Founding the Future: A History of Truman State University

David C. Nichols


This is a history of Truman State University as it evolved from a small, regional teachers college to a nationally recognized, highly selective liberal arts and sciences institution.

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In 1867, Joseph Baldwin founded the North Missouri Normal School to train young men and women of the area to teach in the new public schools being established throughout the state. Over the next decades, the school continued to focus on training teachers for the public schools, but also developed a general education program. Gradually, the curriculum expanded into other fields of study and professional training.

Balancing tradition and innovation, the college built a strong foundation by providing a superior liberal arts and sciences education in a student-centered learning environment. In 1985, Northeast Missouri State University was given a new mission as Missouri’s premier public liberal arts and sciences institution. This change in mission was reinforced a decade later when the name was changed to Truman State University.

David C. Nichols traces the university’s path as it evolved from a small, regional teachers college to a nationally recognized, highly selective liberal arts and sciences institution. Insights from faculty, administrators, and students provide snapshots of important moments in the university’s history.




Part 1: The First Century
The Early Years
Kirksville’s Culture at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
Struggling for Survival and Success
Baldwin Hall Burns—An Eyewitness Account
Ryle’s Legacy of General Education
The Life of a Football Player

Part 2: Entering a Second Century
Baldwin’s Vision, One Hundred Years Later
The Centennial Celebration
A New Evolutionary Era Begins
The Woody Hayes Story
Traditions and Excellence in Athletics
Some Famous Bulldogs
Northeast’s Culture Amid Social Change
Ice House Theatre—A Summer Experience

Part 3: Winds of Change
The Initiative Toward Accountability
Student Reactions to Value-Added Assessment
Hopes and Dreams Become Reality
Towne Bells
A Period of Promise and Achievement
SAB Members Form Long-Term Relationships
Changing the Name, Keeping the Tradition
Sue Magruder—Truman’s First Lady
The Liberal Arts Culture Matures
A Tribute to Samuel Pickler—The Virginia Young Stanton Garden

Part 4: Meeting the Challenges of the Future
The Truman Vision
The Campus Gates—A Symbol of Tradition
Creative Teaching and Learning
Study Abroad—A Student’s Perspective
Liberal Education Outside the Classroom
Bands March Through Time
Looking to the Future


A. Institutional Names Throughout the Years
B. Presidents of the University
C. The University Mission
D. Regents, Governors, and Student Members of the Board
E. Student Enrollment




David Nichols joined the music faculty at Truman State University in 1966, later serving as director of the graduate program in music until his retirement in 2001. Nichols earned his PhD from Indiana University in historical musicology. Throughout his career he has been an active writer, conductor, clarinetist, and saxophonist. Nichols is the author of Musical Encounters, a music history and appreciation textbook.


" an eye-opening chronicle of the proud history of Truman State from its visionary founding over a hundred years ago to modern changes and transformations, such as the introduction of value-added assessment and student reactions. Founding the Future also looks beyond Truman State’s rich history toward its future legacy, from study abroad to the development of liberal education outside the classroom. Black-and-white photographs, notes, and appendices round out this glowing tribute to the evolution of an American font of higher learning."

Midwest Book Review

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