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Four years after the Cherokee Outlet Opening in 1893, aggressive businessmen in Alva induced the Oklahoma Territorial Legislature to approve the establishment of Northwestern Territorial Normal School. It was the second such institution in the territory, the first being Central State Normal School (University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond). Classes began in September 1897 under the presidency of James E. Ament and with a faculty of two women, Sarah Bosworth and Mary DeLisle. Alva churches provided classrooms until a permanent structure was completed in 1899. Designed by architect Joseph Foucart, the building with castle-like features became known as the "Castle on the Hill" and served as an educational landmark until fire destroyed it in 1935.

Northwestern at Alva

The school's original primary function was to train teachers by providing two years of college-level classes. Early settlers in the area established numerous one-room schools, and the demand for teachers and better teacher training became critical. Therefore, in 1919 Northwestern evolved into a four-year, degree-granting institution known as Northwestern State Teachers College.

As the variety of job opportunities and the demand for more diversified types of training increased, liberal arts programs were added to the curriculum, and in 1939 the facility became Northwestern State College. The institution continued to broaden and revise its programs, and its named changed to Northwestern Oklahoma State University in 1974. Branch campuses were established in Enid and in Woodward in 1996.

Physical facilities have been expanded and modernized through the years, and the university has served as both an educational and cultural center of northwest Oklahoma. Eighteen men have served as its president, the longest tenure being that of Dr. Joe J. Struckle from 1975 to 2000. The annual enrollment hovers around two thousand, with the largest enrollment occurring in 1968 with 2,641 students.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Seth K. Corden and William B. Richards, comps., The Oklahoma Red Book, Vol. 2 (Oklahoma City: N.p., 1912). "Education, Higher–Oklahoma–Alva," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. Wayne Lane, Northwestern Oklahoma State University: A Centennial History (Alva: Northwestern Oklahoma State University Foundation, 1996).

Wayne Lane

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