Since its creation in 1887, Troy University has evolved from a training school for teachers into its present incarnation as a global institution providing accredited academic instruction in 16 states and 11 countries, with an enrollment in 2007 that exceeded 27,000 students. Today Troy continues to train teachers for local and regional K-12 schools, but in addition to the College of Education, it comprises the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Communication and Fine Arts, Health and Human Services, and the Sorrell College of Business. Its University College delivers academic programs beyond Alabama's borders at about 60 sites across the United States and abroad. At various times in its history, the school has been overseen by local and state boards of education. Currently it is overseen by a local board of trustees.
In 1887, the state legislature established the State Normal School at Troy in the heart of the city, which is located in Pike County in southeastern Alabama. The normal school, or teacher-training, movement originated in Europe and became influential in the United States, and in the South after educators there demonstrated the value of professionalizing and standardizing the education of teachers. The school, which was only open to white students, had a faculty of four that included president Joseph M. Dill, who also taught psychology and pedagogy, the science of teaching. Applicants had to be at least 15 years old, and they were required to pass an entrance examination. Tuition was set at $27 for nine months of instruction, but students were granted free tuition if they agreed to teach in Alabama's public schools for two years after graduation. The enrollment for the first year was 128, and four of these students were graduated in 1888. Three female graduates taught at least one year and one male graduate became a dentist.
At the end of the first year, Joseph Dill was voted out of office by the faculty and replaced by Edwin Ruthven Eldridge, who previously had served as president of a normal school in Iowa. Eldridge was an advocate of the Pestalozzian method of education, which stresses that children's lessons should match their level of physical and psychological development, and thus teachers should be trained in methods for this sort of graded instruction. Although such ideas are commonplace today, they were revolutionary in nineteenth-century Europe and the United States. Eldridge hoped to develop the school as a teacher-training school and as a regional college. To those ends, he developed programs in theology and other non-pedagogical disciplines and initiated extension programs and summer institutes that gave students greater access to higher education. Under Eldridge's administration, the name of the institution was changed to State Normal College at Troy in 1893.
From the beginning of his tenure, Eldridge was treated as an outsider by the school's instructors and members of the local community, and his innovations were viewed as threatening to some members of the faculty, especially his plan to raise the level of qualification of instructors, some of whom had only high-school training. In 1899, he was accused of financial improprieties and voted out of office by the faculty. A later investigation proved the allegations false, but by that time Edward Madison Shackelford already had been installed as the third president of the post-secondary school. Shackelford was born in Alabama and was a politician and a fund-raiser and focused on improving the civics, business, home economics, and manual arts programs. His vision of education also included fostering a sense of responsible citizenship in his students.
In 1911, the Alabama legislature authorized the creation of a State Board of Trustees to govern normal schools for white students, and its members voted to change the focus of those state normal schools to educational methodology, which meant that they were required to limit the types of courses normally offered at regional colleges. The name of the institution was changed back to the State Normal School at Troy, and its course of study was limited to two years of post-secondary training in teaching methodology. Shackelford, who had opposed the change, then turned his attention to developing the institution's physical plant. By 1912 the state had purchased land north of Troy and commissioned plans for new facilities. The city of Troy, originally known as Deer Stand Hill, was a center of trade for the region, and railroad lines crisscrossed the area. The original site of the normal school was adjacent to the railroad tracks in Troy, and the noise of growing commerce proved as disruptive to instruction as did the lack of available land to institutional growth. However, due primarily to decisions made by Gov. Charles Henderson, a native of Troy, the school never moved to the new site.
In 1926, the City of Troy purchased farmland southeast of the downtown area and constructed the first new building, a laboratory school for teacher training named Kilby Hall to honor Gov. Thomas Kilby, whose social and educational reforms led to its construction. During this period, the post-secondary school maintained two campuses, with instructional and administrative facilities located downtown and the lab school centered at the new site. When Gov. Bibb Graves took office in 1927, he raised the status of the state's normal schools to four-year undergraduate colleges and authorized them to grant Bachelor of Science degrees. The State Normal School at Troy became the State Teachers College at Troy in 1929. The college conferred its first undergraduate degree in 1931. A new administrative and instructional building was constructed on the new campus, and it was named Bibb Graves Hall to honor the governor. Shackelford also oversaw construction of a girls' dormitory and other facilities prior to the stock-market crash of 1929, and these final efforts allowed the school to complete its relocation to its present site. Shackelford continued as president of the State Teachers College at Troy until 1936, when ill health prompted him to retire. Matthew Downer Pace, who had served for many decades at Troy as professor of mathematics, accepted the position of interim president of the institution, insisting that his appointment not be permanent. Pace served as president of the college during the academic year 1936-37, and he worked effectively to improve the institution's financial stability. Pace Hall, a former dormitory and now a center for international students, bears his name.
