Changing the Name of a University: Why the Name Change?
The Relationship Between Mission and Name
Founded in Kirksville, Mo., in 1867, Truman State University as it is now known, has evolved through several name changes, each reflecting a new institutional mission. In each case, the University had undertaken a new mission, and the subsequent name change reflected that new mission.
Changing the Name from Northeast Missouri State University to Truman State University
In 1985, when the passage of House Bill 196 changed the University’s mission from an open enrollment, regional, multipurpose university to Missouri’s only statewide public liberal arts and sciences institution, the name of the University was Northeast Missouri State University. The University was chosen to assume a new role because the institution had already begun moving away from the multipurpose curriculum and moving toward a liberal arts and sciences curriculum.
The state’s goal was to provide a public institution that could compete with the nation’s finest undergraduate liberal arts colleges, thus stemming the flow of Missouri’s best and brightest students into other states.
When House Bill 196 went into effect, the University began refining its unique role in higher education, molding itself into one of the nation’s finest undergraduate universities with a high-caliber student body. With much refining of its mission completed, the University moved to define itself in this new role by choosing a new name that reflected its new mission.
What’s in a Name?
The University’s former directional name of Northeast Missouri State University (the school’s name from Aug. 13, 1972 – 30 June 30, 1996) projected an image of its former self as a regional multipurpose institution rather than reflecting its evolving role in higher education as one of the finest public liberal arts and sciences universities.
The perceptions inherent with the regional name caused problems with student and faculty recruitment and with the University’s efforts to garner grants and other funds from the private sector. As a regional university, Northeast shared similar names with its sister regional institutions throughout the state. The instances of Northeast Missouri State University being confused with Northwest Missouri State University and other regional institutions were numerous among the media, the legislature, prospective students, educators, and the general public.
Why Truman State University?
The Consideration for the New Name
Several factors were considered in selecting a new name for the University. The new name needed to:
- move away from a regional designation
- reflect the University’s mission
- carry national recognition
- be held in high esteem throughout the state of Missouri and the nation
- exhibit the prestige associated with this high-quality liberal arts and sciences institution
Truman State University met each of these criteria.
Why Honor Harry S. Truman?
Harry S. Truman’s life exemplified the ultimate goals of liberal arts and sciences education. He was a voracious reader and a life-long learner and teacher. He was known for using his highly developed grasp of history to explain contemporary problems or justify his policy positions. Truman was the first 20th-century president to actively advocate public funding that would expand access to higher education opportunities for all Americans, regardless of race, creed, color, national origin, gender or economic status. In 1946, he established the first support for federally funded education, which would help ensure this access. Some of the language in the report delivered by Truman’s commission bears a strong resemblance to Truman State University’s own mission statement. The Truman report said:
“Our society is desperately in need of men and women capable of giving wise leadership – the kind of leadership that can only come from those who know the nature, career and consequences of human value, who sense the meaning of the social forces operating in the world today, who comprehended the complexities and intricacies of social process and who command the methods of critical thinking.
Whatever the methods developed, the purpose is clear: to provide a well-rounded education that will fit men and women to understand the broad culture foundations, the significant accomplishments and the unfinished business of their society; to participate intelligently in community life and public affairs; to build a set of values that will constitute a design for living and to take a socially responsible and productive part in the world of work.”
The University’s Names
- North Missouri Normal School and Commercial College
September 2, 1867
Founded by Joseph Baldwin, the school opens with a faculty of five.
- North Missouri Normal School
June 2, 1868
The school’s name is revised in the articles of incorporation filed by Joseph Baldwin.
- Missouri State Normal School of the First District
December 29, 1870
The State Board of Regents selects Kirksville as site of the First District Normal School, pursuant to legislation enacted on March 19, 1870, by the Missouri General Assembly and Governor Joseph W. McClurg to establish a system of public normal schools.
- Northeast Missouri State Teachers College
May 20, 1919
Governor Fredrick D. Gardner signs legislation that changes the name of all the state’s teacher-education schools from “state normal schools” to “state teachers colleges.”
- Northeast Missouri State College
January 1, 1968
On June 5, 1945, Governor Phil M. Donnelly signed legislation that enabled the state colleges to drop “teachers” from their names; however, ours was the only state college to retain “teachers” in the name until the Board of Regents takes action on December 11, 1967.
- Northeast Missouri State University
August 13, 1972
With legislation adopted by the General Assembly and Governor Warren E. Hearnes the Board of Regents approves a resolution that designates our college as a university on August 11, 1972. An official announcement is made that evening during the Summer Commencement Exercises. The law takes effect two days later.
- Truman State University
July 1, 1996
Coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the University’s mission being drastically changed from a regional university to that of Missouri’s only statewide premier liberal arts and sciences university, the General Assembly and Governor Mel Carnahan adopt legislation changing the University name to Truman State University. The University name now complements the statewide mission and honors the only Missourian to serve as President of the United States, Harry S. Truman.
I chose Truman because of the affordability and its academic reputation. I looked at other schools, both public and private, and discovered that Truman is on par academically with so many universities but for a fraction of the cost. I knew that I wanted a stellar education but didn’t want to graduate with thousands of dollars in debt, so Truman fit that mold perfectly.