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The Desire To Educate

50's class

1950's classroom.

When Blanford B. Dougherty and his brother Dauphin D. Dougherty founded Watauga Academy in 1899 with just 53 students enrolled in three grades, they were motivated by a driving desire to educate teachers for the mountains of Northwest North Carolina.

In 1929, the school became a four-year, degree-granting institution named Appalachian State Teachers College. More than 1,300 students were enrolled in the bachelor of science degree programs for primary grades education, physical education, math, English, science, and history.

Appalachian attained national standards by becoming accredited by the American Association for Teacher Education in 1939, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1942.

Growing Into A University

Between 1955 and 1969, with Dr. William H. Plemmons as president, Appalachian was transformed from a single-purpose teachers college into a multipurpose regional university.

Appalachian State Teachers College became Appalachian State University in 1967. Appalachian experienced a doubling of enrollment during the 1970s to about 9,500.

National Recognition

Dr. Herbert Wey succeeded Dr. Plemmons in 1969, first as president and then in 1971 as chancellor. Dr. Wey introduced innovations that won Appalachian its first national recognition as an institution of change. He started the student teacher program that continues today. He founded the College of Business, which grew rapidly. He reduced the number of required courses so that students could experiment with more elective courses. Watauga College was born, and the bachelor of arts degree was added.

Quality And Diversity

Students show spirit at a parade in the 1950sDr. John E. Thomas, the next chancellor, was an engineer, a lawyer, and a manager. Committed to a master plan of controlled growth to a maximum resident enrollment of 10,000 students, Chancellor Thomas focused on recruiting a first-rate faculty. Cultural life on campus broadened, marked by well-known, dynamic performers, concerts, theatre, recitals, and speakers. He supported international studies and education, and during this time, exchange programs were set up with campuses in countries including China, Germany, and Costa Rica.

The results of these progressive changes have garnered regular recognition of Appalachian in national publications, such as U.S. News & World Report, as one of the outstanding comprehensive universities in the Southeast and nation.

Dr. Francis T. Borkowski succeeded Dr. Thomas in 1993. In addition to emphasizing the goal of diversifying Appalachian’s student body and faculty, he presided over the creation of ground-breaking partnerships with two-year colleges in the region and strengthened Appalachian’s affiliations with other universities around the globe. During this period, Appalachian not only maintained its customary place on the list of outstanding comprehensive universities annually identified by such publications as U.S. News & World Report but also was named Time Magazine’s College of the Year in 2001.