It's all about U

June 30, 2008

The 1958 name-change campaign galvanized Arizona State-and recast the institution's future Thousands of happy Arizona State College students surged through the Memorial Union on the evening of Nov. 4, 1958, primed to celebrate the passage of an unprecedented statewide referendum that would transform their school into a university, despite the fierce opposition of their University of Arizona nemesis.

But inside the improvised election command center, Student Name Change Chairman Ron Ellenson watched Arizona State President Grady Gammage's expression with growing dismay. Gammage held the thin strip printing out vote tallies as they came out of the teletype machine, his face ashen.

"His heart fell right down to his feet someplace," recalls Ellenson, one of perhaps two dozen students who put their lives on hold in 1958 to work with a grassroots network of alumni and political leaders to promote Proposition 200, a measure that would change the name of their school from Arizona State College to Arizona State University.

Until that moment, the 100,000 votes that had already been tallied had given the measure a comfortable lead, in spite of vocal opposition from the state's Board of Regents, the state legislature and the University of Arizona's far-flung network of alumni. But the figures in Gammage's hand now showed that a huge block of 40,000 votes had come in almost entirely against the name change.

"It was terribly disheartening. We knew it was do or die. It was our one chance, and losing would have been a terrible embarrassment - and probably would have doomed the name change forever," recalls Ellenson.

Bringing the campaign to that point had entailed an enormous effort. Thousands of students had circulated petitions, lobbied their parents and rung doorbells. Hundreds of alumni had served as foot soldiers in a campaign by the Arizona Jaycees to gather the most initiative signature petitions in history.

Gammage and his wife had spoken at scores of rallies across the state, defying his bosses both at the Board of Regents and in the Arizona legislature. Students and alumni had marched on the capitol en masse, flooded lawmaker mailboxes, held parades, pressured their parents, flown a gaily painted private campaign plane all over the state, delivered petitions in an armored car and enlisted the help of celebrities - including television and radio mega-star (and former student) Steve Allen.

But suddenly Proposition 200 wobbled towards defeat on the smudged chalkboard tallies. To dampen the mood even further, a new rumor rippled through the crowd at about the same time: smug and domineering Wildcat supporters had crept onto campus and lit a fire behind the Memorial Union. Up until that moment, it had seemed Arizona State might finally win the right to call itself a university. Now, all that was in doubt. How could such a passionate effort have come to this?

Golden Anniversary

This year's 50th anniversary of the historic name change campaign revisits a singular moment in the state's history and one almost unparalleled in the history of higher education. The recollections of people who played a key role not only illuminate the history of the university, but the profound social and demographic shifts that shaped both Arizona and higher education nationally.

"It's still the seminal event in the history of ASU and in many ways of Phoenix too," said Grady Gammage Jr., who recalls the ceaseless comings and goings connected to the campaign in his father's house. "It was really a different era, but my dad may have realized, earlier than most people, what was going to happen to growth in Phoenix."

"That was perhaps the only time such a name change ever went to the vote of the people," says Don Dotts, editor of the State Press in the late 1950s and a key campaign organizer, who later worked for the ASU Alumni Association, first as editor of the Arizona Statesman magazine and ultimately as executive director. "You have to remember, in those days the whole state was run by U of A graduates. The campaign really sent a message that this is a sleeping giant in Tempe, you'd better watch out. The old politics ain't going to work."

"We knew that the future of the university was going to be determined by getting that name changed," recalls the Rev. Bob Reynolds, a student organizer who was so consumed by the campaign that it delayed his graduation by several years and diverted his own future into a career of service as an Episcopalian minister.

"It was such a different time. It was a small school, rather intimate," Reynolds said. "There was a great deal of pride in who we were - with lots of veterans on campus. There was just one place in the student union to get your coffee or coke, so you could connect with people easily."

Changes brew after WWII

The roots of the campaign dated back to the legislature's decision in 1885 to establish a single land-grant university in Tucson, plus a teacher-training normal school in Tempe. By the end of World War II, the Arizona State Teachers College at Tempe had just 500 students. But in 1945, President Gammage convinced the U of A-dominated Board of Regents to rename his institution Arizona State College and authorize issuance of a handful of liberal arts degrees.

