Sunday, March 11, 2018

Act Signed to Create Academy of Idaho, Today’s Idaho State University [otd 03/11]

On March 11, 1901, Governor Frank W. Hunt signed an Act to establish an educational institution in Pocatello. Incorporated in 1889, the town had grown explosively and topped 4,000 citizens in the 1900 census.

The authorization for a school, to be called the “Academy of Idaho,” came with a catch, however. The townspeople had to supply land for the institution. The subsequent dispute almost killed the Academy before it started.
Administration Building, Academy of Idaho, ca. 1912.
H. T. French image.

Heated arguments arose as various factions pushed locations all around the valley. Finally, with the legislature's deadline approaching, they settled on what is now the lower part of the ISU campus. Construction soon began, and the school greeted its first classes in the fall of 1902 [blog, September 22].

The legislature tried to make sure the new school did not compete with the University of Idaho for students. In fact, they hoped the curriculum in Pocatello would encourage some to go on the Moscow. They specified that the curriculum should include “all the branches commonly taught in academies and such various courses as are usually taught in business colleges.”

Legislators also considered vocational training appropriate, making the new school more or less equivalent to our notion of a two-year community college. John W. Faris, the experienced educator who became the Academy’s first Principal, had more ambitious plans. Still, he did quickly initiate a preparatory curriculum, knowing that many prospective students had limited (or no) access to high school classes.

A few years later, he began what we now call a “continuing education” program, with a particular emphasis on summer classes for pre-college teachers. The Idaho Statesman reported (May 9, 1913) that the sessions were very popular, and reminded prospective attendees that, “ Special attention will be given to those courses of study required for the certification of teachers.”

Encouraged by the response, school officials soon began to harbor aspirations to attain full four-year status. That battle would rage for over thirty-five years. The only immediate result was a slight expansion and name change - to "Idaho Technical Institute" (ITI) - in 1915. And the legislature made the Institute’s subordinate role crystal clear: The curriculum “shall include two years and not more than two years of college grade and such work below college grade as the conditions of the educational system of the state render desirable.”

As the school expanded, pressure from local boosters continued, but backfired again. In 1927, the legislature made ITI a subordinate division of the University of Idaho. For the next twenty years, the Pocatello school would be the "Southern Branch of the University of Idaho" (UI-SB).

Although it was touch and go at times, the school survived the Great Depression and World War II. The vast influx of G.I. Bill students after the war caused many strains, but helped the UI-SB finally attain its goal. In 1947, the school became Idaho State College, an independent, four-year institution.
Main campus, Idaho State University.

After sixteen years of curriculum and enrollment expansion, they were given university status in 1963.

In August 1986, the school dedicated its Research and Business Park, meant to act as an incubator for new ventures and to provide space for public and private research laboratories.

Today, the university has an enrollment of over 15 thousand students, with three branch locations, and millions of dollars in research and teaching grants.
References: [French], Hawley]
Diane Olson, Idaho State University: A Centennial Chronicle, Idaho State University (2000).

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