Rogers State University has a long and proud history as a high-quality institution of higher learning serving the educational and professional needs of residents of the Claremore area, northeastern Oklahoma, and, via its distance learning programs, the nation and the world.
For almost 100 years, the institution on College Hill, which overlooks the city of Claremore, has symbolized quality education and service to area residents.
RSU was founded in 1909 – just two years after Oklahoma was granted statehood. The university was officially established as Eastern University Preparatory School in Claremore by the Oklahoma Legislature in its second session. The mission of the Eastern University Preparatory School was to prepare the sons and daughters of Native Americans, farmers, and ranchers for entry into the colleges and universities of Oklahoma.
As a condition established by the Oklahoma Legislature, the citizens of Claremore — led by A.L. Kates, editor of the Claremore Progress — raised $3,000 to purchase land for the new institution. A group of citizens known as the “Hilltoppers” located 40 acres of land on College Hill, one mile west of Claremore. With an appropriation of $50,000 by the Oklahoma Legislature, construction began on a building for the new institution, Preparatory Hall. Today, Preparatory Hall, which features a stately gold dome and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, remains the focal point of the university.
During the construction of Preparatory Hall from 1909 to 1911, classes of the Eastern University Preparatory School were held in the old Claremont Building in downtown Claremore. Five students graduated at the end of the institution’s first academic year. During its second academic year (1910-11), 375 students were enrolled. The institution continued to grow rapidly, adding a library in 1914 and receiving accreditation as a secondary school by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools in 1916. Preparatory Hall housed the entire operation of Eastern University Preparatory School until the institution was closed in 1917 due to the changing educational needs of area residents.
Oklahoma Military Academy
Two years later, the institution was resurrected as the Oklahoma Military Academy in response to the needs of area residents and the United States Armed Forces. By 1923, the Oklahoma Military Academy offered secondary education and two years of college to young men from Oklahoma and across the nation.
The Oklahoma Military Academy has an extensive register of graduates who became great leaders, both in military and civilian life. More than 2,500 Oklahoma Military Academy graduates served in the Armed Forces of the United States during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. More than 100 graduates of the Oklahoma Military Academy gave their lives in service to their country. The Oklahoma Military Academy quickly gained recognition as one of the top military schools in the United States. Among the graduates of the academy is retired Lt. Gen. William E. Potts – the most decorated living soldier in the U.S. Army. A bust of Lt. Gen. Potts is located in the lobby of RSU’s Meyer Hall.
Several historic buildings were constructed on College Hill during the days of the Oklahoma Military Academy. Meyer Hall was constructed to serve as the first barracks for the cadets of the Oklahoma Military Academy. The building was named in honor of Maurice Meyer, who was killed in action during World War I. Meyer Hall also appears on the National Register of Historic Places. See Campus Map for locations.
Becoming a College
In 1971, in response to the growing educational needs of a rapidly developing technological and industrial economy in the Claremore area, the Oklahoma Legislature replaced the Oklahoma Military Academy with the new Claremore Junior College. The mission of the institution was expanded to provide a variety of high-quality two-year associate’s degree programs for area residents.
Claremore Junior College quickly grew from 477 students in 1971 to more than 3,000 in 1982, when the institution was renamed Rogers State College to better represent the areas it served – Rogers County and the surrounding communities. As Rogers State College, the institution prospered, adding a variety of academic programs, including the state’s only full-power public television station to be located on a university campus, and the Thunderbird Library. The institution was a pioneer in establishing education outreach centers in Northeast Oklahoma. Rogers State College also became a pioneer in the nation in distance education, offering telecourses and independent study options for students.
In 1996, the Oklahoma Legislature approved the merger of Rogers State College and the University Center at Tulsa (UCAT), a consortium of four Oklahoma universities – the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, Northeastern State University, and Langston University. The new institution was named Rogers University and continued operation for two years.
A New University is Born
In April 2000, a team from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) announced it would unanimously recommend that the NCA Commission on Institutions on Higher Education grant RSU accreditation as a four-year baccalaureate degree-granting institution. In August 2000, the NCA Commission on Institutions of Higher Education formally granted RSU accreditation as a four-year university.
In 1998, the Oklahoma Legislature separated the institutions, creating a branch of Oklahoma State University in Tulsa and Rogers State University, a new regional university with a main campus in Claremore. The Oklahoma Legislature granted permission for Rogers State University to create and seek accreditation for its own four-year bachelor’s degrees, while continuing to offer high-quality two-year associate’s degrees.
Today and into the Future
Today, RSU is a dynamic, progressive university widely recognized for its high-quality academic programs, distance learning options and high-technology learning environment. RSU is the fastest growing university in Oklahoma. In fall 2011, more than 4,600 students were enrolled at RSU’s campuses in Claremore, Bartlesville and Pryor. RSU is the only public four-year, residential university in the Tulsa metropolitan area, and is located near several major Tulsa high-technology employers and Tulsa International Airport.