Almost immediately, the renamed Arizona State began a period of explosive enrollment growth. By 1951, Arizona was gaining 50,000 residents each year - three-fifths of them in Maricopa County. By 1954, enrollment at Arizona State Teacher's College had risen to 4,000 and President Gammage was once again pushing for a reorganization and name change to put the school on roughly equal footing with his own alma mater - the U of A.

He proposed abandoning the departmental model left over from the teacher college days to establish seven schools - each with a dean and a mix of undergraduate and graduate degrees. The proposal set off a fresh, fierce debate at the Board of Regents, which ultimately approved the College of Arts and Sciences and just one of the other seven proposed new schools. However, the debate also spurred the decision that would set up the next stage of the struggle: a request for a study of the structure of higher education in Arizona by the U.S. Office of Education.

The resulting blue-ribbon panel spent a year interviewing faculty, students and administrators before issuing a book-length report in 1954 that largely validated Gammage's position. The report concluded that Arizona State College was already rapidly becoming a university and was "literally bursting out at its academic seams." Moreover, the report added, "uncontrolled institutional competition tends to divide the state's influential citizens into more or less permanent factions that sometimes take a sanguinary delight in defeating the efforts of the other institution and its factions, usually without too much regard for the merits of the case."

The panel recommended reorganizing Arizona State into four colleges - Liberal Arts, Education, Applied Arts and Sciences and Business and Public Administration, with an array of undergraduate and graduate degrees.

On Nov. 20, 1954, the Regents debated the recommendations as "fireworks erupted" and "heated regional arguments flared," according to the Arizona Republic. In the end, the Regents approved the federal panel's recommendations on a 5-4 vote, with Gov. Howard Pyle casting the deciding vote.

Now claiming the title "university" was surely just a formality, Sun Devil supporters asserted. Guess again.

Petition Fever Quelled

A solid majority of the Board of Regents favored the University of Arizona and so were resistant to a name change for the rival college. Curiously enough, one of the first spurs for a change came from student Ron Leed's search for a topic for a paper in his American Problems class. Urged to research Arizona State College, he discovered that it was classified as a university nationally - since it had multiple colleges and offered liberal arts degrees. Leeds wrote a paper, "When is a Hot Dog a Hamburger," which ended up catching the attention of the school's administration. Several administrators urged him to pursue the politically sensitive issue, Leeds recalls.

So Leeds and other students organized a rally on campus, which drew more than 2,000 students in 1955, the first of a series of meetings and rallies intended to spur the legislature to change the name through an act of law. Leeds recalls that at least one major business offered anonymous financial support for the campaign. But the resistance also emerged quickly. Leeds father was a Tucson businessman and both he and his son soon found themselves under strong pressure from Tucson business and civic leaders to drop the campaign, Leeds recalls. In fact, one prominent business leader advised Leed's father to "take him out and drown him."

Despite the rallies and meetings with top politicians, the name-change bill never made it out of committee in 1955. Gammage persisted in the next session, working quietly through the legislature, to avoid alienating either the Board of Regents or the lawmakers controlling the purse strings, according to "The Arizona State University Story" by Ernest Hopkins and Alfred Thomas. But the 1956 version of the bill also died in committee.

By 1957, recent graduates Owen Riley Dean Jr. and Bill Kinnerup had decided to take matters into their own hands by convincing the Junior Chamber of Commerce to launch an initiative drive to change the name, partly as a way to boost otherwise low turnout rates. They were printing up the petitions when they got a call from the administrators at Arizona State, Dean recalls.

Dean and Kinnerup sat down in the Memorial Union faculty dining room with Gammage and a phalanx of deans to listen as Gammage asked them to hold off on a petition drive. Friends in the legislature had vowed to push through a name change bill, he said.

"Do you think we can trust them?" asked Dean skeptically. "Oh, yes. Definitely," replied Gammage.

So they put their effort on hold.

But the promised name change turned into a Trojan Horse when Senator Harold Giss of Yuma introduced a bill to change the name to Tempe University, a move which provoked a furor that ultimately fertilized the grassroots campaign.

In a largely spontaneous moment of indignation, several thousand students attending a campus rally against the proposal piled into cars and led a wild, honking caravan down to the Arizona Capitol.