Charles Bunyan Smith was appointed president of the State Teachers College on March 15, 1937. Smith was an alumnus of the post-secondary school at Troy (class of 1917), and did graduate work at Peabody College, Duke University, and the Teachers College at Columbia University. These schools were major U.S. centers of progressive education and generally followed principles espoused by John Dewey, who stressed that schools should be child-centered and geared toward preparing children for the rapidly industrializing U.S. economy of the twentieth century. Thus during Smith's tenure, instruction stressed practical rather than theoretical subjects. In 1957, the name of the institution was changed to Troy State College, and it was authorized by the Alabama State Board of Education to grant master's degrees. Smith retired in 1961 after nearly a quarter-century of service as president of the school.
Frank Ross Stewart was appointed the sixth president on March 21, 1961, and was the first to occupy a newly built president's home, but he enjoyed it only briefly. He died in office on March 24, 1964, after three years of service. He had too little time to develop, articulate, and realize a new vision for the institution, but he generally is praised for his conscientious work as an administrator and is credited with expanding financial aid and college and career counseling services. An interim committee oversaw the work of the university from Stewart's untimely death until a new president arrived on campus on October 1, 1964.
Ralph Wyatt Adams, a college roommate of Alabama governor George Wallace, served as president of Troy from 1964 until 1989, a tenure that ran almost concurrently with that of Governor Wallace. Given Troy's status as a regional college and its relative obscurity at the time, the turbulent era of school desegregation had little effect on the campus. There are no records of when the school actually was desegregated, but the first photograph of an African American student appears in the 1967 annual. In December 1967, the name of the institution was changed to Troy State University, and in 1986 Adam's title was changed from president to chancellor to reflect the university's development into a multi-centered educational system. Adams brought unprecedented growth to Troy State, and his philosophy of establishing programs to meet the needs of the students, and the needs of the time in which they lived, revived a policy first brought to Troy by Eldridge. As a former military airman and businessman, he created degree-delivery programs at military installations that eventually developed into centers and finally into branch campuses of the university. Military residence centers opened at Fort Rucker in Dothan in 1961, at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery in 1965, and Phenix City, near Fort Benning, Georgia, in the mid-1970s. These three residence centers later became branch campuses governed by local presidents under a chancellor at the main Troy campus until they were unified as one university with one accreditation in 2005. Since then, the entire university system has been governed by a chancellor. Each local campus has its own provost who reports to a senior vice chancellor and provost at the main campus.
Following Adams's retirement in 1989, Jack Hawkins Jr. became chancellor of Troy State University. Hawkins is the first chancellor at Troy to hold an earned Ph.D., and he has continued the growth begun by Adams with an emphasis on education in an age of global economic integration. He has overseen the establishment of U.S. degree-delivery programs with partner institutions and independent investors in Asia. Particularly noteworthy is the "1-2-1" program with China in which participants spend one year at their home institution, two years at Troy, and a final year back in China, receiving degrees from both institutions.
By the early twenty-first century, Troy had earned positive national and international recognition. On August 1, 2005, the
name of the institution was changed to Troy University, signaling its expanded mission and programs. When the school first
opened its doors in 1887, its enrollment was 128. Its enrollment now is approaching 30,000. This growth is representative of the success that Troy has enjoyed as an institution of higher education for well over a century.
The longevity of most of Troy's top leaders provided them with time to realize their visions for the school and transform
it from a small post-secondary school into an international university.
English, Van. Beyond the Normal: The Centennial History of Troy State University, 1880-1986. Troy, Ala.: TSU Press, 1988.
Kaylor, Noel Harold, Jr. History of Troy: The University. Troy, Ala.: Association for Textual Study and Production, 2007.
Shackelford, E. M. The First Fifty Years of the State Teachers College at Troy, Alabama. Montgomery, Ala.: Paragon, 1937.
Smith, Charles Bunyan. Troy State University: 1937-1970. Troy, Ala.: Troy State University, 1961.
Noel Harold Kaylor Jr.
Published August 10, 2007
Last updated July 12, 2013