An Esteemed Position in Oklahoma Education
Rogers State University holds a historic position in the annals of Oklahoma higher education. Since RSU was accredited as a four-year university in 2000, enrollment (full-time equivalency) has increased by more than 70 percent, earning RSU the title of Oklahoma’s fastest-growing university.
The university serves the northeast quadrant of Oklahoma and enjoys status as the only public four-year, residential university in the Tulsa metropolitan area. RSU offers a Master of Business Administration as well as both bachelor’s degrees and associate degrees (and is one of only two universities in Oklahoma with the dual mission of offering both four and two-year degrees.)
Innovative new bachelor’s degrees include and the state’s only four-year degrees in Game Development and Military History. RSU enjoys a statewide reputation for academic excellence in its two-year Nursing Program. Ninety-five percent of RSU nursing students passed the Registered Nurse (R.N.) licensure exam on the first attempt, routinely beating the national average pass rate.
In 2005, RSU was the only regional university in Oklahoma to be granted continued accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools without further required evaluation for 10 years – a rarity in higher education in Oklahoma and a major accomplishment achieved by few universities. This truly is a testament to the high academic quality that exists at RSU.
RSU participates in The Washington Center Internship Program, a nationally recognized program placing students with private, public and non-profit organizations in Washington, D.C. Students participating in the semester-long internship earn college credit while they gain real-world experience within their field of interest and interact with influential leaders and policymakers. RSU is one of only three universities in Oklahoma to participate in this prestigious program.
Since RSU became a four-year university in 2000, the institution has increased the number of full-time faculty members by more than 50 percent. Most RSU faculty members hold doctoral degrees or the highest degrees available in their fields from esteemed institutions across the nation, including Princeton University, Duke University and the University of Oklahoma.
Growth in Learning Facilities
RSU and the MidAmerica Industrial Park have established a partnership to boost education and economic development in the region, including the relocation of the Pryor campus to the grounds of the industrial park. The largest gift in university history, the $10 million campus opened in January 2014.
A new student apartment complex was opened in 2011, doubling the university on-campus student housing capacity. The 87,118 -square-foot complex features one, two and four-bedroom apartments, all with interior entrances linked by corridors. Each floor of the $11.5 million complex features commons areas, a recreation area and meeting rooms for residents. The single-story, 6,758 -square-foot clubhouse features conference rooms, a theater room with a large-screen television, a coffee bar, commons areas and staff offices.
In 2010, the university dedicated the expanded and renovated Baird Hall to meet the needs of a rapidly growing student body. Baird Hall doubled in size and includes classrooms equipped with Smart Boards, a performance studio and an amphitheater-style outdoor classroom for learning outdoors. The 57,000-square-foot building also boasts a new gallery for RSU students and faculty artists, as well as visiting artists, to exhibit their work.
In 2008, RSU opened the Centennial Center – a $14 million two-level, 50,000-square-foot facility that combines student development programs under one roof, serves as a central location for students to study and socialize, and provides a focal point for the RSU campus in Claremore. The facility offers expanded ballrooms, conference centers and meeting rooms for the community. In 2017, the Center was renamed to the Dr. Carolyn Taylor Center to honor the longtime RSU faculty member. More information about the renaming.
In fall 2005, RSU acquired a historic nine-story building to serve as its new campus in downtown Bartlesville. The university has since renovated two floors of the building, including construction of a new enrollment center. Presently, more than 700 students are enrolled at the Bartlesville campus, a major increase over previous years.
The state-of-the-art $4 million Stratton Taylor Library opened in 2004. The library collection, housed on the second and third floors provides large student seating and study areas, two reading rooms, computer stations, meeting rooms, and classrooms. The first floor of the building contains classrooms and faculty offices.
RSU has renovated several historic buildings on the Claremore campus, including Preparatory Hall, Meyer Hall, Markham Hall, and Bushyhead Fieldhouse. Preparatory Hall and Meyer Hall are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Rise of Athletics
RSU unveiled its first mascot, the Hillcat, a fictitious blue and crimson animal. The Hillcat, a cousin of the bobcat, serves as a source of school pride and spirit and identify the university’s academic, alumni and athletic programs.
In the fall of 2005, RSU gained acceptance in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), which signaled the beginning of a new era of intercollegiate athletic participation at RSU. University teams initially included men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, and rodeo.
In seven years, the RSU Hillcats athletic program has won four NAIA conference championships, appeared in 13 national tournaments, fielded 16 All-Americans and claimed six Academic All-Americans. RSU has been accepted to candidacy for NCAA Division II membership and provisional membership in the Heartland Conference.