The students milled about in front of the capitol building, angry but restrained.

"I remember saying over the bullhorn 'stay out of the Rose Garden,'" recalls Reynolds. "It was really the most orderly riot I've ever seen."

Soon, Giss appeared on the balcony overlooking the indignant crowd, by now covering every space but the rose garden, and promised to withdraw his bill. After the Giss incident, Dean and Kinnerup vowed to renew their campaign.

Once more, they received a summons to campus, Dean recalls. Kinnerup refused to go, but Dean met again with Gammage and an array of deans and professors. Once again, the administrators fretted that a failed campaign would doom the name change. But this time, opinion was divided. When Dean insisted the Jaycees would go ahead with their drive no matter what, Gammage directed Dean of Students Weldon Shofstall to help coordinate the effort.

Power of the pens

So the war was on. It would essentially pit U of A's graduate network of lawyers, doctors and politicians against Arizona State's 20,000-strong alumni network of teachers and principals - not to mention the still largely unrealized political clout of fast-growing Maricopa County.

But first, name change advocates needed 29,000 signatures to put the measure on the ballot, despite almost universal failure of such measures in the past. The Jaycees mounted a statewide effort, even enlisting clubs in Tucson, whose members were convinced that the measure would lose and settle the matter for good.

Meanwhile, Reynolds and other student leaders handed out petitions to hundreds of student volunteers.

The frequent front-page articles and hand-wringing editorials in the State Press in the ensuing months capture the suspense and anxiety. Hundreds of petitions disappeared into desk drawers of students, with few names turned in as the weeks dragged on. The State Press fervently touted the efforts of sophomore James Green, 39, a mechanical engineering major with five kids who drove a Phoenix city bus and still had time to gather more than 400 signatures - working for hours each day between his last class and the start of his work shift.

But after weeks of exhortations, the State Press concluded dismally, "the way things look now, the students of this campus are too lazy to get 30,000 signatures on a piece of paper. The fact that we aren't over the top yet looks bad. It is bad."

But the editors should have recalled that students put off everything until after finals.

Shortly after 1,139 students collected their degrees in the institution's 72nd graduation ceremony in May of 1958, students fanned out across the state with their long-neglected petitions - even as the well-organized Jaycee signature-gathering campaign reached its climax.

In early July, signature gatherers converged on the student union in front of a giant thermometer tallying the signature count. Nearby, three armored cars, an Army ROTC squad, and a convoy of cars, including one containing Gov. Ernest McFarland, waited. The caravan rushed the petitions to the Secretary of State's office with the maximum possible fanfare.

In the end, the Jaycees and the procrastinating students gathered 63,956 valid signatures.

The band played, ROTC marched, cheerleaders cheered, students hollered, administrators gave speeches - then the whole, blaring, impromptu parade careened down to the state Capitol.

In that heady moment, they felt almost finished.

But then the opposition formed - specifically, an anti-Prop. 200 group in Tucson that vowed to mobilize a statewide network of U of A graduates to kill the name change idea once and for all.

So the campaign to gather the signature shifted gears quickly and became a low-budget, free-form, grassroots effort to get the measure passed. Fraternities and sororities played a leading role in organizing students, since the Greek organizations dominated the social and political life of what was even then chiefly a commuter campus.

Making the argument for ASU

One alumnus painted his private plane with slogans supporting Proposition 200 and barnstormed across the state, according to the State Press. Students and alumni organized phone banks and sold buttons. During one football game, the card section added "U" to "AS," enraging the U of A onlookers. Someone retaliated by burning a swath in the grass of the newly completed football stadium. The Arizona State and U of A debate teams fiercely debated the issue on television and radio stations in both Tucson and Phoenix.

Arizona State's argument rested on the assertion that the institution was already a university in all but name. U of A backers countered that the name change would force a budget increase that would cost at least $5 million. That argument drove Prop. 200 supporters into purple-faced indignation, decrying a campaign of "un-truths, half-truths and implications," the State Press fumed. "This is sad commentary on the intellectual and emotional age of some citizens of the nation's fastest-growing state, for their opposition is borne of thoughtless, unnecessary sectional jealousy," concluded the editorial.

