The General Assembly of Maryland established what would eventually become Towson University in 1865, with the allocation of funds directed toward Maryland’s first teacher-training school, or then called "normal school" (term used from a new French tradition). On January 15, 1866, this institution, known then as the "Maryland State Normal School" (M.S.N.S.), officially opened its doors as part of the substantial modern educational reforms prescribed by the Unionist/Radical Republican Party-dominated Maryland Constitution of 1864 of the Civil War-era state government, which provided for a new state superintendent of public instruction and a Board of Education to be appointed to advise and supervise the counties, in addition to the already progressive public educational system previously established in 1829 in Baltimore City. Located then at Red Man's Hall on North Paca Street in Baltimore, the new teachers' school originally enrolled eleven students and fostered three faculty members. McFadden Alexander Newell served as the school's first principal as well as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and oversaw the first graduating class of sixteen students in June 1866.
As time passed, the enrollment in the school grew exponentially. The State Normal School soon quickly outgrew its temporary facilities in Red Man's Hall on Paca Street and moved to another temporary location in 1873 on the northeast corner of North Charles and East Franklin Streets, in the former William Howard Greek Revival mansion (son of famous American Revolutionary War Col. John Eager Howard of the famous "Maryland Line" in the Continental Army who owned most of the land north of Baltimore Town as his estate of "Belvidere" or "Howard's Woods"), and his family was now starting to develop and lay out city streets. The landmark mansion, (across the street from the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore), which later was known as the Union Club by 1863 and later became the Athenaeum Club. The following year, the General Assembly appropriated money to construct an exclusive building to house the burgeoning school. In 1876, the Normal School moved its faculty and 206 students to this new landmark facility located in West Baltimore facing Lafayette Square on Carrollton and Lafayette Avenues.
The demand for qualified teachers became overwhelming by the turn of the century. The Maryland Department of Education reported an annual need for 350 new teachers, but the Maryland State Normal School was graduating fewer than 100. The facilities in West Baltimore were now inadequate to meet state demands. Principal Sarah Richmond, one of the original eleven graduates, began a campaign to establish a campus where the school could function more appropriately. In 1910, the General Assembly formed a committee to oversee site selection, budget, and design plans for the new campus. John Charles Linthicum was appointed president of the committee, alongside State Superintendent Dr. M. Bates Stephens and Sarah Richmond. The committee surveyed locations at Roland Park, Lutherville-Timonium, Mount Washington, Pimlico, Glencoe, and many other areas. Eventually, the committee settled on an 80-acre (320,000 m2) site in Towson and the General Assembly financed the $600,000 move in 1912. Construction began in 1913 on the Administration Building, now known as Stephens Hall. In September 1915, the new campus, comprising Stephens Hall, Newell Hall, and the power plant, began classes.
In 1934, the state decreed that new public school teachers must have baccalaureate degrees instead of two-year teaching certificates, and the school retooled its curriculum to issue Bachelor of Science degrees. The following year, the school changed its name to Maryland State Teachers College at Towson. As the name implied, the college's single purpose was to train teachers. In 1946, however, the institution established a junior college to offer two years of college work on a transfer basis. This expansion laid the foundation of what was later to become the art and sciences program. In 1958, the college offered its first graduate program leading to a Master of Education degree. In 1960, the college expanded the art and science programs into four-year courses and began awarding bachelor's degrees in these fields. Due to this change in focus, the name changed once more to Towson State College.
Beginning in 1964, the college enrollment rates began a dramatic increase as the baby boomer generation began applying to colleges. Within a decade, Towson State's enrollment climbed from 3,537 to 13,399. This expansion led to the construction of the Center for the Arts, University Union, Cook Library, and many other new facilities. Under the presidency of James L. Fisher, the college expanded the courses offered to meet the demands of the growing student body. In 1976, the school's name changed again to Towson State University. In 1988, TU joined 10 other public institutions in the newly created University System of Maryland. On July 1, 1997, another name change took effect. Towson dropped the designation "state" from its name and became Towson University. The new name recognized shifts in funding and the development and growth of Towson as a metropolitan university.
Towson University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and the Maryland State Department of Education. For the Fall 2010 freshmen class, Towson accepted about 57% of their applicants. The average grade point average was a 3.45 and the middle 50% of matriculating students had ACT composite scores between 21-25. Towson educates undergraduate and graduate students in thirty academic departments which are subdivided into eight colleges:
The university provides 64 undergraduate majors, 37 master's degree programs and 4 doctoral programs. Once students have determined a program of study, they become a member of the academic college administering the program.
