West Texas A&M University

By: Nancy Young

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: August 5, 2020

West Texas A&M University, originally called West Texas State Normal College, was established by the Thirty-first Legislature and opened in Canyon in the fall of 1910. One of the seven state supported teachers' colleges of Texas, it was coeducational and offered one year above and two years below the present college level of courses. Robert B. Cousins, president from 1910 to 1918, was followed in office by Joseph A. Hill. In 1914 the administration building burned, but the college carried on its work in temporary buildings until a new one was completed. In 1919 the first four-year college degrees were granted. The college was admitted to the American Association of Teachers Colleges in 1922, to the Association of Texas Colleges in 1923, and to the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools in 1925. In 1923 it became West Texas State Teachers College. In 1932 it was the first institution of higher learning in West Texas to offer graduate training. In 1932–33 the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society built its museum, Pioneer Hall, on the campus. In 1942 Mr. and Mrs. Allen Early gave to the college a building in Amarillo, and the Amarillo Center of the college began to offer adult education classes there. Annual enrollment for the college averaged 1,000, and in 1949 it became West Texas State College.

Enrollment climbed from 1,913 students in 1950 to 4,500 in 1964. The school received authorization from the Texas legislature in 1963 to reorganize and to change its name to West Texas State University, recognizing the school's expanded scope and purpose. Administrative reorganization included the college of arts and sciences with three divisions (humanities, social sciences, and science); the school of business; the school of teacher education; and the graduate school. At this time a marked expansion began on the physical plant, curriculum and program development, enrollment, and faculty, along with an increased emphasis on research. Construction of the Kilgore Research Center's first unit signaled the emergence of the university as a research focal point. The center housed an electronic computer system, laboratories, rooms for low-temperature physics research, and a library, in addition to offices for twenty researchers. Cooperative research agreements were made with several agencies, including the National Science Foundation. The Kilgore Research Center housed the Alternative Energy Institute (founded in 1977) pioneered early wind energy data collection and research. The AEI offices were housed at the Kilgore Research Center from the early 1980s until 2009, and continue research and testing at the Palo Duro Research Center at West Texas A&M University. Of the major buildings on campus, twenty were constructed or greatly modified during the 1950–65 period. Other additions included an applied science building to house the agricultural and industrial education departments, a $350,000 enlargement of the library (which contained 146,108 volumes in 1969), a $700,000 expansion of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, an administration building, and a building for the school of business.

On September 1, 1990, West Texas State University joined the Texas A&M University System, and on September 25, 1992, the board of regents changed the school's name to West Texas A&M University. At that time the student body numbered 6,000, and class size averaged twenty-three students. Undergraduates, who composed 80 percent of the student population, could choose among fifty fields of study, and forty-four graduate programs were offered. The university was the major institution of higher learning in the Panhandle region of Texas and also drew students from neighboring states. There were four colleges and one school: Agriculture, Nursing and Natural Sciences; Education and Social Sciences; T. Boone Pickens College of Business; Sybil B. Harrington College of Fine Arts and Humanities; and the Graduate School. West Texas A&M was on a 135-acre main campus and had access to 294 additional acres for expansion purposes. The college occupied part of the T Anchor Ranch, and the old ranch headquarters has been preserved for historical interest. The university had a 186-acre farm, and its Nance Ranch was 2,400 acres. The school also ran a University Horse Center and a dairy. In all the campus had forty-two buildings. The Old Main Building, constructed in 1910, was renovated in 1988 and was the oldest building on campus. The school conferred twenty degrees and had 208 members of the faculty. It has had nine presidents throughout its history: Robert B. Cousins (1910–18), Joseph A. Hill (1918–48), James P. Cornette (1948–72), Lloyd I. Watkins (1972–77), Max Sherman (1977–82), Gail Shannon (1982–84), Ed D. Roach (1984–90), Barry B. Thompson (1991–94), and Russell C. Long (1994–). In 2000 the university offered fifty-four undergraduate and thirty graduate degree programs. Enrollment in the fall of that year was 6,775, including 5,561 undergraduates, and the faculty numbered about 270.

  • Education
  • Public Four-Year Colleges and Universities

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Nancy Young, “West Texas A&M University,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/west-texas-a-m-university.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 5, 2020