ADA – East Central University finds its beginnings in 1909 when the creation of East Central State Normal School was created. Oklahoma Governor Charles N. Haskell signed the Ada Normal School bill that day, and 113 years later, this institution of higher learning, now known as East Central University, is still a major part of a thriving community.
From noon to 2 p.m. Friday, March 25, ECU will celebrate those humble beginnings with festivities on the Centennial Plaza, in front of the Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center. There will be food, t-shirts and vendor booths.
Following statehood in 1907, Ada was up against five other larger towns to bid for one of three sites for a normal school. City leaders worked together to plan a strategy to secure a normal school and the Ada promoters agreed to keep a delegation of citizens at the state capital, which was in Guthrie at that time, to influence the first state legislature.
The people of Ada worked to raise funds for the delegation by hosting band concerts and dinners while Otis Weaver, editor of Ada Evening News, used the newspaper to help raise the needed funds for lobbying.
Competition for a normal school even became heated as a fistfight erupted on the legislative floor between Pontotoc County’s Sen. Reuben Roddie and Sen. J.S. Morris of Booker. However, the first Oklahoma Legislature adjourned without establishing any new normal schools for the state.
During the second legislative session, approval came for three normal schools to be established in Tahlequah, Durant and Duncan. At the last minute, some of the Ada delegates persuaded a member of the legislature to replace Duncan’s name with Ada’s. The bill eventually made it through both the House and Senate after much additional political maneuvering. East Central State Normal School was established in 1909, later adapting the names East Central State College (1939), East Central Oklahoma State University (1974), and its current name East Central University in 1985.
One of the major fundraisers was the 25,000 Club, a local booster club which also raised funds for faculty salaries so classes could begin that fall in local churches and public school classrooms.
Since the beginning in 1909, ECU has awarded thousands of degrees and certificates, along with millions of dollars in scholarships – recently, The ECU Foundation set a new record by awarding $760,925 in scholarships. Without donors’ support, ECU would not have been established or able to offer higher education in Ada for 113 years. To continue in that tradition, donations can be made at ecok.edu/donate.