This year, West Virginia State University is celebrating our 125th anniversary. As an 1890 Land-Grant University, we’re able to offer an innovative platform of Cooperative Extension programs to help make your life better. But WVSU Extension Service has had a long and interesting journey to get where we are today. Let’s take a look back at the history of WVSU’s land-grant status.
In 1891, WVSU was founded an 1890 Land-Grant Institution under the Second Morrill Act to provide “instruction in agriculture, the mechanical arts, English language and the various branches of mathematical, physical, natural and economic science: to the black citizens of the state where these students had no access to other higher education institutions.” WVSU faithfully and successfully met its duties in an outstanding manner. However, in 1956, the West Virginia State Board of Education voted to surrender the land-grant status of WVSU and transfer all personnel and expense funds to West Virginia University, the state’s 1862 Land-Grant Institution.
For decades, alumni of the university interested in regaining land-grant status looked for the right time, place, and persons to reverse the decision made in 1957. In 1988, President Hazo W. Carter Jr. undertook this endeavor. That fall, he and several members of his staff traveled to Washington to meet with the staffs of West Virginia’s Congressional delegates and representatives of the Secretary of the USDA to explore the feasibility of regaining land-grant status. The Congressional delegation was supportive, but pointed out the first step was to have the state legislature re-designate WVSU as an 1890 Land-Grant Institution.
In 1991, House Bill 2124 was passed unanimously by both the House and Senate to re-designate WVSU as an 1890 Land-Grant Institution. In 1999, Senator Robert C. Byrd amended House Bill 1906 to once again establish WVSU as a land-grant institution, eligible for research and extension funding as established under the Second Morrill Act of 1890. After approval by Congress, President Bill Clinton signed the FY2000 Agricultural Appropriations Bill.
Although WVSU received land-grant research and extension funding in FY2000, the USDA Office of General Council of the USDA stated that more explicit amending language was necessary for full inclusion of WVSU as an 1890 Land-Grant Institution. Senator Byrd introduced such an amendment, and in November 2001, with the passage and subsequent signing of the FY2002 Agricultural Appropriations Bill, the University regained its birthright and once again became an official and fully recognized 1890 Land-Grant Institution.
Starting then with a staff of one, Extension programs at WVSU quickly found a footing and have grown ever since. Beginning with a program presence in Kanawha County, our reach has grown to more than 30 counties throughout the state, with innovative program efforts in 4-H, alternative agriculture, community development, family and consumer sciences, and much more.
Happy Anniversary, WVSU! We look forward to another wonderful 125 years to come!