By JIMMY BRYANT
ACT 317 of 1907 created Arkansas State Normal School, a name that the institution kept until 1925. The title of ACT 317 was "An ACT to provide for the establishment and maintenance of a State Normal School for the State of Arkansas."
There were other colleges in Arkansas that had normal departments, but the only school to be declared a Normal School with an initial singular mission of educating students to become teachers was ASNS.
Normal school training began in France and came to the United States in 1839 when Horace Mann established the first Normal School in Lexington, Mass.
Several major universities were founded as Normal Schools, including James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.; Illinois State University in Normal, Ill.; the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA); Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas; and the University of Memphis in Memphis, Tenn.
Initially in 1908, ASNS offered one degree, the Licentiate of Instruction (L.I.). In 1920, the school began offering the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science degrees, but continued to cling to its role as a teacher-training institution.
According to the 1920 ASNS Bulletin, "The State of Arkansas has established the State Normal School and maintains it for the single purpose of training teachers for its schools."
During the administration of UCA’s second president, Burr Walter (B.W.) Torreyson, a movement began to change the name of the institution to Arkansas Teachers College. In fact, even though its legal name was still Arkansas State Normal School, the name Arkansas Teachers College began to appear on printed material by 1920.
In 1921, Torreyson recommended that the Board of Trustees take up the issue of changing the name. The board refused, however, and said it was a matter for the Arkansas General Assembly, for only the Arkansas General Assembly could change the name of a state institution.
The Echo (UCA student newspaper) staff did not wait for an official name change by the Arkansas General Assembly before using the name "Arkansas Teachers College" in print. In the July 18, 1924 edition of The Echo, a headline read, "TEACHERS COLLEGE ASSET TO STATE." Later, in the Oct. 1, 1924 issue of The Echo, a headline read, "TEACHERS HAVE GOOD PROSPECT FOR WINNING FOOTBALL TEAM."
By 1925, the move to legally change the name of the institution had picked up a lot of steam, and Representative J.C. Dawson of Faulkner County introduced legislation seeking a name change to Arkansas State Teachers College. The legislation culminated in Act 31 of 1925 and was approved on Feb. 7, 1925.
UCA was never officially known as Arkansas Teachers College, a name The Echo staff and ASNS administration used often, but rather Arkansas State Teachers College.
The school was known by the name Arkansas State Teachers College (ASTC) longer than any of its other three names (up to this point) from 1925-1967. ASTC was often referred to only as "Teachers" and when that occurred most people knew what institution was being discussed.
When sports writers wrote about the rivalry with Arkansas Tech University they often used a big headline that simply read, "Teachers vs. Tech" which continued into modern times. The author of this article continues to hear people refer to UCA as "Teachers."
The next name change took place in January 1967.
UCA’s third name was State College of Arkansas, the official name from Jan. 18, 1967, to Jan. 21, 1975. According to The Echo, "The measure passed both houses of the Arkansas General Assembly without opposition. The House approved the measure (HB 9) by a vote of 94-0 and it breezed through the Senate 33-0." The bill was signed by Governor Winthrop Rockefeller.
According to The Echo, "Backers of the bill said the "Teachers" designation was no longer applicable since the institution has expanded its role over the past several years."
President Silas Snow (UCA’s fifth president) was quoted as saying, "We are certainly pleased and excited over our new name. ...We believe it will enable the college to achieve its goal twice as fast and twice as easy."
Actually, there was little excitement before or after the name change.
The Log Cabin Democrat’s headline read, "University Status Next Goal of SCA." The first paragraph in the Log Cabin Democrat’s article read, "The Log Cabin Democrat learned today that university status will be sought for State College of Arkansas — the new name for Arkansas State Teachers College — at the 1969 session of the Arkansas Legislature."
In 1969, a bill that would have given university status to SCA was defeated 44 to 16 in the House of Representatives. Sen. Guy H. "Mutt" Jones, who sponsored the legislation to change SCA’s name to State University of Arkansas, said he did so as a defensive move because Henderson State College and Arkansas A&M were seeking university status.
The Log Cabin Democrat reported that Representative Charles Stewart of Fayetteville said SCA should find another name because the proposed name of State University of Arkansas was too similar to Arkansas State University and the University of Arkansas. However, President Silas Snow was opposed to using the word "Central" in renaming SCA. Representative Stewart proposed to amend Jones’ bill by changing SCA’s proposed name to Central State University.
Snow disagreed, and according to the Log Cabin Democrat, Snow stated, "Our name did not just happen by chance. It was carefully chosen with the aid of a study committee. SCA serves all of Arkansas. We don’t want a name that connotes just Central Arkansas. Last year we had students from every county in the state except Sevier. Also, there is already a school in Conway with the name Central (Central Baptist College).
"We actually found the model for our change of names (Arkansas State Teachers College to State College of Arkansas) in the Iowa higher education system. It has the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and State University of Iowa, which was previously a teachers college as was SCA."
SCA’s supporters began to push for university status in 1973 in preparation for the 1975 meeting of the Arkansas General Assembly. Rallies were held on campus to call attention to SCA’s quest for university status.
On Nov. 14, 1974, an old-time rally was held on campus that was attended by about 400 students. Snow spoke at the event and was quoted in the Log Cabin Democrat. "We are not asking for something to be bestowed upon us, something to be given us. This college has, by plan, worked for this day when we could honestly claim that we merit such consideration by the General Assembly. ...We believe our merits are such to command the respect of the majority of the Board of Higher Education and the members of the General Assembly, and we believe we will be successful in this effort."
An important player in SCA’s quest for university status was State Rep. Bill Stephens of Conway, an instructor and head track coach at SCA and brother of Bear head football coach Ken Stephens. Representative Stephens was busy in 1974 gaining support for the proposed name change and in 1975 co-sponsored House Bill (HB 49), along with Representative Paul Van Dalsem of Perryville, which passed the House by a vote of 87 to 1 and the Senate 33 to 0.
Governor David Pryor signed the bill into law on January 21, 1975, with a pen labeled "SCA has earned university status."
Achieving university status was a big event in the history of the University of Central Arkansas and the Log Cabin Democrat’s headline read, "University status obtained." The Log Cabin Democrat stated, "Pryor said Snow was a man who had waited a long time for this and who has basically given birth to the University of Central Arkansas."
The quest for university status involved many Conway residents and business people.
According to the Log Cabin Democrat, "A group of Conway businessmen organized in August 1974 to aid in promoting the bid. John Coffey, president of the Conway Chamber of Commerce and head of Coffey-Clifton, Inc., a mobile home manufacturing and sales firm, was elected committee chairman. Earl Rogers, owner of the Earl Rogers Company, was named finance chairman.
"Numerous organizations in Conway and Faulkner County endorsed the name change, including the Board of Directors of the Conway Chamber of Commerce; SCA Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa, a professional fraternity for educators; Conway Noon Lions Club; Conway Kiwanis Club; and Conway Rotary Club."
The combined efforts and hard work of many residents of the City of Conway and Faulkner County, along with UCA’s faculty, students, staff and administration, brought about the university status which UCA now holds and certainly earned.
When President Snow was asked what had been the greatest accomplishment in his 22 years as UCA president, he replied, "All the accomplishments are the result of the concerted actions of many persons. But, I must say that I feel that earning university status is the greatest. It is something that we had planned and dreamed about for years."
Author’s Note: Sources for this article include, the ACTS of Arkansas, The Echo, The Log Cabin Democrat, "The Centennial History of the University of Central Arkansas" by Jimmy Bryant, and the official websites for James Madison University, Illinois State University, University of California at Los Angeles, Texas State University and the University of Memphis.