Middle Tennessee Normal School opened in 1911 with 125 students and a campus consisting of four buildings. The primary mission of the new two-year school was to train teachers for Tennessee’s schools. Approximately 213 “Normalites” served in World War I in 1917 and 1918. In 1925, the mission and scope of the institution broadened; the two-year school became a four-year institution with a new name, “Middle Tennessee State Teachers College.” Although the University has experienced tremendous growth and change during its hundred year history, we have never lost sight of our founding mission: the education and preparation of excellent teachers.
The Training School of Middle Tennessee State Teachers College in Murfreesboro was authorized as a laboratory school by Tennessee’s General Assembly. The school was located on the college campus in the basement of Old Main. Since that time it has served as an instructional laboratory for the college’s teacher education program and Rutherford County students.
The state approved the construction of buildings for the laboratory schools on the campus of state colleges in east, middle and west Tennessee in the late 1920’s. The new building for the Training School was described as having splendid facilities with a library, gym and stage. The teaching and learning process provided to the college and elementary students was described as exemplary.
The first teacher to move into the building was Miss Mary Hall. The faculty created an attractive and comfortable home environment in the classrooms, including window curtains and flowers. Schools in this era were stark and uninviting, so visitors were impressed with the inviting climate and décor.
Miss Mary was a professor in the Department of Education from the early 1930’s until the early 1960’s. Through the years she took her college students to the Training School to observe and work with the children. Miss Mary stated that the demonstration school presented the “ultimate in education”.
After her retirement in the 1960’s, Miss Mary worked with Dr. Mary Tom Berry and other educators to pilot Tennessee’s first kindergarten program in the basement of the laboratory school. This program led to the development of the college’s Early Childhood Program for teacher training.
King, Dr. Rita Schaerer (1993).
Mary Hall: A 20th-century Pioneer for Educational Progress in Tennessee. Peabody College for Teachers of Vanderbilt University. (dissertation)
[Entry provided by Dr. Rita Schaerer King, former Principal of Homer Pittard Campus School.]
Under the enthusiastic and practical-minded leadership of President Q. M. Smith, Middle Tennessee State Teachers College became Middle Tennessee State College in 1943. The new name reflected the expanding scope of its course offerings and continuing efforts to meet the need for post-secondary education in the mid-state. World War II had a tremendous and long lasting impact on MTSC. A total of 772 Blue Raiders served in World War II. The college had an enrollment of 732 at the beginning of the decade; by 1944 only 20 men and 180 women were enrolled. The College created temporary housing for veterans, a complex that would later be called “Vet Village.” President Smith secured one of the Air Corps Enlisted Reserve programs in 1943 for MTSC, which helped the college continue to thrive during the war years.
Enrollment more than doubled during the 1950’s as soldiers returning from World War II took advantage of the GI bill’s education benefits. Education remained central to the college’s mission. To quote the 1950 Midlander, “The Main Thing at MTSC is Education. Remember, folks, that this school is primarily noted for the quantity and quality of teachers it graduates each year.”
The 1960’s were a time of great change in the country and at Middle Tennessee. The college welcomed both its first black student and its first Dean of Women in 1962. In 1965, the institution made the momentous transition from state college to full-fledged University. To quote the 1965 Midlander, “The attainment of university status has opened new doors, evoked more distinguished growth, made possible a unique recognition, and provided higher standards by which we may mold our lives . . . Who can forget the selection of a new name, the reclassification of our academic program, the revision of the monument, or the "first time we heard the chant of 'MTSU'".
In the 1970’s, Middle Tennessee was growing as Baby Boomers continued to arrive on campuses across the nation, not just in Middle Tennessee. Education pedagogies were shifting, technology was growing at a faster pace than ever before, more students were independently mobile, and the School of Education was “in the middle” of it all!
MTSU celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1986, reflecting on its evolution from a normal school training teachers in 1911 to the third largest university in Tennessee. By mid decade, MTSU boasted a 500+ acre campus, 450+ faculty, and 10,000+ students. Under the leadership of President Sam Ingram and Deans Delmar Pockat, Harry Hodge and Robert Eaker, the School of Education built on its tradition of excellence, training teachers to serve students in the state, the region and beyond.
Project HELP began in October of 1983. Funded by the Tennessee State Department of Mental Health/Mental Retardation, this early intervention program served children ages birth to three years old and their families.
