A Timeline of Emporia State's History

1863 Normal schools - dedicated to the education of teachers - are being developed across the nation. Kansas State Normal School (KSN) is founded in Emporia, just two years after Kansas becomes a state.

1865 The doors to KSN open when the first president, Lyman B. Kellogg, enters carrying a Bible and a dictionary - the only supplies in the room. (Find out about the accomplishments of the university's presidents from here....)

1867 The first commencement is held June 28. KSN's first graduating class consists of two people.

1874 A grasshopper invasion causes already meager faculty salaries to decline by 18 percent.

1878 KSN suffers through a very bad year: a tornado damages the main building and a smaller building, fire damages the newly acquired administration building, and enrollment drops to 90 students.

1887 The front parking at the school is extended 10 feet - to provide a line of hitching posts.

1889 The number of students enrolled at KSN (908) is higher than the enrollment at the University of Kansas (508) and Kansas State University (514). KSN also enjoys the largest enrollment of any normal school in the United States.

1890 KSN is the largest school in the state and the largest normal school in the nation.

1898 The institution graduates its first two African-American students.

1902 The western branch of KSN is opens at Hays. It later is known as Fort Hays State University.

1903 The Manual Training Auxiliary School - another branch of KSN - opens in Pittsburg. It later becomes Pittsburg State University.

1904 The Training School for elementary students opens.

1911 The 55-minute class period is reduced to 50 minutes to allow students more time to reach their classes on the fast-growing campus.

1913 Thomas W. Butcher becomes the eighth president of KSN. Under his leadership, KSN becomes one of the first normal schools recognized and accredited by the North Central Association.

1916 Plumb Hall, the main administration building, opens.

1922 The Memorial Union, the first such student union west of the Mississippi, is chartered.

1923 The institution’s name is changed to Kansas State Teachers College (KSTC).

1924 The Memorial Union and Abigail Morse Hall, the oldest residence hall on campus, open.

1926 The institution has its first undefeated and untied football team - with a record of 7-0-0. Beach Music Hall opens.

1929 KSTC is granted the ability to confer master’s degrees.

1938 The new stadium is completed.

1939 The bell tower, now known as Silent Joe, is completed. (Silent Joe got its name during World War II when the bell remained silent as KSTC young men went off to war.)

1948 In Lawrence, the legendary coach Phog Allen and the University of Kansas men’s basketball team is defeated, 67-44, by the KSTC men’s basketball team.

1951 William Allen White Library is completed.

1952 The William Allen White Children’s Books Award is established. The university’s Endowment Association is incorporated.

1954 The annual Kansas Master Teacher Awards are established by KSTC.

1955 The KSTC summer theatre is founded.

1960 The Butcher Children’s School and the president’s residence are completed.

1974 The institution’s name is changed to Emporia Kansas State College.

1977 The institution’s name is changed to Emporia State University. The Twin Towers Complex is completed.

1978 The ESU baseball team wins the NAIA World Series.

1979 The university’s Great Plains Studies program is founded.

1980 The women’s softball team wins the first ever national championship for women, the AIAW Small College Tournament.

1982 The Geology Museum - later renamed the Paul Johnston Geology Museum - opens, featuring fossils, rocks, and other geological artifacts from the Great Plains area.

1983 The women’s softball team wins the NAIA national championship.

1984 Manuel Justiz, an ESU graduate and former head of the National Institute of Education, receives the first honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from ESU.

1985-86 academic year The Jones Institute for Educational Excellence, endowed by the Jones Trust in the amount of $350,000, is approved by the Kansas Board of Regents. The Center for Insurance Education is also approved by the regents.

1987-88 academic year ESU is the first Kansas Regents institution authorized to offer the Master of Arts in Teaching degree. The School of Business establishes the Kansas Business Hall of Fame.

1988 Bruekelman-Cram Science Hall renovation complete.

1989-90 academic year For the first time, the Hornet football team plays for the National Championship against Carson-Newman of Tennessee, finishing the season 10-3. The Kansas Board of Regents approves a joint program between ESU and Newman County Memorial Hospital to offer a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. ESU debaters win the varsity division of the Cross Examination Debate Association national competition.

1990 Physical Education Building addition completed.

1990-91 academic year ESU debaters Jim Haefele and Terrance Morris win the National Junior Division Debate Title at the Cross Examination Debate Association junior division tournament.

1991 Sauder Alumni Center and Trusler Sports Complex (baseball and softball fields) are completed.

1991-92 academic year ESU debater Jim Haefele is named the top debater in the country. The university moves from NAIA to NCAA Division II competition.

1992-93 academic year The Kansas Board of Regents approves ESU conferring a doctoral degree in library science and information management - the first doctoral degree program at the university. The debate program captures the year-long Cross Examination Debate Association National Sweepstakes Championship with points amasses at the national tournament. The department of theatre’s production of "The Voice of the Prairie" is one of six productions selected nationally to perform at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. ESU celebrates the completion of the $7.5 million renovation of Plumb Hall, the main administration building.

