Historical and contemporary images and prose reflect on institution
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – In 1808, Revolutionary War veteran Col. Samuel Holmes gave $500 towards the establishment of what became Holmes Plymouth Academy. Several other schools followed on the site until 1871, when Plymouth Normal School, now Plymouth State University, was established.
A newly released book celebrates the many accomplishments and people who have molded what is today Plymouth State University into a hallmark of educational excellence. The book combines more than 200 historical and current images to the tell story of the University’s past and present.
PSU Professors Marcia Schmidt Blaine and Louise McCormack researched and wrote the historical text.
“What do the citizens of the State of New Hampshire need in higher education,” Schmidt Blaine and McCormack ask in their opening paragraph. “Genuine engagement, a close relationship between students and their faculty, service to the state and the world, cooperative works with local communities and international partners, and a vision for the future.”
These “answers,” they write, have guided Plymouth State throughout its history.
“In this book, past and present combine to offer a sense of the innovation and commitment to students that are characteristic of Plymouth State,” says Plymouth State President Sara Jayne Steen. “The University is a wonderful place.”
Schmidt Blaine and McCormack are both familiar with the history of the Plymouth area. Schmidt Blaine, a historian, works closely with the University’s Museum of the White Mountains, and authored the catalogue on the recent exhibition of North Country paintings. McCormack is responsible for a collection memorabilia from the Draper and Maynard sporting goods company whose former Main Street Plymouth headquarters now house the Art and the Health and Human Performance departments. She is also a member of the Samaha family, owners of a Main Street store for generations.
The PSU story begins in 1808 with the founding of Holmes Plymouth Academy “for teaching and instructing youth.” The Academy closed in 1840, and a succession of schools and seminaries used the buildings.
In the late 1860’s, with the State of New Hampshire needing more and better trained school teachers, the legislature, in 1870, called for the creation of a state “normal school.” Several towns vied for the honor of hosting the school, but Plymouth’s proposal of using the former Academy buildings plus the additional sums raised from the town, its citizens and the railroad won over the legislature. The New Hampshire State Normal School at Plymouth opened in 1871, became Plymouth Teachers College in 1939, Plymouth State College in 1963, and Plymouth State University in 2003.
Blaine and McCormack also write about the changes in campus life. They discovered a note in the 1916 Normal School catalog stating that “serious life demands its recreations and variety. … One hour a week is required of all for physical training.” Dinners in Mary Lyon Hall in the 1920s were “sit-down affairs with tablecloths and servers,” and each fall on “Mountain Day,” Normal School students would climb Mt. Stinson or Mt. Moosilauke. By the 1960’s and 1970’s, students began working with administrators to have a greater say in campus life, including the privilege of not having to sign in and out of their residence halls.
While names familiar to Plymouth State are scattered throughout the book – such as Samuel Read Hall, Charles Rounds, and Herbert Lamson – the story of the present day University is told using pictures instead of words. These photographs occupy more than 100 pages, and depict the University’s present-day student body, academic environment and campus life. Many images are presented for the first time. Arranged in sections from classroom teaching to research, athletics to arts, and several pages highlighting the beauty of the campus and its surroundings, the photos offer readers a glimpse of a vibrant Plymouth State of today.
In addition to Schmidt Blaine and McCormack, other staff members contributed to the book. Barbra Alan served as editor and Lisa Prince designed the layout and coordinated printing. Both work in the University’s Office of Public Relations. Other staff members are also listed as contributing photographers.
The book Plymouth State University is available for preview at go.plymouth.edu/photo-book, along with information for ordering online. Copies are also available for purchase in the Plymouth State University Bookstore, located in the Hartman Union Building.