Toward Becoming A University: 1950-1959

The Science Building was dedicated in 1950 with much fanfare, including a later appearance by Huntington’s own Dagmar, star of early television. That same year, the basketball team moved from Radio Center to the new county-owned Memorial Field House.

A unit of the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps was established on campus in 1951. Athletic teams began competing in the Mid-American Conference in 1954. A new dormitory for freshman women (now Prichard Hall, an administration building) opened in 1955.

The bust of John Marshall, dedicated during the college’s Centennial in 1937, fell victim to vandals in 1957 and a new bust was dedicated in 1959. The first full-time alumni director was hired in 1958.

It was a time of frivolous pranks and also of serious efforts by staff and students to descend upon the Legislature for greater state support for Marshall. Interest in sororities and fraternities reached a new high and Mother’s Day sings were big events. The Artists Series brought big-name shows to town. University status was also just around the corner.

Even when there were only 2,600 students and three colleges in 1953, students faced lines at registration. In those pre-computer days, the library was used to register for courses. The problem of students waiting in line for long periods ended with MILO telephone registration in the 1990s.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Marshall had a flourishing laboratory school as part of its Teachers College program of preparing teachers. This included instruction in elementary through high school. Jenkins Hall, above, now the home of the College of Education, served as the training school until the program was phased out in the late 1960s. The university’s One Room School House was moved onto this site in 1995. The high school even had a basketball team.
The newly constructed Science Building was considered a great addition to Marshall College. It housed all of the science sequence programs as well the radio station. WMUL-FM did not go on the air until November 1, 1961, but in November 1959, students in the above picture gained practical experience at WMCS, the mute radio voice of Marshall College. This is a studio in the basement of the Science Building.
Pictured above is the 1951 Marshall basketball team, one of Cam Henderson’s first. A number of the players developed into Marshall stars. Henderson, who coached from 1935-1955, is at the right.
Before artificial turf was added to Fairfield Stadium in 1970, games often turned into mud bowls as in this one against Xavier.
A couple of off-duty cheerleaders give the Shawkey Student Union buffalo some maintenance in 1959. The mounted buffalo head, symbolic of the college’s mascot, Marco, was a feature of the old union’s trophy area.
One of the most famous campus landmarks was the Marshall Beech Tree in front of Old Main. It stood strong and tall for years. Marshall’s first alumni director, John Sayre, left and Botany Professor Lewis Plymale check the girth of the famous beech tree. It was said to be no more than 300 years old. This tree was located on the same land Marshall Academy stood back in 1837. The bark contained more than 300 initials and marks. It was struck by lightning in the late 1980s.
Not-so-temporary classroom space was the story of Old Main Annex. The former Navy barracks, once located in Norfolk, Va., was reconstructed on the campus in 1947 to provide more classroom space at the time of returning veterans. The building remained on campus until it was demolished to make way for Smith Hall in the late 1960s. The walkway is the same one which passes Smith Hall today along Third Avenue
While fraternities and sororities were popular on campus in the ’50s, the Cavaliers, an independent student group, also was active, showing up in a jalopy at this football game. At right, a familiar and energetic fixture at pep rallies for years was physical education professor Otto “Swede” Gullickson, noted for his ability to fire up crowds with the Marshall spirit. The time is 1959 when Marshall had not yet become a university.
Marshall said goodbye to two of its greatest basketball stars Hal Greer and Jack Freeman, in 1959 at Marshall Field House.
Leo Byrd, Marshall’s first All-American, was considered nearly impossible to stop when he drove the lanes in his unorthodox style. He set many scoring records in the late ’50s. In his three years as a varsity player, he scored 1,695 points, averaging 29.3 points a game in one season. In his final game at Memorial Field House, 6,000 fans gave him a four-minute standing ovation.
Moving in and out of the dormitory wasn’t much different in 1959 than it is today. Prichard Hall, in the background, was a women’s residence hall then, but later was converted to university offices. The parking lot is now the site of the addition to the Science Building.
Big parades down Fourth Avenue were a highlight of Homecomings in the 1950s. They featured many floats and high school bands as well as the Marshall band. This view is looking east on Fourth Avenue at 11th Street.