Sixty years ago, on Sept. 16, 1963, 111 area residents walked into West Plains High School to embark on a new educational adventure, taking the first collegiate classes offered locally through the West Plains Residence Center of Southwest Missouri State College.
The grassroots idea to establish a college campus locally, which was spearheaded in the state legislature by then-State Representative Granvil Vaughan, eventually grew into what is now known as Missouri State University-West Plains.
Officials will celebrate that landmark day with a special 60th Diamond Jubilee event from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16, at the amphitheater near the Smith-London Centennial Bell Tower on the MSU-WP campus.
Everyone is invited to attend and enjoy bounce houses, lawn games and free popcorn and cupcakes, organizers said. Food trucks also will be available.
At 6:30 p.m., Dawson Hollow, an American indie-folk-rock band from Lebanon, will take the amphitheater stage. Formed in 2016 by five siblings, Dawson Hollow offers a unique brand of entertainment that fuses the sounds of pop, nostalgic string elements of Americana music and five-part harmonies that only come from band mates with blood ties.
“Before the Residence Center, area residents had to travel at least 100 miles in any direction to reach a college or university,” MSU-WP Chancellor Dennis Lancaster said. “For many, that option was out of the question due to work and family responsibilities.
“The effort put forth by our campus’ founder, Granvil Vaughan, and others at the local, regional and state level to establish an institution of higher learning here in the ‘heart of the Ozarks’ opened the doors of opportunity to a better job and a better life for many in our area and transformed our communities in ways that benefitted us all,” Lancaster said.
“We hope you will join us on Sept. 16 and help us celebrate what truly was a milestone moment for this region,” he added.
For more information about the 60th Diamond Jubilee, call 417-255-7960 or email WPUnivComm@MissouriState.edu.