January 17, 2007 - Posted at 8:39 p.m. CST
JONESBORO, AR -- Forty years ago Wednesday, Arkansas State College became Arkansas State University with the signature of Governor Win Rockefeller on House Bill 8. That change brought more than just a new name to the school; administrators say that the 40th anniversary marks a journey of progress.
"It was the classic struggle that almost all states went through half a century ago, say on whether there was going to be one institution in the state that was a university or not," said former ASU President Dr. Eugene Smith.
State legislators first proposed the name change in 1959, but the bill wouldn't pass both the senate and the house until eight years later in 1967...formally turning Arkansas State College into Arkansas State University.
"That day that the legislature was adopted probably ranks right beside the day, now 98 years ago that the legislature passed a law creating the institution," said Dr. Smith.
"It's a tribute to people who worked hard, not just in this community but across the state. there are so many elected officials, appointed officials and then just citizens who just work so hard who just help build the university to the standard that it's achieved at this point and it's not going to stop," said Governor Mike Beebe, who received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from ASU in 1968.
The new name brought advanced programming, a higher student enrollment and a different position in state funding.
"The big change was that it opened the door for the development of the institution and it has continued to develop through the years," said Dr. Smith.
"Most recently it became another level of a research university with the bio sciences institute that we put together earlier this decade when we did the back assembly. And that elevated the research aspects of ASU to an even higher level and I don't expect it to stop," said Governor Beebe.
With growth and development is on the agenda for the next forty years, ASU isn't looking to slow down the pace.
"I think it will grow, I think it will continue to make a bigger impact on this state and this region and even nationally," said Dr. Smith.