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Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the federal Land-Grant Act, a watershed moment in American higher education. As a land-grant university, WVU will celebrate this sesquicentennial and the University’s unique mission and identity within West Virginia.

WVU’s celebration will begin Monday, September 12, 2011, with the inaugural C. Peter Magrath Lecture. The lecture will be delivered by Dr. Magrath, current president at Binghamton University, WVU interim president in 2008-09, president of the National Association of State Universities and Land-grant Colleges (now APLU) from 1992-2005, and president of the University of Minnesota and the University of Missouri System, both land-grant institutions. All are invited to this lecture, which will start at 7:30 p.m. in the Marlyn E. Lugar Courtroom at the WVU College of Law..

Other events will follow and more information will be forthcoming. If you have ideas for showcasing the various aspects of WVU’s land-grant identity, please send your suggestions to Jay Cole in the President’s Office at jay.cole@mail.wvu.edu or 304.293.8673.

In 1862, the U.S. Congress passed and President Abraham Lincoln signed the first Land-Grant Act (also known as the Morrill Act for its sponsor, Rep. Justin Morrill of Vermont). On October 3, 1863, the West Virginia Legislature voted to accept a grant of land totaling 150,000 acres from the federal government. Funds from the sale of this land were used to establish WVU in 1867.

The purpose of the Land-Grant Act was “the endowment, support, and maintenance of at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.”

In 1890, the second Morrill Land-Grant Act led to the creation of many of America’s historically black colleges and universities. Today, there are 76 land-grant universities that trace their beginnings back to the 1862 or 1890 Land-Grant Acts. These universities constitute the core membership of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU).

WVU is proud of its history as a land-grant university and remains dedicated to its land-grant mission of promoting access to higher education and applying research to meet the needs of West Virginians. The land-grant mission is at the core of WVU’s identity as a university, from the Extension Service and Engineering to Public History and Health Sciences. Every WVU college and unit, from Morgantown to Montgomery and Charleston to Potomac State, is an integral part of WVU’s land-grant past and future.