The Bloomsburg State Teachers College

When Arthur Jenkins received the first bachelor’s degree in education from Bloomsburg State Teachers College on June 10, 1927, he was among the first students to complete the school’s four-year teaching degree. Bloomsburg had focused on teacher education since 1869 when the Literary Institute was named a state normal school and an on-campus training school was established. But by the 1920s the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had begun to standardize course offerings and move from the two-year normal school certificate to a four-year degree. Bloomsburg was granted the authority to offer a bachelor’s degree in education in June 1926.The normal school officially became the Bloomsburg State Teachers College in May 1927 and Francis Haas was named its president later that year. Over the next 12 years, he led the school through some of its most trying times … times of growth and hardship.Haas’ tenure began with significant development of the physical campus. In 1929, the college purchased more than 18 acres of land encompassing the area from Spruce Street east to the current Andruss Library. The state allocated funds for construction of a laundry building and a new training school where future teachers could complete student teaching requirements.The Ben Franklin Training School, dedicated on Nov. 8, 1930, was the fourth and last training school on campus. The original training school, located in the campus’ first dormitory, was completed in 1869. After the building burned in fall 1875, the training school was relocated for 12 years to a temporary wooden structure, Hemlock Hall. The training school then moved to a classroom building, later named Noetling Hall, where it remained until the dedication of Ben Franklin, now home to the university’s network facilities, mainframe computers and the math, computer science and statistics department.As president, Haas also led the teachers college through one of the most difficult times in United States history, the Great Depression. Enrollment that peaked at 712 full-time students in 1926 fell to 549 by 1934, but the Depression did not hinder the growth of the college’s curriculum. The state determined the teachers colleges would begin to specialize in certain disciplines and, for Bloomsburg, it was business education, which began in 1930. The first courses in special education were offered six years later.The campus continued to grow, thanks to funding from the federal government. Athletic facilities were constructed and, by 1939, a new gymnasium, junior high school and carpenter shop were completed or nearing completion. Haas left Bloomsburg to serve as state superintendent of public instruction and was replaced by Harvey Andruss, who had been serving as dean of instruction.

With the start of World War II in Europe, military preparedness became important on the national and local levels. In 1940, the college began a program for training civilian pilots in conjunction with the local airport, a program that made Bloomsburg an ideal location for hosting the Navy V-5 program for flight instructors beginning in 1942. The following year, a V-12 program for training officers was started and both programs are credited with keeping the college open during the war. Enrollment reached record numbers at the war’s conclusion, swelled by returning veterans, and after a brief decline in the early 1950s the number of students once again increased.

To meet the growing demand for higher education, a separate dining facility was opened in 1957 and construction started the following year on a classroom building, Sutliff Hall, and a residence hall, New North Hall, now known as Northumberland. Two years later, legislation was approved to expand the curriculum at the state teachers colleges and introduce graduate programs. On Jan. 8, 1960, the word “Teachers” was dropped and the school officially became Bloomsburg State College.

An expanded curriculum to prepare students for careers in education and other professions prompted tremendous growth in the size of the student population. A school with an enrollment of 1,600 students in 1959 surpassed 4,000 a decade later and 10,000 in fall 2011. Although Bloomsburg University is a much different institution than it was 85 years ago when it grew from normal school to teachers college, its core of providing education to its students and training the teachers of tomorrow has not changed. •

Robert Dunkelburger, University Archivist
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