Bemidji State University’s first 100 years are marked by tremendous growth — in our size, in our purpose and in our mission to serve the people of Minnesota and beyond.
When we opened our doors in 1919 as Bemidji Normal School, the sixth Normal School for teacher education in the state of Minnesota, few couldn’t have imagined what we would become. Our first four-year degree offering came in 1921, and we renamed ourselves Bemidji Teachers College. In 1957, we became Bemidji State College. Then, in 1975, our journey took its next step when we became Bemidji State University — a name recognizing our role as a multi-purpose institution with regional importance.
Taking full advantage of our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to recognize a 100-year milestone, our observance of A Bemidji State Century lasted for nearly 18 months. An April 2018 kickoff celebration — held nearly 100 years to the day from the groundbreaking ceremony for our first building on campus — featured music, dance and artifacts from our past. It was an energetic and exciting celebration of the events, people and achievements that are now interwoven into the history of this timeless institution.
That celebration continued into 2019, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of our first fall semester, which began on Sept. 2, 1919, when 38 students registered for classes. The recognition of our Centennial included celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Hobson Memorial Union, the 50th anniversary of varsity intercollegiate women’s athletics and the 10th anniversary of our Sustainability Office.
The students who first rushed to the shores of Lake Bemidji to pursue their dreams of becoming teachers could not have known that theirs were the first steps in what has become our 100-year journey. It is because of their dreams, and the dreams of those who believed that this institution could only belong in Bemidji, that BSU endures to this day.
From all of us at Bemidji State University, please enjoy some highlights from this rich story through the people who lived it, then and now.