A University at Last: 1960-1969

Something talked about for years finally came to be in the late 1960s – university status. Student unrest was beginning in the last part of the decade over an undeclared war far away and about student rights on campus.

National political leaders who later would be elected president and vice president visited Marshall. It was one of the greatest building periods in the school’s history: a men’s physical education facility, a major classroom building and adjoining music hall, four new residence halls including two new cafeterias, the Campus Christian Center, a major addition to the library and renovation of Fairfield Stadium.

President Stewart H. Smith surprised almost everyone by announcing his resignation effective mid-1968. Dr. Roland H. Nelson Junior came from Richmond, Va., to replace Smith, but would hold the job for only two years.

Two-year branch colleges were established at Logan and Williamson. A major restructuring of higher education went into effect with the creation of the Board of Regents in 1969. Marshall’s campus was expanded with the addition of University Heights. The College of Business became reality.

It was perhaps the best of times and worst of times for the sports program. The men’s basketball teams played in national tournaments and the football team ended the nation’s longest winless streak. But Marshall was suspended by the Mid-American Conference and was placed on probation by the NCAA. The head coaches of basketball and football were fired.

Then-candidate John F. Kennedy spoke near the Science Building during the 1960 presidential campaign. He addressed students, faculty and others from atop a car at the edge of campus. Here, he mingles with the crowd across the street from campus.
Hubert H. Humphrey visited the Huntington area several times in the 1960s – during the 1960 presidential campaign when he was a candidate and then later as vice president when he spoke during Impact Week at Marshall. Here, he talks to a reporter while members of the Marshall band were on hand to provide a musical greeting at Tri-State Airport.
One of the most joyous days in Marshall history came in the spring of 1961 when the West Virginia Legislature approved university status after much debate. The news reached campus quickly March 1, 1961. Above, students hold up The Parthenon as workers install a new “Marshall University” sign on the Shawkey Student Union, seen in the background. At left is the front page of The Parthenon, the university newspaper. The issue, which had no date printed, actually was prepared before the legislation passed and was held secret until the moment lawmakers acted.

Journalism majors kept in close touch with action at the State Capitol and the minute the bill passed, distributed issues. The following day, Governor W.W. Baron came to campus and signed the legislation making Marshall “UNIVERSITY” official. The ceremonies were held in the gymnasium.

A 68-foot clothesline on top of the Science Hall caused quite a stir to the waking students on Saint Patrick’s day in 1961. It seems someone braved cold, wet, weather late that night to climb up and hang out a wash to dry. The clothes were dyed bright green and orange in honor of the day.
Among additions to the campus in the 1960s were South Hall and University Heights, an off-campus apartment complex for non-traditional students. South Hall, seen above with only four floors, had more floors added later and gained a new name – Holderby Hall.
Marshall had two branch colleges at Logan and Williamson from 1963 to 1971. They offered two-year degrees, with many students coming to the main campus to complete the remaining years. Above is the new Williamson building that was constructed and became a part of the Williamson-Logan campuses of Southern West Virginia Community College when they were divorced from Marshall. Both SWVCC and Marshall have maintained good relationships through the years. In the 1990s, Marshall began delivering classes to SWVCC via fiber optic cable. Students could take classes from Marshall by watching the professor on TV and asking questions via phone line.
The concept never came to reality, but serious talk was given back in the pre-Smith Hall days to building a massive classroom-administration complex along 16th Street between Third and Fifth Avenues. Old Main and Northcott Hall would have been demolished. The concept shown here is a view from the northeast with Morrow Library at the left. Instead, construction ended up as the complex of Smith Hall, Smith Music Hall and the Communications Building and later Corbly Hall. Old Main remains as did Northcott Hall until its demolition for the John Deaver Drinko Library.
The 1960s were times of considerable construction on campus. Above, work is underway on a major “wrap-around” addition to the James E. Morrow library. At left, steelwork goes up for the Smith Hall-Smith Music Hall complex. Other new buildings during the decade included a new men’s physical education building (now Gullickson Hall), Campus Christian Center, West Hall (now Buskirk Hall), South Hall (now Holderby Hall) and the maintenance building.
Many commencements also were conducted in the Keith-Albee Theatre in downtown Huntington. In this 1962 scene, graduates line up in the First Huntington National Bank Arcade next door to prepare to march into the theater
For three decades – ’50s, ’60s and ’70s – Memorial Field House was the home of the Thundering Herd basketball. At left in a Marshall beanie and shirt, an impromptu cheerleader who often showed up for Herd games was Mino D’Aurora, a legislator from Brooke County. He always proved popular in exciting Herd fans.
Ellis Johnson’s 1966-67 basketball team was the toast of the sports year. Besides finishing the school’s best season in 11 years, the Thundering Herd grabbed 10 wins in 12 Mid-American Conference games to capture second place and made Marshall’s first appearance in the National Invitation Tournament in Madison Square Garden. The NIT trip was exciting as MU beat Villanova and Nebraska before losing in the semi-finals to Marquette and then to Rutgers in the consolation game. From left, front row, are Dawson, D’Antoni, D. Blankenship, K. Blankenship, Stepp and Beam; second row, Coach Larry McKenzie, Coach Stewart Way, Davidson, Jordan, Watson, Stone, Allen, Mallet, Redd and head coach Johnson. At right, the marquee at the old Madison Square Garden displays the announcement of the upcoming games.
Student unrest occurred at Marshall during the late ’60s and early ’70s as it did on campuses throughout the nation. Issues involved the military draft, Vietnam war, black rights, freedom of speech and more student say in campus decision making and curriculum.
It never matched those big-time card sections that used to be popular on network television games, but Marshall did have its own green/white card section in 1968 at Fairfield Stadium.
1969 was a dark period in Marshall sports. The school was suspended by the Mid-American Conference, the football and basketball coaches were fired and an NCAA investigation led to one year’s probation.
In 1970, more than four decades after its original construction, Fairfield Stadium received a major facelift and expansion in the form of an additional 5,000 seats and an artificial playing surface to replace grass that often had turned into mud during games. Excavation is under way to lower the playing surface to allow the additional seats below the old grandstands.