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Happy Birthday, Wichita STATE University!

Fletcher Powell

This month is Wichita State University’s 50th birthday!

On July 1, 1964, the University of Wichita officially joined the state university system. It was not an easy journey.

The University of Wichita had been municipal university since the 1920s. By the 1960s, however, many in Wichita believed that the time had come for WU to join the state university system, serving the state, not just one city.

There was resistance, especially from the University of Kansas, Kansas State University and their alumni. A particularly sharp rebuke came in November 1962, when a report by consultant Alvin Eurich came before the Board of Regents and argued that the University of Wichita did not have the capacity to be a full state university. At best, he said, it should be a “state universities center,” operated jointly by the schools in Lawrence and Manhattan.

The report fired up Wichita supporters, such as university president Harry Corbin, individuals such as philanthropist Kathlien Edmiston and groups such as “Citizens for a State University in Southern Kansas.”

Several months of lobbying paid off. In the spring of 1963, the legislature authorized “a state university, an associate of the university of Kansas, to be located at the city of Wichita,” provided the old debts from the University of Wichita were paid off. This “associate” status was limited and meant that the University of Kansas’ president served in a minor supervisory role.

In the years since, Wichita State University has branched out on its own and, as hoped, become a proud part of the education landscape of our state.

Happy Birthday!

Jay M. Price is chair of the department of history at Wichita State University, where he also directs the public history program.