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Celebrating 150: Harry Visits Campus

In 1996, the name Truman State University became official. It was one of the final steps in transforming the school from a regional institution to Missouri’s only statewide public liberal arts and sciences university.

The name was selected as an homage to the only Missourian to serve as president of the United States. One of the few ties Harry Truman had to Kirksville came Aug. 13, 1943. Truman, then a senator, addressed the graduating class and had his picture taken with them on the steps of Kirk Memorial. Less than two years later he would be the president, leading the nation through the end of World War II. More»

Harry Truman visits campus

May Day

In the early 1900s, the school regularly conducted May Day activities on campus to celebrate spring. More»


Opera on the Lake

Opera was a popular genre in the early 1900s, and the campus community staged several successful productions. According to “Founding the Future: A History of Truman State University,” the first, and perhaps most famous, campus production was Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore.” More»

Opera was a popular genre in the early 1900s, and the campus community staged several successful productions. According to “Founding the Future: A History of Truman State University,” the first, and perhaps most famous, campus production was Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore.” The comic opera was set aboard the ship H.M.S. Pinafore, and for the University version in 1911 a boat/stage was constructed on the campus lake, the area now known as the Quad.

Magruder Hall

The Magruder Hall of today has little in common with the structure that debuted in 1955. It has always been the premiere science building on campus, and until a massive renovation and expansion in 2005, it was known simply as Science Hall. More»

Science Hall Tunnel

Violette Hall

Given Truman’s picturesque grounds, and its purple and white branding, it is understandable to assume Violette Hall is named after the flower or the color. The alternative spelling is the first clue the building is actually named in honor of E.M. Violette, a longtime faculty member and the man who literally wrote the book on the history of the University. More»

Violette Hall

MLB Success

Truman is known for its academics, but the University does have an interesting, albeit fleeting, history with America’s pastime. A total of nine Bulldogs were either drafted by Major League Baseball teams or signed as free agents, and four alumni have played at the sport’s highest level. More»

Truman Bulldogs and Major League Baseball

Eleanor Roosevelt Visits Truman

In the long and distinguished history of the Kohlenberg Lyceum Series, a speech by a former first lady is one of the more memorable events for many of those who were on hand to witness it.

According to the Index, Eleanor Roosevelt was greeted to a standing ovation when she addressed a capacity audience on campus in March 1961. The title of her address was “Is America Facing World Leadership?” Roosevelt felt World War I was the first time the country was engaged in world affairs and cited the prominence of transportation after World War II for making the world seem smaller.  More»

Eleanor Roosevelt

The Final Four Team

The 1998-99 Bulldogs had one of the greatest seasons in the history of men’s basketball at Truman. That year, the team finished with a 26-7 record and won the conference and South Central regional tournaments. To top it all off, the team advanced to the NCAA Division II Final Four.  More»

Final Four - Bulldog players on the basketball court

The Index

For more than 100 years, some form of the Index has served as the campus newspaper of record.

The paper first appeared in 1909 as the Kirksville Normal School Index. According to “Founding the Future: A History of Truman State University,” early issues of the Index covered “mostly social, cultural, and athletic events on campus and local news.” More»

1912-1913 Index Editorial Staff

Picker Memorial Library

Samuel Pickler was a member of the University’s first graduating class, and thanks to a substantial financial contribution when the school was in need, his name is familiar to generations of students.

Along with Old Baldwin Hall, the fire of 1924 destroyed the campus library. Soon after, Pickler made a $25,000 contribution toward the construction of the building that still bears his name. During its 90-plus years, Pickler Memorial Library has undergone numerous changes to maintain its role as one of the most important buildings on campus. More»


The Presidents

In its 150-year history, the University has been fortunate to have consistent, steady leadership. Including interims, a total of 17 individuals have served in the role of president. While many of their names are familiar thanks to campus landmarks, their stories can sometimes be overlooked. More»

President Ryle

Helen Keller

Helen Keller, the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, visited the University in 1915. Her presentation, described in the Index as “one of the most interesting events in the lives of the students assembled,” included an example of how she could keep time with music played on the piano. More»

Helen Keller

Greek Life

For more than 100 years, Greek organizations have been a part of University history. Many Greek organizations on campus started off as educational fraternities. Social fraternities were not recognized prior to 1914. Several of the current fraternities and sororities began as local organizations before being reorganized to their current affiliations. More»

Greek Life

Ophelia Parrish

Today, the Ophelia Parrish Building is Truman’s cultural hub, serving as the home of the art, music and theatre programs. One of the oldest edifices on campus, it has served a few distinct roles for the University since its construction, and it continues to honor its namesake more than a century after her passing. More»

Ophelia Parrish Building

1924: The Baldwin Fire

Jan. 28, 1924 is a date that will live in infamy in Truman’s history. Old Baldwin Hall, the 51-year-old centerpiece of campus, was destroyed by fire, along with the Library Building. More»

