Missouri Western State University is a public, co-ed university located in Saint Joseph, Missouri, United States. As of September 2016, the school enrolled 5,145 undergraduate students and 243 graduate students.
History of Missouri Western State University
In 1915, Missouri Western State University was founded as a two-year institution called St. Joseph Junior College and held courses at the original location of Central High School. In 1933, when Central High School moved to its current location, the junior college relocated to the Robidoux Polytechnic High School building at 10th Street between Edmond and Charles. In 1917, it adopted the Griffon as its mascot.
The establishment of a four-year school was a central campaign issue in the 1964 Missouri Governor’s race. Warren Hearnes, from southeast Missouri, was challenging Hilary A. Bush, who was from western Missouri for governor. Hearnes promised to transform the school into a four-year school despite the presence of nearby Northwest Missouri State University, 40 miles to the north in Maryville, Missouri.
Hearnes narrowly won the primary and then went on to victory in the general election. A year later, the college became Missouri Western Junior College. In 1969, the college became Missouri Western College, a 4-year school, during Hearnes’ second term. The Missouri Western Junior College district funded the first two years, with the state funding the final two years.
The school became Missouri Western State College in 1973, and became fully supported by the state in 1977. It was granted university status in 2005, and began offering graduate degrees in 2007.
In 1988, Shalia Aery, commissioner of higher education under Governor John Ashcroft, recommended Northwest should close and leave Missouri Western as the surviving school. That plan was ultimately dropped.
In 2005, legislation changed the institution’s name to Missouri Western State University. That legislation designated Missouri Western as Missouri’s Applied Learning Institution and allowed it to grant master’s degrees. The university hooded its first 12 master’s degree recipients in May 2009. In its first six years offering graduate degrees, graduate enrollment at Western has grown by 100% or more each year. As of 2016, Western offers 18 master’s degrees and six graduate certificates.
The school’s largest philanthropic affiliation is with Hillyard, Inc., a cleaning supplies company. The school’s Spratt Memorial Stadium is named for Elliot “Bub” Spratt, an executive at the company. Leah Spratt Hall is named for a sister of Elliot. The school hosts the Hillyard Tip Off Basketball Classic tournament.
Athletics at Missouri Western State University
Missouri Western is the home of the Griffons. MWSU competes in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association and is in NCAA Division II. Typically, its highest attended football games are the Missouri Western vs. Northwest Missouri State football rivalry. Beginning in the fall of 2017, Missouri Western will add six new sports offering a total of 16 sports.
Since 2010, the school has enjoyed hosting the Kansas City Chiefs summer training camp. The $15.7 million facility was paid for by $10 million state tax credits from the Chiefs and $1.2 million from student fees at Missouri Western, with the rest coming from the City of St. Joseph, Buchanan County and private donations.
A climate-controlled, 120-yard NFL regulation grass indoor field, with a locker room, weight room, training room, classrooms and office space was completed in the summer of 2010. This facility is referred to as the “Griffon Indoor Sports Complex.”