TU celebrates 150 years

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By: Cody Boteler, Editor-in-Chief and Sam Shelton, Senior Editor

To date, the Towson University 150th Anniversary Scholarship Fund has raised $2.3 million, surpassing its original $1.5 million goal, according to 150th Anniversary Celebration Executive Director Louise Miller. The University has a running tally of costs and profits associated with the 150th but won’t release final numbers for either until June 30, when the fiscal year ends.

“Any money remaining will go to the 150th Anniversary Scholarship Fund,” Miller said in an email.

As part of this year’s celebrations honoring Towson’s 150 years, the University planned multiple art, visiting speaker and signature events, as well as  a marketing campaign that included TV spots with alumni and a street advertising deal with Baltimore City. TU spent $8,950 to hang 100 banners on light poles in popular areas of the city for four weeks, between May and June, during the kick-off of the celebration.

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Courtesy of Towson University Special Collections and Archives A TU instructor aids students in an oncampus science lab in the 1990s.

“However, no one purchased the poles after our initial four weeks so the city is allowing the banners to remain up at no additional cost,” Miller said.

Opened in January 1866 as the State Normal School, an institution meant to provide standardized training for teachers, TU’s roots lay in Baltimore, where the earliest administration rented space until the state allocated funds to build a new facility 10 years later.

According to literature from Cook Library’s Archives and Special Collections, classes began at the unfinished Carrollton Building, named for its location at Carrollton and Lafayette avenues, Feb. 29, 1876, and remained there until a move to what is now Towson’s core campus in the early 20th century. The three oldest buildings on campus, Newell Hall, Stephens Hall and the Power Plant, were built in 1914 and 1915.

The University has spent thousands of dollars on the sesquicentennial celebrations. Each college, for example, was allotted $10,000 to pay for a visiting speaker to be a part of the 150th Anniversary Visiting Speaker Series.

Some costs were reduced, Miller said, because things were handled in-house. Speakers stayed at the Marriott, the marketing team has handled promotion of the anniversary, and several events, which were already planned and budgeted for, were re-branded to fit into the 150th celebrations. All TV spots, which were produced in-house, cost less than $10,000 total to produce, according to Miller, and the cost of media buys is roughly $535,000.

Between 1915 and 1935, when the school was renamed the State Teachers College at Towson, graduating students earned certificates associated with teaching instead of baccalaureate degrees. After integrating in 1954 and building the first for-men residence halls, Ward and West, in 1951, the University became Towson State College, a liberal arts college, in 1963.

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Courtesy of Towson University Special Collections and Archives A 1969 Homecoming float celebrates the first manned-mission to land on the moon.

Visiting anniversary speakers have included education commentator Pedro Noguera, multimedia artist Paul Miller and economics and finance journalist Dame Frances Cairncross.

Actress, comedienne and ‘03 Towson alumna Amy Schumer also performed on campus last month as part of the ongoing celebrations.

Miller said she couldn’t disclose how much Schumer charged to come to campus, because of agreements with the booking agency. However, she said that ticket sales, sponsorships and “after party” ticket funds raised did exceed the cost.

“The 150th Anniversary committee wanted a ‘Signature Event’ that would appeal to all generations and cover the cost of the event, with any money left at the end of the 150th Anniversary Celebration going to the 150th Anniversary Scholarship Fund,” Miller said.

University Archives associate and Towson alumna Felicity Knox co-authored “Towson University: The First 150 Years,” the commemorative anniversary book sold in the UStore and through the anniversary website, with retired professor emeritus Dean Esslinger and former University Archivist Nadia Nasr. Divided by the University’s five name changes, the book looks at TU through surrounding historical contexts.

Knox explained that in 1976, the school’s name changed yet again, this time to Towson State University, before transitioning to its current name, Towson University.

“I love telling the stories of the school,” Knox said. “I am so fortunate that I get to do this and do presentations about the history of the school. And that I’ve gotten to know so much of it. I had no idea when I was walking around here as a student how much I would learn and know.”

Knox and Ashley Todd-Diaz, the University’s new archivist, said that they encourage individuals and student groups to contribute primary sources – be they posters, event flyers, documents or rosters – to the archives in order to preserve campus’ current

Courtesy of Towson University Special Collections and Archives McFadden Alexander Newell, the first principal of the State Normal School, sits in the principal’s office in 1887.
Courtesy of Towson University Special Collections and Archives
McFadden Alexander Newell, the first principal of the State Normal School, sits in the principal’s office in 1887.

day-to-day life.

“We’re both really interested in getting students to just be aware of the archives and be comfortable coming in and contributing and helping us make it an even better resource for the future,” Todd-Diaz said. “Connecting people with the history and letting students see the personal side of our history, that’s important.”

For a more complete history of Towson University, interested parties can visit the Cook Library Archives and Special Collections department on the building’s fifth floor or browse through online library resources.

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