The School of Agriculture at the University of Minnesota began in 1886 as a two-year program offered to men who were interested in furthering their education in “practical duties of the farm and work-shop” (1). By the late 1890s, the program was extended to three years and soon women were able to study “farm life and […] domestic economy” (2). Over the next 70 years, the School of Agriculture continued to expand and develop itself into a “vocational agricultural school” (3) and ceased as an educational option at the University after the 1959-1960 school year.
Today, the School of Agriculture has been remembered in various capacities including exhibits, reunions and through its physical administrative records found here in the University of Minnesota Archives. In the Summer of 2023, University Archives received a transfer of materials from the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, pertaining to the School of Agriculture, their Alumni Association, and the student experience between 1886 to 1961. Below recounts the newest additions to the School of Agriculture records and the history of the Alumni Association.
School of Agriculture Alumni Association
In 1890, the Alumni Association for the School of Agriculture was formalized and established, four years after the School’s inception. Their Constitution and By-laws were created at that time, stating that,
“the object of this Association shall be to hold in union the graduate of this school, to better keep up our ties of friendship and that we may unitedly work for the interest of the school, for agricultural education in general and to otherwise promote the agricultural interests of the state.”
The Alumni Association met monthly to discuss upcoming events, ongoing projects and to formalize committees who were tasked to recommend actions of the School of Agriculture and its administrative functions at the University of Minnesota. Examples of this include the Executive Committee, where decisions on the creation and distribution of their annual directory was formulated.
Or the Special Committee, who was appointed in January of 1924 in order to name the Women’s Dormitories on the St. Paul campus. Recommending the first to be named after Mrs. Virginia C. Meredith, the first preceptress of the School of Agriculture and who oversaw the living arrangements for girls from 1897 to 1904. The second, they suggested, being named after Mrs. Florence A. Brewster and Dr. H. W. Brewster, who was the first Principal and professor at the School of Agriculture when it opened.
Events and Functions
The Alumni Association would also plan and host events throughout the year, including a table at the Minnesota State Fair where other alumni from the School of Agriculture could meet and sign the annual guestbook, which documented the student’s name, class year and address.
Other functions included organizing the yearly reunions, where alumni, including both members and non-members, met on the St. Paul campus. These reunions included class meetings, a luncheon and a tour of the Alumni exhibit space in Coffey Hall, the contents of which now reside within the School of Agriculture records at the University of Minnesota Archives.
Alumni Scrapbooks & Additional Material
Amongst the new material that came in this latest donation included scrapbooks highlighting the student experience while attending the School of Agriculture. These included two scrapbooks produced by students in the 1940s and a compilation of material from 1890 through 1975 .
Some of the material included photographs of students participating with others at the School of Agriculture, as well as those of reunions with lists of classmates from a 50th and 55th anniversary.
Other scrapbooks highlighted events attended while at the School of Agriculture, including dance cards listing names of participants, sport meet programs, and alumni dinner invitations.
Outside of these alumni scrapbooks, additional material added to the School of Agriculture records included textiles, such as crafted pennants, beanies, and a military uniform, as well as Commencement Programs, which have been scanned and are now available in the University Digital Conservancy.
It was in May of 1960, when the Board of Regents decided to absorb the School of Agriculture into a “four-quarter Technical Certificate Program in Agriculture in the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics” (4). However, sixty four years later, the students’ involvement and participation can now live on through the records found in the School of Agriculture records at the University of Minnesota Archive.
- Calendar, 1886-1887
- Catalogue, 1898-1899
- Bulletin, 1938
- University of Minnesota Board of Regents Minutes: May 12, 1960
—Katelyn Morken is the Research Services and Student Life Archivist for the University of Minnesota Archives. To learn more about the University of Minnesota Archives, please visit www.lib.umn.edu/uarchives.