Baldwin Hall Fire

Kirk Building and Kirk Memorial

Kirk Memorial is one of the most recognizable features on the Truman campus. It is also located just a stone’s throw away from Kirk Building, one of the school’s most historic buildings. Both are named in tribute to John R. Kirk, the second-longest tenured president in University history. More»

Kirk Memorial

1957: Pershing Building

Originally constructed in 1957, the building is named in honor of University alumnus and decorated Army veteran John J. Pershing, known for leading the American Expeditionary Force on the western front during World War I.More»

Pershing Building

1967: Remembering the Centennial Anniversary

While the sesquicentennial is the most recent yearlong celebration in the University’s history, there have been others. The 125th anniversary received a considerable amount of fanfare in 1992, but perhaps the most remarkable was the Centennial Celebration of 1967.   More»

Centennial Lamp to the Second Century

The Residence Halls

Truman has always been known as a residential campus, but that does not mean students always resided on campus.

In the early days, most students lived off campus. Grim Hall was a residence for a long period of time, but it was primarily housing for nurses when it opened in 1923. According to “Founding the Future: A History of Truman State University,” campus housing began in 1947 when the University received a grant to convert nine army barracks to campus apartments.  More»

Dorm Lounge

1950s: Thanksgiving Break

Going home for Thanksgiving can be one of the highlights of the fall semester. Many of the students who live too far from home to make the trip back often get taken in by fellow classmates, which can be the first memories in a lifelong friendship.

In the 1950s, alumnus Irving Waldman, a city kid from Brooklyn, N.Y., spent a Thanksgiving break in the tiny town of Medill, Mo., with his friend and fellow alumnus Carl Mitten.  More»

Carl and Irving

1967: The Bell Wall

Between Missouri Hall and the quadrangle stands a brick wall housing a row of five bells. This campus landmark, known most commonly as the bell wall, was added to campus in the 1960s. Though students, faculty, staff and alumni regularly pass by the wall, few know the history behind the five bronze bells.  More»

Bell Wall

1927: Joseph Baldwin Memorial

The statue of Joseph Baldwin that stands near the south end of the Quad was erected in honor of the University founder’s 100th birthday, Oct. 31, 1927. The total $6,000 cost of the project was funded by donations from students, faculty, staff, alumni and the citizens of Kirksville.  More»

Joseph Baldwin Statue

1966: Welcoming the Computer

With more than 900 computers across campus available for general student use, it can be difficult to imagine a time before the prominence of technology. A seminal moment in the University history of embracing technology came in 1966 with the installation of an IBM computer on campus.  More»

IBM Computer

1967: Student Union Building

The Student Union Building was originally completed Oct. 20, 1967 with the intent of bringing the University community together by providing facilities where student-based activities could take place. While it has continued to maintain this distinct purpose through the years, the Student Union Building has also grown and expanded along with Truman to fulfill emerging student needs  More»

Student Union Building

The Gum Tree

In the 1920s, it was against the rules to chew gum in class. According to campus lore, students used to stick their chewing gum inside an old suit of armor named Oscar located inside the library. That hiding spot was later replaced by a tree on the east side of the Quad because it was closer to classrooms. Some said adding gum to the tree would bring good luck. Others claimed contributing to it on the way to an exam would ensure a passing grade.  More»

Gum Tree

1915: The Bulldog

Bulldogs, both canine and Spike forms, have appeared in University parades, rallies and on the sidelines to help cheer the athletic teams on to victory for more than a century.

Although the term “bulldogs” was first used by Coach O.C. Bell to describe the football team’s tenacity in 1909, it was not until 1915 that Bulldogs became the official mascot. In 1915, after several losing seasons — and no wins at all in 1914 — a committee was formed to see what could be done about reviving school spirit. While the student body was very supportive of the 1914 team, the committee knew they were somewhat discouraged, so they decided that some type of emblem to inspire enthusiasm was needed. More»


1947: Bulldogs Win Bowl Game in Front of President Reagan

In 1947, the Bulldog football team participated in a bowl game under the watchful eye of the president of the United States. Sort of.

True, it was not the Rose, Orange or Sugar Bowl, and Ronald Reagan was still 33 years away from winning his first term for the nation’s highest office, but the team did earn a unique, albeit obscure, place in the annals of college football history. On Sept. 26, 1947, the Bulldogs took on Eureka College in the first-ever Pumpkin Bowl.  More»

Pumpkin Festival
Phil DiRuocco (’67)
“Bringing Johnny Mathis to our campus as a member of the NEMO Student Council. Having a very active Newman Club. A November trip to Acapulco, Mexico in a 1955 Pontiac ambulance hearse with Paul Oakley, Jack Simmons, Tom Sherry & Rusty Broderick. A winter ski trip to Denver /Breckenridge, Colorado with Jim Dattilo. Student teaching in Milan, Mo., with Len Butler.”