West Texas A&M University in Canyon is not just a college, but a partner in growing the economy in the area. Canyon and WT are on the threshold of celebrating the university's centennial.
WT started as West Texas State Normal College in 1910. A century later, West Texas A&M University is turning out thousands of students each year, often putting those valuable degrees right back into businesses here in Canyon.
In 1909, the young city of Canyon pledged 40 acres and just more than $100,000 for West Texas State Normal college to be established here, to educate teachers in the booming Texas panhandle. A legislative committee accepted that bid, and the college officially opened on September 20, 1910 to 152 students.
12 years later, it became West Texas State Teachers College with the addition of a bachelor's degree program...the first normal college in Texas to do so.
The university's first dorm, Cousins Hall, was built in 1920.
After struggling through drought and depression and competition with new colleges in Lubbock, New Mexico and Oklahoma, WTSTC exploded with growth after World War II and transformed into West Texas State University during the 60s with the addition of even more degrees, college of arts and sciences, and a graduate school.
By 1970, 8,000 students were enrolled.
In 1989, West Texas State University joined the A&M system.
It has since created its first doctoral program, a Ph.D. in agriculture and more degrees molded to the Panhandle region like equine industries and environmental sciences.
The city of Canyon has witnessed WT's growth first hand. Cheryl Malcolm with the Canyon Chamber of Commerce says, "we have had so many people move to canyon for their careers because they started out their education here and have stayed."
Dr. Neal Weaver of WTAMU says, "we're a pretty large employer and we have about a 100 million dollar impact as far as annual revenue and expenditures so that obviously funnels right back through this community."
In fact, weaver says when you add in the financial aid to students, employees getting their paychecks and spending here in Canyon, that impact balloons to $500 million.
But he says it is a two way street because "Canyon is incredibly important to our campus. The people that live here and work here, they embrace this university, they embrace our students and they the ones that help us sell this environment."
Malcolm says, "we would be a smaller town without it. And we know that many businesses have to mold themselves to be college friendly."
WT's year-long centennial celebration kicks off with homecoming in October.
Here is another piece of history for you...
In 1914 a fire destroyed WT's only building. Two years later, a new building opened complete with classrooms, offices, a library, swimming pool and a gym....described at the time as the greatest building in Texas, aside from the Capitol. Today you know it as Old Main.