One wag noted that if the University of Arizona's argument was true, then taxpayers could save $5 million by renaming it Tucson College.

Dotts recalled that President Gammage and his wife spent months traveling throughout the state, speaking to alumni clubs.

On one such trip, Kathryn Gammage stopped at a pharmacy in Casa Grande to see if she could leave some pro-Proposition 200 brochures on the counter.

"I'm Kathryn Gammage and I'm campaigning for Proposition 200 and I'd like to leave some brochures," she explained.

The pharmacist glowered at her. "You're not putting those in my store - I'm a University of Arizona pharmacy school graduate."

Ironically, says Dotts, Kathryn Gammage got to know the pharmacist's daughter a few years later - when the girl became a Sun Devil cheerleader.

After all the rallies, accusations, speeches and pavement pounding, the issue came down finally to the fateful election night of Nov. 4, 1958 - when for a terrible hour, defeat (and possibly destruction) loomed.

But then it turned out that the supposed U of A "attack" behind the Memorial Union was just some Sun?Devil fraternity brothers firing up a barbeque. And the mysterious 40,000 anti-Proposition 200 votes turned out to be ballots somehow counted twice. After an hour of nail-biting confusion, the elections office corrected the tally.

Victory dance

The final vote for Proposition 200 was 101,811 YES to 51,471 NO. The measure lost in only Pima and Cochise Counties and won by an 11-2 margin in Maricopa County.

The crowds gathered at ASU cheered wildly, having having learned an intricate lesson in politics and commitment that changed the lives of many. Parties erupted all over campus. Reynolds recalls watching a happy professor dancing on a tabletop.

"That victory rally was the crowning glory," recalls Ellenson.

For Grady Gammage, the campaign proved to be the final triumph of a distinguished career. Tragically, barely a year after his triumph at the polls, Gammage died of a heart attack in December 1959.

For many of the exhausted student activists, the campaign spurred a personal transformation.

Reynolds dropped out of school as soon as the campaign concluded, got a job in a bank and pondered his future. Then the fraternity council came to call and made him a regional representative, due largely to his success in the campaign. That led him back to ASU to finish his degree and eventually to service in the ministry - a path, he says, that hinged on his involvement in the name-change campaign.

The campaign gave Ellenson the confidence to overcome painful childhood shyness and launch a successful business career.

"The campaign would never have succeeded without the students, and I think it changed everyone who worked on it," he said.

So in the end, it's hard to know who learned the most from this singular triumph of the grassroots activism - the students or the institution. Which is, after all, how education is supposed to work.

Gary Campbell

Media Relations and Marketing Manager , Fulton Schools of Engineering


Creating a university

June 30, 2008

ASU’s development over the past half-century has been “a wonderful evolution”

By the mid-1950s, Arizona State College had the faculty, the students and the programs to be a university.

It just didn’t have the name.

Getting permission to tack “university” after Arizona State meant added prestige, status and responsibility for what had until very recently been strictly a teachers college. That’s why so much was at stake when the name change was put to a public vote in 1958.

“I’m sure it’s the only time in the country a university had to go to a vote of the people to get its proper name,” said Don Dotts, who served as executive director of the ASU Alumni Association for nearly 30 years.

Barnstorming tours of the state – with speakers who included new football coach Frank Kush – paid off. The name change easily won approval.

Thus, on Dec. 5, 1958, with a stroke of Gov. Ernest McFarland’s pen, Arizona State University was born.

And then the hard part started.

“We thought we’d made it when we got the name change,” Dotts said. “And then, lordy, we had to live up to it.”

The university and the people who have led it have spent the last 50 years striving to do just that, seeing the school grow from a little more than 9,700 students in 1958 to more than 64,000 today. The faculty has increased more than tenfold, from 238 people to more than 2,800.

When the name change took place the school consisted of one campus and four colleges; now it spans four campuses and has 22 colleges.

Perhaps most importantly, it was named a Research I university in 1994 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, signaling its arrival as a full-fledged research university.

“It’s been a wonderful evolution,” said Christine Wilkinson, ASU’s senior vice president and secretary. Note the careful choice of words, more specifically the word she didn’t use when describing the university and its changes. At a time when university buildings are springing up all over town – in several towns – and student population continues to swell, Wilkinson was deliberate about her use of the “G” word.

