Celebrating 150: Harry Visits Campus

Harry Truman takes a photo on the steps of Kirk Memorial with University graduates in August 1943. Photo courtesy of Pickler Memorial Library’s Special Collections Department.
In 1996, the name Truman State University became official. It was one of the final steps in transforming the school from a regional institution to Missouri’s only statewide public liberal arts and sciences university.
The name was selected as an homage to the only Missourian to serve as president of the United States. One of the few ties Harry Truman had to Kirksville came Aug. 13, 1943. Truman, then a senator, addressed the graduating class and had his picture taken with them on the steps of Kirk Memorial. Less than two years later he would be the president, leading the nation through the end of World War II.
Although Harry Truman was not an alumnus of the University – and is famously the last president without a college degree – he was a proponent of lifelong learning and public service. By all accounts, he would have embraced the spirit of the University’s vision statement to develop citizen-leaders committed to service, and the school’s association with him has come to be widely accepted as an appropriate tribute.
The Celebrating 150 stories included in the Truman Today during the past academic year were made possible thanks in large part to: the Pickler Memorial Library Special Collections Department; David Nichols, professor emeritus of music and author of “Founding the Future: A History of Truman State University”; the Office of Publications; Tim Barcus, University photographer; the Truman Sports Information Department; and the Index.
More University history is available at truman.edu/about/history.
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