Established by legislative act in 1903 as Western State Normal School, the first classes were held in 1904. The first permanent building,
completed in 1905, overlooked the city from Prospect Hill. By the 1920's Western had become one of America's leading teachers' colleges. Starting in 1934 general degree work was offered. An expansion program on the west campus began in 1944. Increasing enrollment and the addition of new departments and courses during the 1940's and 1950's made Western a multi-purpose institution and led to is designation as a university by an act of the legislature in 1957.