Emporia State University was established in 1863 as the state’s first school for training teachers. Although founded in 1863, the first term did not begin until February 15, 1865.
The president of Kansas Normal School and its only teacher, Lyman Kellogg, taught 18 students on the second floor of the district school house. At the first commencement on June 28, 1867, Kellogg presented diplomas to Mary Jane Watson, a Civil War heroine, and to Ellen Plumb; the first, Judge Watson’s daughter and the second from Senator Plumb’s family. Kellogg saw to it that the Normal got off to an auspicious start before becoming a successful lawyer, honored judge, and Attorney General of Kansas.
For 19 years after its inception, KSN struggled not only with drought, renegade buffalo hunters and revengeful Indians, but with depression, doubt, jealousy of location, and extreme lack of appropriations. By the time ESU’s fifth president, Albert R. Taylor, took charge, the school was in good condition with an enrollment of about 400, representing 43 Kansas counties and nine countries. Dr. Taylor took aggressive measures to increase enrollment such as refunding transportation mileage to students who lived in excess of 100 miles away. By 1889, KSN had become the largest school in the state and the largest normal school in the country. The school was first accredited in 1898, the same year it graduated its first black students. That same year, the Spanish American War interrupted the course of the school year. Over 35 percent of the first three Kansas regiments were school teachers, many of them from Normal.
President Joseph H. Hill (1906-13) was the first president to have graduated from KSN. He believed that standards of education must always rise and worked unceasingly to increase the proportion of students with full degrees instead of teachers’ certificates. With such a goal, the scholarship of faculty members also increased.
During Thomas Butcher’s tenure as president (the longest of any ESU president at 30 years), the university was granted authority to confer master’s degrees. It also became one of the first normal schools recognized and accredited by the North Central Association.
Following the unexpected death in office of president David L. McFarlane, John Jacobs served as acting president before the hiring of John E. King as the school’s 11th president. During King’s 13 years as president, the institution’s enrollment increased six-fold. The number of scholarships expanded and the emphasis on science escalated due to the increase in scientific competition with the Soviets.
President John Visser saw the school’s largest enrollment ever in 1969 with 7,150 students. Visser placed a strong emphasis on open communication between students and administration and organized the institution into separate academic schools with departments and divisions with each.
In 1984, Robert E. Glennen began his 13 years as president at a time when the university bore the marks of years of declining enrollment and state support. By 1996, the university was financially sound and enjoying a national reputation as a leader in teacher education and student retention and as an innovative marketer through its regional distance program in the School of Library and Information Management. Glennen was instrumental in founding the National Teachers Hall of Fame and the Kansas Business Hall of Fame.
The name of the university has changed four times in response to the university’s growth and the increased advantages it provides to students and the citizens of Kansas. The school was founded as Kansas Normal School and later became Kansas State Teachers College (1923), Emporia Kansas State College (1974), and finally Emporia State University (1977).
Since its founding, ESU has improved the lives of students from Kansas, throughout the U.S., and around the world. This semester, the student body comes from 100 Kansas counties, 45 States, and 55 countries. ESU’s alumni base of more than 38,000 individuals lives in all 50 states and more than 70 countries.
Below are some links to websites that focus on the community of Emporia.
Click here to view our campus map. Below are links for precise driving directions to Emporia, Kansas from various cities.