“It’s not a matter of growth,” she said. “It’s meeting the demand and the diverse needs of our state.”

Life on the “intellectual frontier”

Grady Gammage, the university’s legendary president for 26-plus years, pushed hard for the change in name and status. Without his efforts, it’s difficult to imagine so much happening, so fast. But Gammage died in late 1959, leaving the work of starting the newly minted ASU on the path to loftier status to the man who succeeded him, Homer Durham.

“Those two were the giants that lay the foundation, creating the university and all that preceded it on Grady’s part, but then putting in all the basic foundations, making it a full university, on Homer’s part,” said Lattie Coor, himself president of the university from 1990 to 2002. “Homer Durham took the concept that had been put in place and really gave it life.”

Len Gordon, the dean of ASU’s Emeritus College, remembers the early days of the university era.

“I came just about 10 years after the vote,” Gordon said. He knew so little about the region he thought Arizona was next to Texas and had to use his son’s U.S. map to find it. “It was a very exciting and ambitious time. We knew we were going to be heading into Research I status.”

Granted, it would take a while. But under Durham’s leadership the university gained stature, to say nothing of several new freestanding colleges, including the College of Law, the College of Fine Arts and the College of Nursing. It also gained authority to grant doctoral degrees. The changes were rapid and profound.

ASU also began attracting top-flight scholars, Gordon said, ticking off names such as Milton Sommerfeld in biology, Carlton Moore in physics and Bernard Farber in sociology. Some academic recruits grew in status after arriving, but others were already established scholars, plucked from other universities.

Gordon said, “It was such an exciting opportunity, not just to be in a good Ph.D. program, but to actually form one.”

That kind of work required not only the usual intellectual heft but also a sort of pioneering spirit, perfectly suited for the west. It wasn’t exactly tumbleweeds and

six-shooters in Tempe at the time, but ASU was still situated on an intellectual frontier.

“I think a certain type that was looking for a little bit of adventure” was attracted to the prospect of working at ASU, Gordon said.

“We thought we’d have a great adventure and move on. But in fact what happened was we kept getting better and better and we just didn’t leave.” ASU was “very ambitious in recruiting us,” Gordon said of himself and his colleagues. “The pay got to the point where we were competitive on basic salaries with UCLA, Washington, Wayne State, and Michigan.”

The ambition was spreading

Gordon recalled hearing a conversation between parents of an ASU student and former provost Milton Glick. “The parents said, ‘Do we want to be as good as the University of Arizona?’” Gordon said. “Milt said, ‘We never want to be as good as the University of Arizona. We want to be better.’”

That would take significant growth on several fronts. Building on campus increased, as more and more people moved to Arizona and, as a result, more and more students wanted an education at ASU.

Dotts points to two structures that went up in the ’60s as emblematic of ASU’s growth during that time, and as being especially important to what the university would become.

The first was Gammage Auditorium, named for Grady Gammage – an arts building was one of his passions – and based on a Frank Lloyd Wright design for a Baghdad opera house that Wright never built.“I think that was a great thing, because until then we were having even major artists appear in a 600-seat ballroom in the Memorial Union,” Dotts said.

But the new building meant more than bigger crowds. It also gave students a place to perform, as well.

“That meant a lot to the public,” Dotts said. “Some people missed the idea that students have benefited from that. The arts have flourished since then.” Some of that flourishing was also no doubt a result of the College of Fine Arts, later regarded as one of the top arts schools in the nation, being established in 1963.

Also important was Hayden Library, what Dotts called a “big huge library right in the middle of campus. It’s the heart of campus and it’s right in the heart of campus.”

The basics were now in place. From there it was a matter of building upon them.

Among the other additions in the 1960s: the establishment of the law school, which would later become the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law; the founding of the School of Social Work, which would gain national renown and, in a move that truly diversified the university’s offerings in the scientific realm, the establishment of the Center for Meteorite Studies.

Population explosion

Growth continued on-campus under the next three presidents, Harry Newburn, John Schwada and J. Russell Nelson – and continued off-campus, as well. During the 1970s the ASU Farm Laboratory was created, most importantly, the push for a campus of ASU to be established in the West Valley began.

