederick Blvd., but the Board of Trustees votes to look at other properties before purchasing the land on Frederick Blvd. In October, the board announces that it plans to purchase 390 acres east of Interstate 29 for the new campus. See the evolution of the 390 acre campus in aerial photos.
1967 Dr. M.O. Looney begins his term as president on June 1. One of his first acts was to change the institution’s name from Missouri Western Junior College, to Missouri Western College. He believed this was a positive step toward becoming a four-year institution. Griffon seal
1967 A groundbreaking ceremony for the new campus is held. Groundbreaking photos
1968 Conditions that were set out in the four-year bill that was signed in 1965 are deemed met, and Missouri Western officially becomes a four-year college Oct. 22.
1969 The college opens in the fall as a four-year institution, and 2,536 students enroll. The new campus consists of three buildings: Evan R. Agenstein Science and Math Building, the Warren E. Hearnes Learning Resource Center and the Frank Popplewell Administration Building. Campus dedication and early campus photos
1970 The first Commencement ceremony for the four-year institution is held outside by the Hearnes Learning Resource Center. The procession from the Popplewell Administration Building was led by the new term student body president Dwight Scroggins ’76, and vice president Jim Glidewell ’71. The commencement speaker was U.S. Sen. Stuart Symington. Student life in the 1970s
1975 First year for women’s intercollegiate sports: basketball and volleyball. Women"s basketball and volleyball
1977 Legislation passes so that the college now receives full funding from the state. Legislation signing
1979 Spratt Memorial Stadium is built and used for spring Commencement. The first football game is played on the field Sept. 8. The stadium is named for Elliott C. Spratt. Spratt Memorial Stadium construction and football in the 1970s
1981 President’s home on campus is destroyed by fire. It is not rebuilt.
1982 Missouri Western’s softball team wins national championship. Rhesa Sumrell is the coach.Deb Treat Deb Treat discusses women"s sports
1982 The college adopts an Alma Mater. Music is by Mike Mathews, faculty member, and lyrics by student Darryl McDermott. It is sung for the first time at Homecoming. 1982 Homecoming
1983 Dr. Janet Gorman Murphy becomes president, the first female college president in Missouri. See photos from Dr. Murphy"s time as president
1985 The first televised class is offered: Introduction to Data Processing Technology through the years
1988 Honors program begins with 45 students and Dr. Gerald Zweerink its first director.
1989 The college joins the Missouri Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) athletic conference.
1993 The first Convocation on Critical Issues is held featuring Arthur J. Schlesinger, Jr. speaking on “The Disuniting of America.” Approximately 3,000 attend. See photos from the Convocation on Critical Issues through the years.
2001 James J. Scanlon becomes president. See photos from Dr. Scanlon"s time as president
2004 Missouri Western opens a location in Kansas City North. Current Kansas City Northland campus
2005 Missouri Western earns university designation and becomes Missouri Western State University on Aug. 28.
2007 The university offers its own graduate programs. Two Master of Applied Science degrees are offered for the first time in the fall.
2008 Missouri Western receives a record-breaking gift - $5.5 million. The gift was from Steven L. Craig to establish the Craig School of Business. Most of the Craig gift was in the form of shares of ownership in Woodburn Company Stores, a shopping center in Woodburn, Ore. When Craig sold that property in 2013, the total value of his gift to Missouri Western soared to $7,738,589.20, which included more than $2.5 million in distributions prior to the sale.
2008 Dr. Robert A. Vartabedian begins his term on July 1. See photos from Dr. Vartabedian"s time as president
2009 An alumnus wins the opportunity to own a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Seth Lyons ’08, was the first student to be a part of the unique partnership between RMCF, Missouri Western and Steve Craig. Seth’s store is in Silverthorne, Colo. As of May 2014, there are 19 store owners who have become entrepreneurs, thanks to Craig"s vision and work.
2010 The Griffon Indoor Sports Complex opens and the Kansas City Chiefs summer training camp is held on campus for the first time. See photos of the GISC and Chiefs Camp.
2013 On November 4, 2013, Missouri Western dedicated the Walter Cronkite Memorial in Spratt Hall Atrium. The memorial is the only permanent memorial of its kind dedicated to St. Joseph"s native son and one of history"s most influential journalists. See photos of the Walter Cronkite Memorial dedication.
2013 On April 24, 2013, Missouri Western dedicated Kelley Commons, a beautiful outdoor patio and performance space outside of the Blum Student Union. Kelley Commons is named for the Kelley family: parents Jean Kelley and the late James Kelley; children Jeanie Grahl ’72, Molly Pierce ’77 and Chris Kelley ’86 and his wife, Kelly. The Kelley family was instrumental in providing the funding to create this incredible space for students. Kelley Commons
2014 Spring Commencement is held in Spratt Memorial Stadium for the first time in almost three decades.
2015 Missouri Western kicks off its Centennial Capital Campaign, and a $20 million initial celebration goal is set. The University announces that it has received the largest gift in its history: a $10 million gift was pledged from an alumnus who lives in St. Joseph and wishes to remain anonymous.