Towson's gerontology program is one of only 100 such undergraduate programs offered in the United States. It is also the only public university in the United States that offers an undergraduate degree in e-Business.
More than 20,000 full-time and part-time students are enrolled in the University. Their numbers include over 800 international students from 100 nations. There are more than 17,000 undergraduates; approximately 32% are non-white. Also, in 2006 Towson achieved more enrollment in its business school than any college in the state of Maryland.
About 77% of the freshman class, and over 4,800 students among all four classes, reside on campus. The University has 15 residence halls, which include apartment complexes, modern high-rise towers, and more traditional two- and three-story residential buildings. Students can also choose from 10 Residential Learning Communities While on campus, students have access to a counseling center, an academic advising center, a health center, and a career center.
Students get access to their meal plan, dorm buildings, and computer labs through the use of their OneCard. They can also go to all of the school sporting events (which are many times free of charge to students) and several on campus events with the use of their card. It also serves dually as identification on campus.
TU has its own on campus shuttle system that operates free of charge to students. The on-campus shuttle travels to most sections of the school, while the off-campus shuttles travel to housing complexes (The Fairways at Towson, University Village, The Colony, Donnybrook) that students live in that are on the outskirts of the campus. There is also direct access to the MTA Maryland buses with services connecting to the light rail.
Towson Unplugged is one of the largest wireless networks in the Baltimore metro area, and provides Wi-Fi connection points in the including residence halls and academic and administrative buildings. It also is a member of Eduroam, allowing authenticated roaming access to users from all affiliated institutions.
The Towson University Police Department (TUPD) is the primary law enforcement agency servicing the students, faculty, and visitors within the campus limits and adjacent streets and roadways. The TUPD is aided by the Baltimore County Police Department as directed by authority. The current chief of police is Bernard Gerst. The TUPD is divided into several units such as the Patrol Unit and the Community Crime Reduction Unit. It also includes emergency communications.
As a response to the University System of Maryland’s (USM) desire for Towson University to grow its enrollment, a new Campus Master Plan was developed for the university and approved by the USM, Board of Regents in December 2003. The university found that in the past, it has been guided by master plans that focused inward, resulting in disjointed campus development that was disconnected from the larger Towson community.
The resulting vision, called TU:2010. addresses both University System of Maryland requirements and community concerns. It contains over 70 specific initiatives that range from growing diversity to increasing student involvement in service learning projects. Perhaps its most visible development is the creation of academic and student life buildings, as well as roads, parking, utilities, and landscapes to support those buildings.
As part of this vision, Towson's campus is undergoing many construction projects set into different phases with staggered completion dates.
Completed Construction Projects
Towson University is committed to social and environmental responsibility. The school is achieving this goal by promoting recycling initiatives and green dining. Students partake in “Trayless Tuesdays” and receive incentives for using reusable mugs. Sustainability has also been incorporated into first year orientation so that students can begin a dialogue on environmental stewardship in their daily lives. Towson looks forward to having its initiatives analyzed for the 2010 College Sustainability Report Card.
The Towson Tigers, formerly the Towson College Knights, are the athletics teams of Towson University. All of the major athletic teams compete in the Colonial Athletic Association with 20 Division I athletic teams (13 in women's sports, 7 in men's sports).
Under the leadership of President Bob Caret the University placed a greater emphasis on the athletics program. In September 2010 Caret hired a new Director of Athletics, Michael P. Waddell, who has significant program building experience at the highest levels of college sports. Waddell left Towson in 2013 and was replaced by Tim Leonard.
Towson University offers the most comprehensive sports program in the metropolitan Baltimore area, fielding 20 varsity teams that compete in the Colonial Athletic Association. Since joining the league in 2001-02, the Tigers have won CAA titles in men’s and women’s lacrosse, women’s swimming, men’s soccer, men’s golf, baseball, and football. During an athletics history that traces its roots to the 1920s, Towson has sent teams and individual student-athletes to NCAA post-season competition in baseball, basketball, football, golf, gymnastics, lacrosse, soccer, swimming, track & field and volleyball.