As Nelson, in fact, began his tenure as ASU president in 1981, the school found itself in a now-familiar situation for any Arizona institution: unable to keep up with tremendous population demands.

“The university had been simply overwhelmed by the number of students that showed up,” Nelson said. “The Phoenix area was growing rapidly and a lot of people were coming to school. The rate of increase at the university was well ahead of that which the university got appropriations, so we were always behind.”

Thus Nelson, who had spent his career at research universities, found himself in something of a foreign position – working not just with faculty, staff and students, but lawmakers, as well.

“Here I found, as president, the demands to be involved with the legislature were greater,” he said. “I learned that one of the things I had to do was spend more time and energy working with members… some of whom were not sympathetic and others of whom were very supportive.”

He found enough supportive ones so that ASU managed to secure appropriations, and borrow money, as well, to embark upon what Nelson called a “major building program of facilities that would help meet the need” – a phrase that certainly sounds familiar today, but one that was apt then, too. The ASU Foundation also contributed to the facilities frenzy, by executing a Centennial Campaign during the 1980s that raised more than $30 million in construction funds for the university.

The building began in earnest, paid for with appropriations from the state legislature and also by borrowing money. Buildings like the Noble Science and Engineering Library were completed, as were notable Tempe campus landmarks such as the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center and the pedestrian overpass that spans University Drive. And finally, in 1986, the West campus became a reality.

But the construction was about more than bricks and mortar. It was also about increasing the university’s profile for prospective research faculty.

“The array of facilities was much enhanced,” Nelson said. “That made a difference, because people in the teaching positions suddenly began to have adequate office space, support for the things they were doing. It made the university attractive to people who previously wouldn’t have considered us as a place to work.”

In 1981, for instance, ASU hired its first faculty member who would win a Pulitzer Prize: Rita Dove, who won for poetry in 1987.

“We were able to begin changing the character of the faculty and began to be successful at bringing people in from really fine universities, mostly Ph.D.s from very fine universities,” Nelson said. “It had a very positive effect.”

Playing leapfrog

Of course the recurring theme at ASU, from the end of World War II through the present, is same theme present for the state of Arizona itself: continuous, sometimes explosive, growth. It’s meant the metropolitan area has had to work to keep pace, and that ASU has had to, as well.

To those who were paying attention, the ever-increasing population came as no surprise.

“I knew demographically this was going to be one of the great growth areas in the country,” Gordon said. He was also attracted to the free spirit of the place – a state diversified enough in its thinking that both Barry Goldwater and Mo Udall could comfortably call it home.

“I knew this was a very ambitious state,” he said.

And a very ambitious university. It has had to be.

“We are relatively young,” Wilkinson said. “Fifty years – that’s like starting adolescence. Look at when these other universities became universities. We can’t evolve just naturally. We are going to have to find different ways to leapfrog in what we do with research and academic programs, and even athletics.”

ASU has to be creative, in other words. And it has been. Under Nelson’s tenure, the West campus was founded, the first of several such expansions. Today the university also has, in addition to the Tempe and West campuses, a downtown Phoenix campus and a Polytechnic campus in Mesa.

Of course, the extra room helps, as people continue to stream into Arizona, as they did when Nelson was president.

How did the students—the cause of these expansions, after all—change over the years?

According to Jim Rund, vice president of University Student Initiatives, over the years, ASU shifted from being primarily a commuter campus with a large body of undergraduate students to an institution with multiple campuses and a substantial graduate school population. Exponential growth of residence halls and campus amenities such as a student recreation center made living on campus a much more palatable option.

Where the students live is one change. Who they are as a group is another one, one that Rund says is indicative of ASU’s success at becoming more diverse, more academically rigorous, and more accessible to students of differing backgrounds—all at the same time.

“Our students today better reflect the society at large than they did 50 years ago,” Rund said. “We enroll students from every county in Arizona, from every state in the nation and from over 150 countries around the world.”

Rund asserted that the university has made tremendous strides in honoring its original charge to educate the state’s citizens for a productive and prosperous future.

“I am especially pleased that while academic entrance requirements have increased several times during my tenure here, the university’s mission is still primarily one of access,” he said.

