Leadership, learning and service are a 150-year tradition at

Towson University

Stephens Hall Construction 1914
Stephens Hall Construction 1914

In the decades following the Revolution, Americans began to clamor for free public schooling for their children. Maryland’s elected officials and others who valued a literate citizenry also recognized that public school systems would require qualified and dedicated teachers. They pressed for a systematic, reliable means of producing teachers, and in 1865 — the final year of the Civil War — the legislature allocated funds for Maryland’s first teacher-training school. In 1866 the State Normal School opened in rented quarters in Baltimore with a principal, M.A. Newell, 11 students and a faculty of three. (“Normal school” is the English translation of Ecole Normale, the term used by the French teacher-training schools that served as models for U.S. educators.)

Commencement 1934
Commencement 1934

At the time those first aspiring teachers took their places in a small lecture hall, only three percent of America’s seven million elementary-school-age children ever studied beyond the eighth-grade level. But even in a relatively new nation that celebrated the “self-made man,” it was increasingly clear that formal education held the key to a better future. The founding of Maryland’s first normal school reflected a growing national demand for better education: state-supported teacher-training schools, free public schools and state-mandated standards. 

After occupying two rented sites in Baltimore between 1866 and 1876, the State Normal School’s 10-member faculty and its 206 students moved to the first building constructed specifically for them at the corner of Carrollton and Lafayette avenues. In 1910 Principal Sarah Richmond began asking the school’s alumni and friends to join her campaign for a campus where Maryland’s future teachers could live and learn in a more appropriate environment.

Campus view 1946
Campus view 1946

Her efforts paid off in 1912 when the General Assembly passed a $600,000 bond issue to

finance a move. The state purchased 80 acres in Towson, and construction subsequently began on the Administration Building (now Stephens Hall). The architect, Douglas H. Thomas Jr., modeled the imposing Jacobean-style building on Blickling Hall, an English manor house once home to Anne Boleyn, the second of King Henry VIII’s wives. (Thomas also designed Baltimore’s Belvedere Hotel and the Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus.)

The new State Normal School campus, comprising the Administration Building, Newell Hall and the Power Plant, was dedicated in November 1915. Richmond moved into Glen Esk, an existing turn-of-the-century house that would serve as a presidential residence for more than 50 years. 

Chemistry class circa 1960
Chemistry class circa 1960

The first of four name changes occurred in 1935 during the administration of Principal Lida Lee Tall. The state had recently decreed that new public school teachers must have baccalaureate degrees instead of two-year teaching certificates, and the 80-year-old school retooled its curriculum and changed its name to State Teachers College at Towson. 

Other changes followed in response to societal and educational needs. In 1963 the State Teachers College — now with expanded offerings in the arts and sciences and a fledgling graduate program — became Towson State College. The baby boom generation flocked to college campuses beginning in 1964, and during the next decade Towson State’s enrollment leaped from 3,537 to 13,399. To accommodate the explosive growth and build additional facilities, the college purchased more than 200 acres of land from the adjacent Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital. The ’60s and ’70s saw the construction of the Center for the Arts, the University Union, the Residence Tower, Hawkins Hall, the Towson Center, Cook Library and Minnegan Stadium. 

Women's Volleyball circa 1977
Women's Volleyball circa 1977

Under the energetic leadership of President James L. Fisher, course offerings and programs also expanded to meet new needs. The state took note and in 1976 bestowed a new name: Towson State University.

In 1988, the university became part of the newly established University System of Maryland. In 1997 another name change — to Towson University — reflected its evolution from a state-supported to a state-assisted institution during the administration of President Hoke L. Smith. In 2003 Robert L. Caret assumed the presidency and immediately launched a new vision of the institution as Maryland’s Metropolitan University. Under his leadership, Towson University is combining research-based learning with practical application, as well as pursuing interdisciplinary partnerships with public and private organizations to resolve complex regional problems. Towson University is also reaching out to underserved populations with the Top 10% Program, the Cherry Hill Learning Zone initiative, and other well-received efforts.

Family Weekend at Unitas Stadium 2006
Family Weekend at Unitas Stadium 2006

The first decade of the 21st century saw technological advances that included campus-wide wireless Internet access, “smart” classrooms, online programs and the use of new media to enhance students’ classroom experience. A campus building boom produced the College of Liberal Arts building and a new Childcare Center.

In 2011 the university dedicated West Village Housing and the West Village Commons building. It dedicated a new campus gateway in 2012. Newell and Richmond halls — the university’s oldest residence halls — reopened in 2013 after historic renovation. A new Public Safety Building opened in early 2013, with the eagerly anticipated Tiger Arena opening shortly thereafter.

Maravene Loeschke became Towson University’s 13th president in January 2012. A Baltimore native and Towson alumna, Loeschke spent more than three decades on campus, earning two degrees and climbing the faculty ranks to become dean of the university’s College of Fine Arts and Communication. She returned to her alma mater after serving as president of Mansfield University in Pennsylvania. The breadth and depth of her knowledge, acquired in different roles and honed by decades of experience, made her uniquely qualified to lead Towson University.

New Campus Gateway 2012

From its beginnings as a tiny teachers school in downtown Baltimore, Towson University has grown to become one of Maryland’s largest public institutions of higher education, with nearly 22,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in more than 114 degree and certificate programs in the liberal arts and sciences and applied professional fields. The faculty now stands at more than 1,600 full- and part-time members, supported by a full- and part-time staff of more than 1,800.

With each graduating class, Towson University continues to prove what its founders so ardently believed: that public higher education pays untold dividends in the well being of individuals, their families and their communities.

It’s a legacy well worth celebrating — and preserving — in the decades to come.

For more information visit Towson University's archives.




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