Children were eligible for services if they were assessed to have a 25% delay in two areas or 40% delay in one area of development. Based on educational assessments, an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) was written for each child. Those children who were ready for group activities were served in a classroom setting four half-days per week. Activities were planned for each child to carry out the goals and objectives of the IFSP, and children had the opportunity to interact with others in group and cooperative play. Parents were encouraged to participate in order to expand their knowledge of ways to care for and teach their children.
Because Project HELP was located on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University, a training component was included in the program. Students from eleven different majors spent time working in the center under the supervision of the full-time staff. In this way, the children received extra help and the students received practical teaching experiences.
The program grew and expanded through the years. Additional funding was obtained from the United Way of Rutherford County which allowed more children to be served. Because of the need to expand and very limited space, a building campaign was begun in 1986. In 1997, a new facility opened on Baird Lane.
Project HELP continues to serve children and their families. Many changes have occurred since the building opened thirteen years ago. Peer models are now part of the program and an additional off-site classroom has opened. Children, parents, and students continue to be served according to the original mission of this early intervention program.
The Katherine Davis Murfree Chair of Excellence in Dyslexic Studies was founded in 1988. Katherine Davis Murfree, a Murfreesboro resident, noticed that children with dyslexia were not adequately served in the Tennessee schools. She believed something could be done to change the status quo and collaborated with Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Education and Behavioral Sciences to fund the endowment for a Chair of Excellence in Dyslexic Studies. The Murfree Chairs of Excellence have dedicated their time to informing the public about dyslexia, enhancing the skills of educators to identify and assist students with dyslexia, and contributing to the research base regarding causes and effective educational interventions.
Dr. Diane J. Sawyer was invited to fill the position and officially joined the faculty in January 1990. Due to Dr. Sawyer’s tireless efforts with the Tennessee Senate Committee on Education and the General Assembly, funds were allocated to establish a Center for the Study and Treatment of Dyslexia in 1993. TBR followed with establishing this center as a permanent education service unit.
The center is the service arm of the Murfree Chair of Excellence. Center staff provides diagnostic services for children, staff development for pre-K-12 educators, and consultation services for educators and parents as schools increasingly take on responsibility to identify and adjust educational programming for students with dyslexia. The center also provides training for all MTSU school psychology students as well as opportunities for research by faculty and graduate students in various campus programs. To date, more than 600 children have received diagnostic assessments in the center, and more than 6,000 educators have attended professional development workshops offered at locations across the state.
In 1999, MTSU partnered with the Christy-Houston Foundation to fund construction of a $1.5 million dedicated facility to support the center’s services which opened in December 2001. The collaborative efforts that have followed from sponsorship of the Katherine Davis Murfree Chair of Excellence in Dyslexic Studies have resulted in a statewide, systematic approach to this high-incidence learning disability that is unparalleled. The influence of this Chair of Excellence is substantial and highly regarded throughout the pre-K-12 education system in Tennessee.
Under the leadership of President James E. Walker, Middle Tennessee State Unviersity made great strides toward adopting new computer and Internet technologies that would dramatically transform pedagogy over the next two decades. The College of Education and Behavioral Science led the way by establishing a computer lab for the teacher education program which would evolve into the Instructional Technology Support Center by the middle of the decade. By the end of the decade, a satellite network had been established, connecting MTSU to K12 schools in rural Tennessee.
The first decade of the new century brought continued growth to Middle Tennessee State University. Enrollment expanded from 19,121 in 2000 to over 26,000 in 2010. Looking back to the four buildings that comprised campus in 1911, the physical expansion of MTSU to encompass 515 acres and 137 permanent buildings is particularly impressive. University restructuring set the stage for major changes early in 2010, when the departments of the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences were reorganized into two separate colleges: The College of Education and the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences. Looking forward to the next 100 years, the new college is poised to move into a beautiful new, innovative and technology-rich building in 2011.
The College of Education is anticipating a bright second century at Middle Tennessee State University when it begins the next 100 years by moving into its innovative and technology-rich new building. The College will be afforded many opportunities as we begin a research-based redesign of teacher education, build on the Tennessee Board of Regents’ “Ready2Teach” initiative, incorporate more real-world experience into the education program, and work with K-12 schools to meet the goals of P-16 partnerships and the Race to the Top. We look forward to the new initiatives and opportunities on the horizon and are confident that we will continue to fulfill our historical role as the largest and best teacher education program in Tennessee. To quote Dean Lana C. Seivers, MTSU’s education program is “not only a course of study, it’s a way of living for teachers . . . who have a passion for children and teaching . . . and who really think that what they do makes a difference for every other career.”