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Tennessee Tech celebrates 100th Charter Day

Tennessee Tech May Pole

In honor of 100 years of academics, Tennessee Tech University begins its Centennial Celebration Friday, March 27, with a ”Charter Day” ceremony.

Guests are invited to attend the event, which takes place from 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. in Derryberry Hall Auditorium. The ceremony includes a historical re-enactment of events leading up to the signing of the Tennessee Tech charter and proclamations declaring March 27 “Tennessee Tech University Charter Day” in the state, county and city.

“Hitting our century mark is a huge accomplishment, and we’re commemorating the occasion with more than a year’s worth of special events and activities,” said Laura Clemons, coordinator of the university’s Centennial Celebration. “The fact that we’ve reached this moment in our history is due in large part to the people of the Upper Cumberland, who lobbied successfully for the first public college in our region.”

TTU began as Dixie College in the early 1900s. The school’s primary goal was to increase the technical workforce in middle Tennessee and to bring public higher education, in the form of a high school, to the area.

Following a rough few years, the school was transferred to the state. The charter establishing Tennessee Polytechnic Institute was signed by Gov. Thomas Rye on March 27, 1915, after months of fighting between Upper Cumberland residents who wanted a higher education institution of their own and state legislators who wanted to put the institution elsewhere.

The General Education Act of 1909 provided for the establishment of three state “normals,” or teacher-training schools, for white students, one per division of Tennessee. Local leaders in Cookeville lobbied for the location in middle Tennessee, but lost to Murfreesboro.

Cookevillians did not give up without a fight. In 1914, Cookeville spokesmen moved to create another state normal school, but the state normal presidents opposed it.

Sen. Andrew Todd suggested a school called Tennessee Polytechnic Institute be created to meet the needs of the rural, agricultural region.

Legislators approved TPI as a technical and agricultural program with a teacher-training program. Efforts to repeal the bill, led by the normal school presidents and others, continued until 1921.

Less than a decade later, enrollment and programs suffered the economic hardships of the Great Depression, followed by lean times during World War II. Strong campus leadership and the continued support of the city, county and region kept TPI open. In the post-war economic boom, the college thrived.

In 1965, TPI was elevated to university status by Gov. Frank Clement. Its name changed to Tennessee Technological University or simply Tennessee Tech.

“Our roots are here, in the Upper Cumberland, and we’ll never forget that,” said Clemons. “Every event of Tennessee Tech’s Centennial Celebration acknowledges the role our local communities have played in our success for 100 years, and we hope all our friends can take part in much – if not all – of our special programming.”

From three concentrations to more than 40 fields of study and from fewer than 20 students to more than 11,000, TTU has grown from a small, rural college to a prominent university in Tennessee.

Guest parking on Charter Day will be available next to the university’s intramural field on North Willow Avenue in Cookeville. Shuttles will run continuously between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. to and from Derryberry Hall, located at 1 William L. Jones Dr. The Charter Day ceremony will be streamed live at tntech.edu/web/live.

More information is available by emailing centennial@tntech.edu and at tntech.edu/centennial.

The celebration is free and open to the public.