MSUM celebrates centennial of becoming teacher college

Moorhead Normal School became Moorhead State Teachers College in 1921

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This photo of Old Main (with the street car in front) and Wheeler Hall was taken in 1921, the year Moorhead Normal School became Moorhead Teachers College. Photo courtesy of Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County

In a year when the critical impact of teachers is being widely recognized and hailed for having dealt with the strain the pandemic forced upon education systems, one local institution is celebrating its transformation from a Normal School to a Teacher’s College.

Back in 1888, Moorhead was a small prairie town with roots in the Northern Pacific Railroad’s westward journey toward Seattle. The town sprung up along the Red River in 1871 as steamboat traffic and the railroad brought settlers and business to the area; Moorhead was named for William Moorhead, a director of the NP Railroad, and became officially incorporated in 1881.

Just four years later, the city’s esteemed pioneer and state senator Solomon Comstock introduced a bill to the Minnesota legislature proposing a Moorhead Normal School be built on six acres of land he donated to the cause. By the fall of 1888, the school welcomed 29 students who were taught by five faculty members under the leadership of President Livingston Lord, according to the school’s website.

Normal colleges themselves were common throughout the United States by 1888, with the first being established in Lexington, Massachusetts, in 1839. These schools were established primarily to train elementary school teachers for the public school system, and typically involved a curriculum that could be completed in two years.

The beginning of the 20th century brought more rigorous requirements for teacher training and a need for high school teachers, which led to Moorhead Normal School transforming into Moorhead State Teachers College in 1921; the change allowed the institution to award bachelor’s degrees.


But this wasn’t the last name change the school would experience; by 1957 the institution became Moorhead State College in recognition of its diverse and expanded liberal arts and professional curriculum. The school became Moorhead State University in 1975 and it joined the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system in 1995, according to the school’s website. In 2000, the school was renamed Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Though events to celebrate the milestone have yet to be scheduled, the College of Education will be the focus on MSUM’s homecoming events Sept. 27 through Oct. 2.

Danielle Teigen has a bachelor's degree in journalism and management communication as well as a master's degree in mass communication from North Dakota State University. She has worked for Forum Communications since May 2015, first as a digital content manager before becoming the Life section editor and then deputy editor. She recently moved back to her hometown in South Dakota, where she works remotely for Forum Communications as managing editor of On the Minds of Moms.
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