Tiger student-athletes have distinguished themselves in the classroom as well as on the field of competition. Eleven Tigers have been named CAA Scholar-Athlete Award Winners for their respective sports, including the 2010 cross country recipient, Brandi Gervais, a senior Biology/Pre-Dentistry Major with a perfect 4.0 GPA. A number of student-athletes have gone on to enjoy professional careers, including most recently Jermon Bushrod, the starting left offensive tackle for the 2010 Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints and now the Chicago Bears; outfielder Casper Wells now with the Philadelphia Phillies; and shooting guard Gary Neal with the Milwaukee Bucks. Saint's Associate head coach Joe Vitt is also a prominent alumnus as well as a major contributor to the Athletics Department. Current Atlanta Braves' President John Schuerholz is also a Towson alumnus and a member of the school's Board of Visitors.
Before the 1960s, the name of the sports teams at Towson were known as the "Towson College Knights". Towson student John Schuerholz pushed for a new mascot, and the tiger was officially adopted in 1962. Schuerholz later became general manager of the Atlanta Braves and is the team's president as of 2008. The university's present baseball complex is named in his honor.
According to school newspaper The Towerlight, when the Student Government Association first bought the tiger statue that sits outside Cook Library in 1996, the organization hoped to boost school spirit. Instead, it became subject to vandalism and disrepair. In March 2006, after several acts of vandalism, the statue was completely removed from in front of the library.
In September 2006, the Towerlight reported that a new bronze tiger statue had been unveiled as the centerpiece of the university's "Capital Campaign" to raise $50 million. The primary difference between the new statue and previous one is that the new one is made of bronze and all of the legs are on the ground and the tail is wrapped around its legs rather than raised, so it won't get damaged by vandals.
The new statue is outside Stephens Hall and was unveiled on February 8, 2007 where Caret said it would be "visible to passersby on York Road as well as students".
Tigerfest is TU's annual spring festival that features interactive activities for students, as well as live musical entertainment. Tigerfest, which is also open to the public (not just TU students), occurs in late April and was held in Johnny Unitas Stadium for most of the event's history. Starting in 2014, the event was moved to Towson's brand new basketball arena, SECU Arena. Also beginning in 2014 was the festival being held over two days. Day one features events and games on campus, while day two is centered around a concert. Artists such as Third Eye Blind, Dashboard Confessional, Krewella, Kid Cudi, The Used, and Yellowcard have appeared at Tigerfest in the past.
Towson University, Maryland’s Metropolitan University, is committed to addressing education, economic development and broad social issues. To further Towson’s role as a premier metropolitan university, the Division of Economic and Community Outreach (DECO) was established in 2004 as an initiative of President Robert L. Caret. DECO’s charge is to provide a focus for engagement with the external community and to provide a path into the university's research and project talent. DECO includes over 130 experts in the following areas: IT Solutions, Mapping Solutions (GIS), Technical Training, Applied Economics and Human Services, Information Assurance, and Business Growth.
The initiative is a partnership among the Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore City government, Towson University and Cherry Hill's community organizations. Together, the programs are trying to rebuild the Cherry Hill neighborhood in southern Baltimore. The program interacts with Cherry Hill’s civic leaders, community organizations and citizens, the Learning Zone hopes to serve as a resource for the academic progress of Cherry Hill’s young residents and improvement of the overall environment in the community.
The Towson Speech and Debate team has close ties with the Baltimore Urban Debate League and often volunteers people from the team and the university to judge and facilitate the running of the tournaments.
The university often acts as a host for league tournaments at least once a year.
Towson also has what they call an Urban Debate Scholar award that they give to one graduating senior every year. The scholarship pays for full tuition and fees at TU. They also offer varying awards between $2,000 - $4,000 to other graduating seniors.
Former President Caret established a program called Adopt-A-Campus, which gives local businesses, organizations and others an opportunity to help beautify the TU campus. Every group is assigned a certain section of the campus, and will be encouraged to pick up litter and help keep the area clean of trash and debris.
The school newspaper, The Towerlight, announced that in February 2008, the school administration was planning to implement a "Free Speech Policy". The policy defines several things that would be considered free speech, and that students would be restricted to where they could assemble and have demonstrations or protests. This has caused serious backlash from the students, and has solicited various protests on campus and vocal dissent from the Student Government Association as well. Jenny Haley, the SGA president at the time, said the policy was not discussed nor negotiated with the SGA and that she feels it is a mistake to exclude students from the decision making process. It was also noted that during a meeting with the administration to discuss the policy, several administrators said that the only input initially solicited from students for the Free Speech policy was from a committee called the Student Leadership Council that consists of student leaders who are in charge of large student groups. Several of the students contested that not only did they not know who was on this committee, but that most of them did not even know that kind of committee even existed.
The administration has reworked the policy and named it the Time, Place and Manner policy.