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Our Century as Lions

Campus Community gears up for centennial of becoming a state institution

Elizabeth Rodriguez, Writer

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In 1889, William L. Mayo founded a private teachers’ college in Cooper, Texas. The school, then called East Texas Normal College, was established in order educate rural teachers. The campus was destroyed by a fire in 1889 and was then relocated to Commerce, Texas where it struggled to survive.

In order to revive the college, Mayo worked along with school alumnus and State Senator Ed Westbrook to get a bill before the state Legislature that authorized the purchase of East Texas Normal College by the state. That bill was passed on March 14, 1917, and East Texas Normal College became East Texas State Normal College.

100 years and four name changes later, Texas A&M University–Commerce is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the university becoming a state institution. Celebrations will take place March 10, and preparations are already underway.

The first planned event is a morning ceremony held at the Heritage House on campus. Guest speakers including House Speaker Joe Strauss, Rep. Dan Flynn, and Sen. Bob Hall will commemorate the university’s 100 years as part of the state of Texas.

“This ceremony is to pay tribute to Dr. Mayo’s ingenuity, imagination and hard work for having created this school out of practically nothing,” Vice President for Media Relations and Community Engagement, Noah Nelson, said.

Later on in the day, a groundbreaking ceremony for the Nursing Building is scheduled near Gee Lake. The same VIP speakers are expected to be there and say a few words about the Nursing Program and it’s importance.

“The significance of this building is that there is a shortage of nurses here in Northeast Texas, and more specifically in the rural areas,” Nelson said. “By opening up this new state-of-the-art facility, we can now take in and graduate more nurses to address that problem.”

In addition to the main ceremonies in March, there will be markers put in place at various locations around campus where significant buildings once stood or important events occurred. These permanent markers will serve to recognize the long history of this university as the main celebrations are still being prepared.

There is a committee consisting of administrators, faculty and staff putting together the commemorative events for March 10. Representatives from different disciplines, including media relations, historians and archive experts, are putting in a collaborative effort to make this a historically significant day for the university and the community.

The celebrations are open to everyone. Alumni and citizens of Commerce are expected to attend as well. While plans are still in the works, more information regarding the activities will be sent out to students and posted around campus in the near future. The people involved in putting this day together believe that students and the community should know about the history of the university.

“It’s important that people know that we’ve been part of the state of Texas, and also this community, for so long,” Nelson said. “We’re very proud to be able to celebrate the longevity and durability of Dr. Mayo’s dream to build a school to produce teachers and educate Texas.”

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