Opinion: Did you know that SDSU was once called San Diego Normal School? Here’s how it evolved.

Mallios, Ph.D., is professor of anthropology and curator of academic history at San Diego State University and co-chair of the SDSU 125th Anniversary Advisory Board. He lives in the Allied Gardens.

125 years ago, on March 13, 1897, history was made in the state of California. That day, Governor James Budd signed a monumental piece of legislation officially establishing the San Diego State Normal School. This bill would have a huge impact on our region, our state and our communities around the world. He established a state-sponsored teacher training college, initially housed in a modest building in what is now the Gaslamp Quarter. Over the generations – and with a list of famous firsts – this teaching school has become the academic and research powerhouse that is San Diego State University, a multi-site global institution in San Diego, Imperial Valley and Tbilisi, Georgia.

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To honor SDSU’s 125-year history and legacy, the university will launch a series of events on Monday. Since it took more than a year and a half after the original legislation was signed for classes to begin at San Diego Normal School (November 1, 1898), SDSU organizes birthday celebration activities on a period of 600 days in 2022-23 that honor the past, revel in the present and eagerly anticipate the future.

The official celebration kicks off Monday with an Open House (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and Anniversary Celebration (12 p.m. to 1 p.m.) at SDSU, and all are welcome on campus. The day will center on the launch of the university’s brand renewal and a major exhibit that includes rare artifacts, engaging student performances, and interactive elements in Montezuma Hall. This exhibit takes visitors through each decade of SDSU’s history and is the first of four signature events, one scheduled for each semester through fall 2023.

Our extended anniversary gives everyone the opportunity to explore and appreciate the depth and breadth of SDSU’s history, diversity, and impact, as the campus community looks to the future. This spring, we will award a diploma to our 500,000th graduate. In the fall, Snapdragon Stadium will officially open with a football game between SDSU and the University of Arizona, which will also kick off SDSU’s “100 Years of Football” celebration. In the spring of 2023, we will host the first graduation ceremony in our new stadium. The anniversary will culminate with a re-enactment of the first day of classes at Sixth Avenue and F Street in the original George Hill Building on November 1, 2023.

The history of SDSU is full of famous firsts. We had the first women’s studies program (now a department) in the country, the first woman played a Division I men’s sport and it was there that the first Latina in space earned her bachelor of science, between other notable firsts. SDSU faculty were also the first in the state to develop a unified grant-funded research and teaching pathway that provided students with transformative learning opportunities while engaging in original research projects; this model would become an academic standard for California.

A student looks through a telescope in the normal school observatory in 1915.

A student looks through a telescope in the Normal School Observatory in 1915, a site that showed great promise for the university’s eventual ramp-up of research.

(SDSU Special Collections and University Archives

Diversity is our strength at SDSU. Over generations, the SDSU community has successfully lobbied for the introduction of centers dedicated to supporting students who connect with a range of backgrounds and identities. Whether it is the Women’s Resource Center established in the early 1970s or the Black Resource Center, the Latinx Resource Center or the recently opened Native Resource Center, SDSU is not resting on its laurels as an institution of oldest and most diverse higher education in the region. it continually strives to create new ways to be inclusive.

And people have naturally gravitated to our campus for decades, including many internationally renowned. SDSU has hosted a wide range of renowned political figures, including Eleanor Roosevelt in 1961, John F. Kennedy in 1963, and Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964.

Additionally, when “jazz queen” Ella Fitzgerald performed in 1961 on the Peterson Gym campus, she started the institution on the path to being a more popular venue for live music than many other colleges. from the country.

Anniversaries are thought-provoking, and this important time allows us to celebrate our shared past, our engaged present, and our exciting future as a diverse and inclusive community. I invite everyone to join our extended SDSU 125th anniversary festivities, wear your red and black, and as you explore your own history, identify your own legacy through a connection to SDSU.

This story printed in the newspaper under the title Here’s How San Diego Normal School Became SDSU on March 13, 2022.

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