100 and growing 

ASU, Tech, SAU and UAM began humbly.

ASU: Now it's a system.
  • ASU: Now it's a system.

Except for Arkansas Tech, they all answered to “A and M” at one time or another, but the four of them weren't even Agricultural and Mechanical Colleges to begin with, just jumped-up high schools. A hundred years later, they're all universities, one even calling itself a university “system,” with a president in Little Rock and chancellors at the component campuses. All four universities have at least one branch campus in addition to the original.

The institutions of higher learning now known as Arkansas State University, Arkansas Tech University, Southern Arkansas University and the University of Arkansas at Monticello are celebrating their centennials this year. Act 100 of 1909 proved to be a greater leap forward for higher education in Arkansas than its sponsors intended.

Legislators, and Arkansans generally, weren't greatly concerned with higher education back then — keeping the elementary schools open was almost more than they could do — but they did see a need for farmers with some reasonable level of formal education. White farmers, that is. Black higher education, virtually nonexistent at the time, was a separate matter. (There are those who'd say that Arkansas is still not much concerned about higher education, but today just about every fair-sized town has a college of some sort, if not necessarily adequately funded. When Act 100 was passed, an “industrial university” later to become the University of Arkansas had been operating at Fayetteville since 1871, and a teacher-training college at Conway, later to become the University of Central Arkansas, had been authorized by Act 317 of 1907. That was about it for public higher education in Arkansas. Private colleges came and went.)

The Farmers Union successfully promoted the establishment of agricultural high schools that would go beyond the regular schools in the teaching of agriculture. Act 100 created four of these  schools, one for each quadrant of the state. The schools were to teach horticulture and textile making in addition to agriculture. The exact locations of the schools were to be chosen, Act 100 said, on the bases of “the nature of the soil, healthfulness of location, general desirability, and other material inducements offered, such as the donation of buildings, land or money.” The First District Agricultural School went to Jonesboro, and is now Arkansas State; the Second District School to Russellville (Arkansas Tech), the Third District School to Magnolia (Southern Arkansas), the Fourth District School to Monticello (UAM).


Arkansas State University

The First District Agricultural School began classes, with 189 students, on Oct. 3, 1910. In May 1913, three boys and two girls became the first graduates of the school. In 1915, according to an ASU timeline, “The Animal Husbandry Endowment Association is formed, and brings the first Holstein cattle to the state of Arkansas.” In 1918, the school began functioning as a junior college, and in 1925 its name was changed to “First District Agricultural and Mechanical College.” The legislature promoted it to Arkansas State College in 1933.

A significant hire was made in 1951 — Carl Reng became president. He'd lead ASU for the next 24 years, most conspicuously when the legislature approved university status for the school, over the strong objections of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, which had had the university field to itself, and the editorial page of the state's largest newspaper. The university designation seemed big at the time; within a few years, all the state colleges had become universities.

Though it now extends over several campuses, ASU, like its 1909 siblings, is still considered a regional university — unlike UA, which is assigned a statewide role by the state Higher Education Coordinating Board. But Chancellor Robert Potts at Jonesboro likes to point out the Coordinating Board has granted ASU a statewide mission in certain research areas. And ASU partisans still think of ASU as a rival to UA; UA partisans do not. ASU football fans still cry for a game between ASU and UA. UA fans do not, and the UA athletic department has been fiercely opposed.  Even ASU's move up to the highest level of college football, the same level where UA plays, didn't lessen the resistance. That move did, however, require the diversion of more ASU educational funds into the support of athletics, nettling the ASU faculty. Their discontent continues.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Doug Smith

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Labor department director inappropriately expensed out-of-state trips, audit finds

    Jones was "Minority Outreach Coordinator" for Hutchinson's 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The governor first named him as policy director before placing him over the labor department instead in Jan. 2015, soon after taking office.
  • Lawsuit filed against ADC officials, prison chaplain convicted of sexual assault at McPherson

    A former inmate who claims she was sexually assaulted over 70 times by former McPherson Womens' Unit chaplain Kenneth Dewitt has filed a federal lawsuit against Dewitt, several staff members at the prison, and officials with the Arkansas Department of Corrections, including former director Ray Hobbs.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Latest in Cover Stories

  • Vive la resistance!

    House Minority Leader Michael John Gray wants to chair the Democratic Party of Arkansas. His plan to lead the party back to relevance: Start listening to Arkansas again.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • A new day for child welfare?

    After strategizing for months, DHS officials have a plan to address Arkansas's foster care crisis.
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • Jeff Nichols, 'Loving' and the space in between

    The Little Rock native turns to an unheralded chapter of the civil rights era with his new film.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Recent Comments


© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation