Oregon will celebrate its 150th birthday in the year 2009. The theme of this milestone celebration is: Sustain the Spirit! Planning for this big event has already begun across the state, including special events and activities at Oregon’s seven public universities.
Churchill Hall in a 1926 photograph of Southern Oregon Normal School
The University was originally founded as a private institution in 1869 by interested citizens of Ashland. In 1882, it was approved by the state legislature as a state normal school. Along with other normal schools in Oregon, it was discontinued due to lack of state support in 1909.
After the normal school closed, a number of local citizens attempted to reopen the Institution. In 1925, the state legislature appropriated funds to establish the Southern Oregon State Normal School. The doors reopened for summer session in 1926 with an enrollment of 258 students. Churchill Hall, now the administration building, housed the entire College, including the office of the first president, J. A. Churchill, for whom the building was named. Later presidents include Walter Redford, 1932 to 1946; Elmo Stevenson, 1946 to 1969; James K. Sours, 1969 to 1979; Natale A. Sicuro, 1979 to 1986; Joseph W. Cox, 1987 to 1994; and Stephen J. Reno, 1994 to 2000; Elisabeth Zinser, 2001 to 2006; and Mary Cullinan, 2006 to present.
In the 1940s, all state normal schools were officially renamed colleges of education. As Southern Oregon College of Education, the Institution experienced rapid growth following World War II. In 1956, with more than 900 students, it became Southern Oregon College to signify its transition to a regional liberal arts college. In 1975, the Oregon legislature changed the name to Southern Oregon State College. In the spring of 1997, the College was renamed Southern Oregon University. This reflects the present role of the University as a regional multipurpose institution serving the state and the southern region of Oregon through instruction, research, and public service programs.