Kansas State University, originally named Kansas State Agricultural College, was founded in Manhattan on February 16, 1863, during the American Civil War, as a land-grant institution under the Morrill Act.The school was the first land-grant college created under the Morrill Act. K-State is the third-oldest school in the Big 12 Conference and the oldest public institution of higher learning in the state of Kansas.
The effort to establish the school began in 1861, the year that Kansas was admitted to the United States. One of the new state legislature's top priorities involved establishing a state university. That year, the delegation from Manhattan introduced a bill to convert Blue Mont Central College (a private college incorporated in Manhattan in 1858) into the state university. But the bill establishing the university in Manhattan was controversially vetoed by Governor Charles L. Robinson of Lawrence, and an attempt to override the veto in the Legislature failed by two votes. In 1862, another bill to make Manhattan the site of the state university failed by one vote.Finally, upon the third attempt on February 16, 1863, the state accepted Manhattan's offer to donate the Blue Mont College building and grounds and established the state's land-grant college at the site – the institution that would become Kansas State University.
The college circa 1860s, from a mural at the U.S. Capitol
When the college opened for its first session on September 2, 1863, it became only the second public institution of higher learning to admit women and men equally in the United States.Enrollment for the first session totaled 52 students: 26 men and 26 women.Twelve years after opening, the university moved its main campus from the location of Blue Mont Central College to its present site in 1875. The original site is now occupied by Central National Bank of Manhattan and Founders Hill Apartments.
The early years of the institution witnessed debate over whether the college should provide a focused agricultural education or a full liberal arts education. During this era, the tenor of the school shifted with the tenure of college presidents. For example, President John A. Anderson (1873–1879) favored a limited education and President George T. Fairchild (1879–1897) favored a classic liberal education.Fairchild was credited with saying, "Our college exists not so much to make men farmers as to make farmers men."
During this era, in 1873, Kansas State helped pioneer the academic teaching of home economics for women, becoming one of the first two colleges to offer the program of study. In 1874, the college also became the first in the United States to offer printing courses, which led to journalism courses being launched in 1910; thus, today's A.Q. Miller School of Journalism & Mass Communications, though no longer teaching printing, has the nation's longest continuously offered curriculum in mass communication.
The college in 1878, three years after moving to its current location
In November 1928, the school was accredited by the Association of American Universities (AAU) as a school whose graduates were deemed capable of advanced graduate work.The name of the school was changed in 1931 to Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science. In 1959, the Kansas legislature changed the name again to Kansas State University of Agriculture and Applied Science to reflect a growing number of graduate programs, although as a practical and legal matter it has since been referred to as Kansas State University. Milton S. Eisenhower served as president of the university from 1943 to 1950, and Dr. James McCain succeeded him, serving from 1950 to 1975. Several buildings, including residence halls and a student union, were added to the campus in the 1950s. The 1960s witnessed demonstrations against the Vietnam War, though fewer than at other college campuses. Enrollment was relatively high through most of the 1970s, but the university endured a downward spiral from approximately 1976 to 1986, when enrollment decreased to 17,570 and a number of faculty resigned. In 1986, Jon Wefald assumed the presidency of Kansas State University. During his tenure, enrollment and donations increased.
On June 15, 2009, Kirk Schulz became the 13th president of Kansas State University. In March 2010 he announced his K-State 2025 plan. The initiative is designed to elevate K-State to a top 50 nationally recognized research university by 2025