West Texas A&M University (also known as WTAMU, WT, and formerly West Texas State), part of the Texas A&M University System, is a public university located in Canyon, Texas, a small city south of Amarillo. West Texas A&M opened on September 20, 1910. West Texas A&M University was originally called West Texas State Normal College and started out as one of the seven state-funded teacher colleges.
In its first school year, West Texas State Normal College had 152 students and 16 faculty members. Its first president was Robert B. Cousins. A year after the Texas State House of Representatives approved the bill to establish West Texas State Normal College, construction began on the school's Administration Building. It consisted of the school's only classrooms, laboratory, library, and offices. On March 25, 1914, the school burned down; however, classes continued in local churches, courthouses, and vacant buildings. Later, in 1916, a new Administration Building opened.
The first four-year college degrees were granted in 1919. In the following years the college was admitted to: American Association of Teachers Colleges in 1922, Association of Texas Colleges in 1923, and Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools in 1925. The school changed its name to West Texas State Teachers College in 1923. In the early 1930s, the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society built its Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum on the campus.
In 1948, a nonconformist leftist sociology professor, Joseph L. Duflot (1881–1957), created a sensation on campus when he told a meeting of the American Federation of Labor in Amarillo that "modern capitalism" is the "No. 1 enemy of the United States economy." A powerful legislator at the time, Sam Hanna of Dallas County, warned that state funding could be jeopardized for any college with "a communist" on the faculty. Though the West Texas regents first dismissed Duflot, he survived a second vote, and regent H.L. Mills praised him for "the courage of his convictions". During the days of West Texas State University the football team was an enormously successful feeder program for notable professional wrestlers including Tully Blanchard, Dusty Rhodes, Terry Funk, Ted Dibiase, Bobby Duncam, Tito Santana, Barry Windam, Bruiser Brody, Dory Funk Jr., and Stan Hansen, among others.
Many returning veterans from World War II enrolled at the institution in the latter 1940s, taking advantage of new G.I. Bill of Rights assistance. Conditions were so overcrowded for a time that the former soldiers slept in the gymnasium, and beds were brought from a former Prisoner of War camp in Hereford.
In 1949, the school again changed its name, this time to West Texas State College. During the Cold War, attention at West Texas was focused on anti-communism. One history professor, John Cook, claimed that many of the films shown on campus, such as Communism on the Map, were "propaganda". During this time too, the historian J. Evetts Haley ran for governor of Texas on a staunchly conservative platform, but the office went to Marion Price Daniel, Sr..
During the 1960s, the school changed from a regional teacher's college to a state university. In 1963, Governor John B. Connally signed a bill to change the school's name to West Texas State University. The newly named school would gain a College of Arts and Sciences, a graduate school, and professional schools of business. Near the end of the 1960s, West Texas State obtained its own board of regents, established a School of Agriculture, a School of Fine Arts, and created a Department of Nursing.
By 1970, the student enrollment neared 8,000, but was decreasing. The primary reasons were the changes in the selective service system and increases in tuition. The university's funding was largely enrollment-driven, and this caused serious financial problems for the school.
The college radio station KWTS began broadcasting in 1972. The West Texas State athletics were in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Missouri Valley Conference, but the school decided to change its status to Division II and the Lone Star Conference in 1984.
In 1986, WT President Ed Roach was the subject of protests and calls for his resignation over the amount of money spent on the campus' Presidential House. The 7,301 sq ft (678.3 m2) house cost $991,000, which was more than the $494,900 authorized by the State College Coordinating Board. In 1991, Roach was indicted for diverting scholarship money to meet other budget deficits.
The university joined the Texas A&M University System on September 1, 1990, and started to use the name West Texas A&M University in 1993. The school's first president under the new system was Barry B. Thompson. Early in Thompson's tenure, he dropped the school's football program, but the program returned a year later without athletic scholarships.
President Thompson was appointed Chancellor of the Texas A&M University System in 1994 and Russell C. Long became the new president. During Long's tenure, the school renovated buildings, maintained its student enrollment growth, and added its first Ph.D. in agriculture.
The school had a long-term connection with T. Boone Pickens who was appointed to its Board of Regents in 1969. On March 21, 1973, Pickens resigned from the Board of Regents in protest, but was reappointed in 1981 and became its chair in 1982. He continued to chair its Board until its merger with the Texas A&M system in 1990. In 1987, he pledged a $1.5 million matching gift to endow its business school, which was named in his honor. On November 24, 2004, the school issued a press release stating that it planned to remove Pickens' name from the T. Boone Pickens College of Business after university officials came to believe he had not completed pledges he made to the university. In fact, Pickens had satisfied his pledge, but asked to have his name removed. On December 1, 2004, the then President Russell C. Long acknowledged the error and agreed to remove Pickens' name. Subsequently, Pickens donated $165 million to Oklahoma State University-Stillwater. In 2007, Pickens endowed the "Pickens Professorship of Business" and in 2010 he endowed the "Pickens Professorship of Management." The business school as a whole remains unnamed.
In late 2005, Long retired from his position as the school's president, and J. Patrick O’Brien took that office. As of 2006, West Texas A&M University has approximately 7,000 students. The university contains over 60 undergraduate-degree programs, 40 graduate-degree programs, and one doctoral program
The school is a leader in distance education . It offers individual classes online as well as three undergraduate and two master's degree programs that can be completed totally online.
GetEducated.com ranked West Texas A&M University's online MBA degree #3 (technically fourth) nationally in its list of affordable, quality Best Buys in online education.
The Administration Building is now called "Old Main." It went through a $5 million renovation beginning in February 1987. The Old Main building consist of four levels, and houses the administrative and enrollment management offices, as well as classrooms and laboratories. The Division of Education, the Department of History and Political Science, and the Division of Nursing are based in this building.
The Classroom Center was built in 1968. The four-story building contains classrooms, computer and writing labs, and faculty offices. The College of Business and the Department of English and Modern Languages are located in the Classroom Center. The Classroom Center had its grand reopening on August 24, 2009 for the start of the fall semester.
Mary Moody Northen Hall accommodates music studios, dance studios, a public art gallery, recital hall, art studios, computer labs, and classrooms.
The Sybil B. Harrington Fine Arts Complex, completed in September 2006, is the home of the Department of Communication and Department of Art, Theatre, and Dance. The facility houses classrooms, music studios, music halls, a proscenium theatre, an experimental theatre, the school newspaper newsroom, a television studio, broadcast editing suites, and the student-run radio studios.
The Agriculture and Sciences Building was constructed in 1974. The three-story building houses the Division of Agriculture and the Department of Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences. The building contains classrooms, laboratories, and faculty offices.
The Texas history museum, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum has been located on the campus of West Texas A&M University since the early 1930s.
West Texas A&M University's sports teams participate in the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference. Their athletic teams are nicknamed the Buffaloes or simply called the "Buffs." As of 2005, West Texas A&M University students compete in baseball, basketball, cross country, equestrian, football, golf, soccer, softball, track and field, and volleyball. The equestrian, softball, and volleyball teams are composed only of women.
The football team plays its home games in Kimbrough Memorial Stadium, and they have won Lone Star Conference championships in 1986, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2012. The school's football rival is Eastern New Mexico University which WTAMU plays for the coveted Wagon Wheel Trophy.
West Texas A&M was a member of the Border Intercollegiate Athletic Association, from 1941-1961. The football team won a conference championship in 1950. They were members of the Missouri Valley Conference from 1972-1985.