Today's University of Central Oklahoma is the oldest institution of higher learning in Oklahoma dating back to Dec. 24, 1890, when the Territorial Legislature voted to establish the Territorial Normal School.
The Territorial Legislature located the new school in Edmond, provided certain conditions were met. First, Oklahoma County had to donate $5,000 in bonds, and Edmond had to donate 40 acres of land within one mile of the town. Ten of those acres had to be set aside for the new school. The remaining land had to be divided into lots that would be sold to raise money for the new school.
The conditions all were met, with the city of Edmond donating an additional $2,000 in bonds. The first class, a group of 23 students, met for the first time Nov. 9, 1891, in the Epworth League Room, located in the unfurnished First Methodist Church. A marker of Oklahoma granite was placed in 1915 near the original site by the Central Oklahoma Normal School Historical Society. It can be seen at Boulevard and Second Street.
Work started in the summer of 1892 on Old North Tower, the first building on campus. Occupancy began Jan. 3, 1893. The school first operated as a normal school with two years of college work and a complete preparatory school. In 1897, the first graduating class - two men and three women - received their Normal School diplomas.
In 1904, Territorial Normal became Central State Normal School. Statehood was still three years away. On Dec. 29, 1919, the State Board of Education passed a resolution making Central a four-year teachers' college conferring bachelor's degrees. It was renamed the Central State Teachers College.
Two years later, the Class of 1921 had nine members, the first graduates to receive the four-year degrees. In 1939, the state legislature passed a law renaming the institution. The new Central State College was authorized to grant degrees without teaching certificates.
In 1954, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education gave Central permission to offer the Master of Teaching Degree, which became the Master of Education in 1969. In 1971, the college was authorized to grant the Master of Arts in English and the Master of Business Administration degrees.
On April 13, 1971, the state legislature officially changed the institution's name to Central State University. On May 18, 1990, during the university's Centennial Year, legislation was passed changing the name to the University of Central Oklahoma.
Today, the Territorial Normal School has grown from 23 students on the frontier in 1891 to a metropolitan, four-year university with an enrollment of about 15,500 on a 200-acre campus.