Plymouth State University Marks 150th Anniversary with Founders Day Event

State leaders and notable alumni recognize the University’s history and contributions to New Hampshire

Plymouth State University (PSU) marked the 150th Anniversary of its founding with a virtual celebration earlier today that featured the reading of a commendation by New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, remarks from notable alumni and state legislators, recognition of alumni and the sealing of a time capsule. The event kicked-off appropriately at 1:50 p.m.

Founders Day marks the date in 1871 when the New Hampshire State Normal School in Plymouth welcomed its inaugural class. In 1939, New Hampshire’s legislature officially recognized the school’s increased stature with a new name, Plymouth Teachers College, which was among the first in New England to be accredited. The name was further revised in 1963 to Plymouth State College of the University System of New Hampshire, and became Plymouth State University in 2003.

In pre-recorded remarks, Governor Sununu commended Plymouth State University on this significant milestone.

“Plymouth State University is a visionary institution at the hub of an ever-growing creative community where students, faculty, staff and alumni are actively transforming themselves and the region, where ideas and solutions for a connected world and New Hampshire’s future leaders are developed through the university’s interdisciplinary Integrated Clusters learning model, and through entrepreneurial, innovative and experiential learning,” noted Governor Sununu.

Recognizing that a fundamental redesign was needed to better prepare graduates for the needs of today’s marketplace, Plymouth State began a transformation in 2015 that continues to evolve. PSU’s Integrated Clusters learning model reorganized 24 departments and three colleges into seven interdisciplinary clusters – a flexible, efficient, and responsive version of higher education for the twenty-first century. The model is based on problem solving, integrative thinking, teamwork and an entrepreneurial spirit with students.

“From the beginning, Plymouth has been a place of purpose, learning and service, focused on enhancing society and opening doors of opportunity. It’s an incredible story of commitment that we can all take great pride in. We should not miss though that PSU has faced periods of enormous challenge from its very beginning, but these have served to make it stronger,” noted PSU President Donald Birx, Ph.D., in his welcome remarks. “Those looking back on this period of history will recognize that we grappled with the pandemic and economic downturn, shortcomings in justice and equity, and national tensions, yet we responded with all of our strength and ingenuity to provide students with a safe harbor to consider these and other consequential issues.”

Recent examples of PSU’s strategic vision include the introduction of a “4+1” accelerated Master of Business Administration program; a “3+2” accelerated Master of Exercise and Sport Physiology program; a Bachelor of Climate Studies program, which is the first of its kind in New Hampshire, and one of only a few in the country; as well as new programs in robotics, public health, computational and applied mathematics and others.

PSU’s newest open laboratory, Draper & Maynard Makerspace, provides students opportunities to work with cutting-edge technology across the entire spectrum of additive manufacturing and design. The facility quickly pivoted in spring 2020 to produce necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) for area healthcare providers, as well as components for ventilators.

In 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported that Plymouth State ranked first among public colleges and universities across the country for its ability to improve students’ critical thinking abilities.

“‘Going beyond’ is an imperative that applies not only to students, but to the University as a whole,” said Birx. “What was set in motion a century and a half ago is an on-going story. Our well-established ability to innovate, first as a leader in education and then in many other fields, is what has sustained Plymouth State over so many years and what will continue to keep us vital in the years to come.”

In addition to the Governor’s proclamation, PSU’s Founders Day celebration also featured tributes from Senator Chuck Morse (PSU ’84) and Representative Matt Wilhelm (PSU ’04) and the presentation of a new time capsule by PSU Student Body President Avery Jones (PSU ’21) of Dover, New Hampshire, a first-generation college student. The time capsule containing mementos and artifacts from 2021, including a face mask, a copy of Plymouth Magazine, a PSU water bottle and ‘First Fire’ mug, and a 2021 class schedule will be sealed until the University’s 175th anniversary in 2046.

“I knew that Plymouth State had opportunities that I needed to take advantage of,” said Jones. “I have grown as an individual here. I know that once I am able to, I will give back to Plymouth State in the same way it has given to me.”

PSU also honored University System of New Hampshire Trustee Wally Stevens (PSU ’62) and Meredith Stevens (PSU ’62) with the R.E. Collins Philanthropy Medal for their commitment, service and contributions to Plymouth State, and Professor Emerita Bonnie Breen-Wagner (PSU ’72,’74 MEd) received the inaugural Employee Philanthropy Award, which will be named in her honor for her generous support of students and the University.

Today’s Founders Day event is one of several special events and activities planned for 2021 to celebrate PSU’s 150th Anniversary. In February, the Museum of the White Mountains at Plymouth State University opened a three dimensional exhibit at the Silver Center for the Arts which includes images and artifacts highlighting the University’s sense of place and contributions over the generations. The exhibit “Plymouth State in 150 Objects,” can be viewed online.

A brief video recap of today’s Founders Day event is available here:

A video recording of the entire Founders Day event can be viewed here:

For more information about PSU’s 150th Anniversary events and activities, please visit