Plymouth State College became Plymouth State University in 2003

Former President Donald P. Wharton and students celebrating the new Plymouth State University logo in 2004
Former President Donald P. Wharton and students celebrating the new Plymouth State University logo in 2004

Plymouth State is celebrating the 20th anniversary since it changed its name from Plymouth State College to Plymouth State University in 2003.

At the start of the fall semester, a social gathering on campus marked the historic event. Attendees viewed memorabilia from the different eras of the institution’s history from the Michael J. Spinelli Center for University Archives and Special Collections.

“Plymouth State University is a storied institution that has grown and redefined itself multiple times over its 152-year history. It is important to look back during milestones like this one to see how far we’ve come, and to take pride in our unwavering academic mission,” said President Donald L. Birx. “Our ability to evolve and adopt forward-thinking, structural reforms such as PSU’s unique Cluster Learning Model is what enables us to set the standard for higher education and create a practical training ground for the 21st century workforce and the problem-solving minds of the next generation. It’s about more than just a name; it’s about putting students at the center of learning.”

PSU campus in the 1970s
The former Plymouth State College sign at the campus circa 1970. The institution changed its name to Plymouth State University in 2003 and is celebrating the 20th anniversary of that historic moment this year.

On July 17, 2003, the New Hampshire legislature passed Senate Bill 113, which formally changed the public university’s name. The legislation took effect on August 16, 2003. This followed a process that began in 2001, with study and input from students, parents, faculty, and staff. In April 2002, the then Plymouth State College president, Donald P. Wharton, petitioned the University System of New Hampshire (USNH) Board of Trustees to allow a name change, and six months later the USNH board unanimously approved the proposal.

The school was already one of the few colleges at the time that met the criteria of the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education to be considered a university. The name change was sought to reflect and recognize the growth of Plymouth State and its graduate programs, to better position it to compete more effectively in the higher education marketplace, and to provide a better value for the degrees graduates earned from the institution.

The current name is the fourth name the institution has had since it was founded as Plymouth Normal School in 1871. Its name changed to Plymouth Teachers College in 1939, and later to Plymouth State College in 1963.