And some things don’t change. Sun Devils will always be Sun Devils.

“Despite the multitude of changes over the last 50 years, today’s ASU students share a common bond with those from 1958: they are hard working, highly motivated, independent thinkers with great aspirations and a will to succeed,” Rund said.

Running with the PAC

Though it might not seem immediately evident, one boost to ASU’s reputation was, again, due in part to athletics. In 1978, Arizona State (along with the University of Arizona) was admitted to the Pacific-10, or Pac-10, conference.

Yes, it meant the sports teams would be in a more-competitive league than they were in the old Western Athletic Conference. But it meant more, as well.

“I think that was major, not only in intercollegiate sports, but also for the whole university,” Wilkinson said. “From a peer standpoint, these (other Pac-10 members) are institutions you would like to be aligned with – Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, Washington. All around, they’re just very strong schools.”

For Coor, inclusion in the Pac-10 was not just a sign of progress made but also a promise of more to come.

“We wouldn’t have been let in if we hadn’t been viewed as at least an aspiring university,” he said.

Obviously, with ASU now the second-largest university in the country, growth and expansion have been instrumental in its history. Perhaps ASU’s best weapon in the fight against the perception that bigger doesn’t mean better is the Barrett Honors College. It has more National Merit Scholars than several Ivy League schools, including Princeton and Yale. And while it’s nationally recognized, it’s still something of an unsung hero in the community.

For Coor, Barrett is an essential ingredient in ASU’s success.

“I believe the responsibility of a great public university is to provide a quality of education to those who attend it, which really means the citizens of our state, that is as good as they could get anywhere they went, whatever their station in life as they entered college,” he said.

Yet ASU’s unique mission means, in effect, having it both ways.

“The honors college students are as good as any students in the country,” Gordon said. “Yet at the same time, we have thousands who are transferring in from the community colleges who are working their way through college and will take six or seven years (to graduate),” Gordon continued. “It can work – you can still maintain your quality.”

There’s evidence that he’s right. In 1994 ASU received its Research I designation. To a school growing like crazy, it was a sign that it didn’t have to leave quality behind.

“That, I thought, was major for the academic stature,” Wilkinson said. “You look at the peer institutions in that grouping, and they’re all primarily the flagship institutions. They are definitely the leaders in research and discovery. It just puts you in a very different plane.”

The future is limitless

The 1990s brought, what else, more growth for the university. The striking William C. Blakely Law Library was completed, as was the Nelson Fine Arts Complex. Meanwhile the university continued to spread; the East (now Polytechnic) campus opened in Mesa on the grounds of the old Williams Air Force Base, and ASU took root in downtown Phoenix at the Mercado, foreshadowing the opening of a campus there in 2006 and the massive building projects underway there now.

The most recent phase of development kicked off with a vengeance in 2002, when Michael Crow became ASU’s president.

“When President Crow came in, I think he rode in on a wave he could build on,” Gordon said, referring to all the change that came in the years before.

Ride it he has. Unparalleled expansion and building programs – it often seems as if there are more cranes and derricks on the various campuses than actual buildings – are at the heart of what Crow calls the “New American University.”

As ambitious as ASU’s growth and changes have been over the last 50 years, Crow’s vision is, if anything, even more so. As Crow stated in his 2002 inaugural address:

“The new American university would cultivate excellence in teaching, research, and public service, providing the best possible education to the broadest possible spectrum of society. The new American university would embrace the educational needs of the entire population – not only a select group, and not only the verbally or mathematically gifted.

“The success of the new American university will be measured not by who the university excludes, but rather by who the university includes, and from this inclusion will come its contributions to the advancement of society.”

With a state changing as rapidly as Arizona, the New American University mandate is a tall order. Can it happen? Crow certainly believes so.

“I think the thing that I’m most excited about is that we are building a true public university – one reaching across the many public universities,” he said. “(So many other public universities) are abandoning that mission, and so that excites me the most.”

Coor is also optimistic that real change can continue, and that it can happen fast.

“I think the future is limitless,” Coor said. “I guess the best way I can phrase it is that ASU has the best chance in the country of being that new American university.” Download Full Image

Gary Campbell

Media Relations and Marketing Manager , Fulton Schools of Engineering