Washburn University

(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas and you know Frank we were talking about sort of like, nepotism. If you’ve got a TV show like we’ve got here, you can just talk about your friends and the places you love and of course one that’s really dear to me is Washburn University. And that’s why I stayed in Topeka actually was I was a student at Washburn, a very non-traditional student. I had graduated from high school 20 years before that. But Washburn changed my life, it really did. It’s a wonderful university and it’s celebrating its 150 year anniversary this year. (Frank) Yep. Went there myself. And it is a remarkable university. And the growth now with the addition of several buildings on the campus. The new KBI forensic science building. (Deb) I can’t wait to get inside that. I just can’t wait. (Frank) It’s a beautiful building on the outside. (Deb) It is beautiful. (Frank) And of course, the new Living Center over by what used to be fraternity row. There’s still one there. And I mean it’s amazing. The new Reception Center that was Morgan Hall. It’s just going on to incredible heights. What they need to do next though is build more parking space. (Deb) Maybe a parking garage. (Frank) A parking garage that goes up. Yea. (Deb) Underground parking or something. So, let’s take a look back at 150 years of Washburn University. (Deb) One of the oldest universities in Kansas, Washburn University celebrates its 150th anniversary this year and what a history it has! From its founding on the heels of the Civil War to the 1966 tornado to the 21st century institution it is today, Washburn has endured, persevered, triumphed. Washburn University was founded as Lincoln College, a private Congregational school, on Feb. 6, 1865. A group of church members had been trying since 1857 to get a college established, but various obstacles and the Civil War hampered their efforts. During the summer and fall of 1865 a two-story building took shape on lots donated by John Ritchie on the corner of 10th and Jackson streets in downtown Topeka. The front door faced west and had a good view of the state capitol under construction. Since few young people had a high school education at that time, the founders decided to offer a three-year high school course along with the college curriculum. Classes began January 3, 1866 with 38 high school students. According to church sources, one of these students was African-American. The first two college students enrolled in the fall of 1866. The high school was a part of the college until 1918, when it became Washburn Rural High School. Washburn has always admitted women and minorities. There are several well-documented episodes in early athletics of conflicts with opponents forfeiting the game because Washburn refused to play without their black player. In addition to the lots at 10th & Jackson, John Ritchie also gave the present campus of 160 acres to the college for a permanent location. Under the leadership of the second president, Peter MacVicar, the college sold the Jackson St. building to the city of Topeka in 1872 and began construction of a larger building on their property which was 1 1/2 miles southwest of the city limits at that time. They rented space in downtown buildings for classes until it was completed in 1874. The main building (later named Rice Hall) stood by itself on open prairie that was of higher elevation than the city proper, so the area as it developed was called College Hill. Besides classrooms and a library, the building had dorm rooms for male and female students (on separate floors), a kitchen, dining room, chapel and several apartments for staff. The 1966 tornado devastated the campus and many classes were held in mobile homes while the university was rebuilt, but Washburn came back and is more beautiful than ever. It is undergoing yet another renovation, all of which has continued the founders’ vision of providing an education to any student with the desire to learn. The university is hosting events throughout the year so visit their website to learn more. And Go Bods!

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