1993 President Clinton honors the first 10 inductees to the National Teachers Hall of Fame (NTHF) during a White House Rose Garden Ceremony. ESU is one of the founders of the NTHF. Plumb Hall renovation, Cremer Hall renovation/addition, Child Development Center addition, and Science Hall renovation is completed.

1995 ESU hosts the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

1996 ESU student LaShawna Thomas receives the title of Miss Black Kansas. ESU also hosts the NCAA Division II Softball Championship tournament.

1997 Kay Schallenkamp became the 14th president of ESU and the first female president in the university’s history and in the Kansas Board of Regents system. Welch Stadium renovation is completed. Jud Copeland becomes the first student to receive a Ph.D. in library and information management from ESU.

1997-98 academic year ESU celebrated its 135th anniversary as well as the 75th anniversary of the Memorial Union. The fitting homecoming theme is "Everything Old Is New Again."

1998 Renovation begins on Beach Music Hall - this includes the construction of a significant addition to the building. Topeka junior Hattie Davis wins the Irene Ryan Award, the top national award for student actors. Superback Brian Shay, Paola senior, wins the Harlon Hill Award, the top national award in NCAA Division II football. ESU hosts the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championship.

1999 ESU hosts the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships in May. Renovation of Wooster Bridge is completed by homecoming. The newly renovated and expanded Beach Music Hall is opened for classes.

2000 In August 2000, Emporia State University was identified as a "best value" by the Kaplan/Newsweek College Catalog 2001. ESU was named a "top school" in six of its college and university ranking categories, being a school... that offers a high level of individual academic attention from faculty that is a hidden treasure offering the best career services that is responsive to individual student financial aid needs that offers the best value that the guidance counselors would attend if they could repeat their college years A special note in this last category: ESU was among the top ten schools in this category. The top ten were... California State-LA, Michigan State, Stanford, Texas A&M, UC-Berkeley, Notre Dame, Wisconsin-Madison, Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, Kansas State, and EMPORIA STATE!

2002 The School of Business received accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) after years of rigorous preparation and review. Only twenty-five percent of business schools achieve accreditation from AACSB.

2004 A team of examiners from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) reported that the Teachers College successfully met all the organization’s standards for reaccreditation and they could find no areas of improvement.

2005 ESU received national recognition when Arthur Levine, former president of Columbia University’s Teachers College cited, in a lengthy report critical of many teacher preparation programs, ESU as a model for teacher programs. “This,” said Levine of ESU “was a Camelot for teacher education.” The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) extended the university’s accreditation for another 10 years, the longest period achievable for all institutions of higher learning.

2006 ESU’s spring enrollment of 6,023 student is the first time enrollment has topped 6,000 since 1966. Emporia State University is among the best values in the country for a college education, according to the Princeton Review. The publication listed ESU among 150 colleges on the “best value” list. The fiscal year saw $5.24 million in donations, the second-highest total in the Foundation's history and 18 percent higher than last year's $4.44 million. The amount raised is also 36 percent higher than the average of the previous five years.

2007 Dr. Michael R. Lane is formally installed as the 15th president of Emporia State University. He began work in fall 2006. The National Teachers Hall of Fame receives $150,000 in federal funding. The Walter S. and Evan C. Jones Foundation launch a Tuition Voucher Program that will offer $1,000 to high school graduates and GED recipients in Coffey, Lyon and Osage counties who choose to attend ESU or Flint Hills Technical College in Emporia.

2008 A collaboration between Butler Community College and ESU that allows Butler-area students to earn education degrees earned national recognition from the American Association of Colleges for Teachers Education. The new Alternate Route program of The Teachers College provides a way for career-changers to earn secondary education teaching licenses.

2009 ESU students overwhelmingly approve a fee increase to fund an $18.5-million renovation of the Memorial Union. In a speech at Columbia University, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan calls The Teachers College “the crown jewel” of ESU.

2010 The ESU Lady Hornets basketball team captures the NCAA Division II national championship. In April, ground is broken for the Memorial Union renovation project.


  • Emporia State enrollment is 5,976 including 3,845 undergraduate students. The total includes 1,819 students enrolled in off-campus sites.
  • The School of Business was named the America’s best value for in-state students by U.S. News and World Reports
  • Shaun Vandiver named men’s basketball coach, Steve Blocker promoted to head track and field coach, and Eric Wellman named head cross country coach, Bryan Sailer named head women’s soccer coach, and Julie LeMaire named head women’s softball coach.
  • Emporia State begins using “Empowered by E” as the tagline of its new marketing campaign.
  • President Michael Lane resigns and ESU Distinguished Alumnus Dr. H. Edward Flentje takes over as interim president.
  • ESU students spent a day helping residents recovering from a devastating tornado that struck Reading, KS, on May 21. 
  • Dr. Michael Shonrock is named ESU’s 16th president on Dec. 9, 2011.