Oklahoma State University was founded on December 25, 1890, as Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College, just twenty months after the Land Run of 1889. When the first students assembled for class on December 14, 1891, there were no buildings, no books, and no curriculum.
In 1894, two and one-half years after classes began in local churches, 144 students moved into the first academic building, later known as Old Central, on the southeast corner of campus. In 1896, Oklahoma A&M; held its first commencement with six male graduates.
On July 1, 1957, Oklahoma A&M College officially became Oklahoma State University. Technical branches were established in Okmulgee in 1946 and in Oklahoma City in 1961, later renamed OSU-Okmulgee and OSU-Oklahoma City in 1990. In July of 1988, the Oklahoma College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery became the College of Osteopathic Medicine of OSU.
Land Grant Universities
The purpose of the land grant college was to make college education more accessible to the common man. In the early to mid 1800’s only the elite could afford an advanced education, but all of that began to change in 1857 wit h Vermont Congressman Justin Morrill. Morrill introduced the “College Land Bill” to Congress which eventually became the Morrill Act of 1862. This Act gave each state a grant of 30,000 acres of public land for each member of congress in that state. The states then sold the land and used the money to institute colleges in engineering, agriculture and military science.
Other provisions of the original Morrill Act include the Hatch Act of 1887, The Second Morrill Act of 1890 and the Smith-Lever Act of 1914. The Hatch Act of 1887 authorized federal funding for agricultural experiment stations connected to each land grant university. The Second Morrill Act of 1890 required each state to show that race was not a criteria for admission, or to designate a separate land grant institution for persons of color. The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 established a system of cooperative extension services connected to the land grant universities in order to inform people about modern improvements in economics, agriculture, home economics and related areas.
OSU’s colors were the first chosen in the late 1890’s. The selection of orange and black was a tribute to a popular faculty member whose father was a Princeton graduate. Students adopted Princeton’s orange and black colors and some of the school's first athletic teams were even referred to as the “Tigers” in the early 1900’s.
A tradition was born in the early 1920’s when OSU (then Oklahoma A&M College) began searching for a new mascot. The true roots of Pistol Pete go back more than a century ago. Pistol Pete is more than a character, he is a legend.
The character of OSU’s mascot, Pistol Pete, originated from an actual person named Frank B. Eaton. Eaton’s life began in 1860 in Hartford, Connecticut. Soon after his birth, Eaton and his family moved to Kansas shortly after the Civil War.
Eaton's life would take a dramatic turn at the age of eight when he witnessed the murder of his father by six vigilantes. From that moment on, Eaton was determined to even the score. He practiced his marksmanship until the age of 15, when he set out to search for his father’s killers. It took Eaton more than five years to track down and kill the men who had taken his father away, forever changing the course of his life.
The title of “cowboy” came naturally to Eaton as indicated in the roles in which he served throughout his life. Frank B. Eaton was given the nickname of “Pistol Pete” after beating out many cavalry competitors in a marksmanship contest at Ft. Gibson. He served as a U.S. Deputy Marshall under “hanging judge” Isaac Parker. Later in his life Eaton owned a blacksmith shop which served the surrounding communities.
In the 1920’S, Eaton was involved in the Armistice Day Parade and OSU’s Homecoming Parade. This well known and admired cowboy died in 1958. That same year Charlie Lester appeared as OSU’s first Pistol Pete mascot. Where Frank B. Eaton served as a strong symbol of the Old West then, “Pistol Pete” serves as a symbol of the cowboy spirit now and forever.
The Spirit Rider
The Spirit Rider Statue is a symbol of pride that stands as a tribute to the Spirit Rider who rallies fans on football game days and to the spirit of the Old West on which OSU was founded. Sculpted by world-renowned American West artist Jim Hamilton, the piece was commissioned by the OSU Foundation and installed on campus in 1994.
The Spirit Rider became the unofficial emblem of Oklahoma State following the January 2001 plane crash claiming the lives of 10 cowboys affiliated with the men's basketball program. Flowers, cards, thoughts and prayers surround this strong symbol of campus, bringing the OSU family even closer together. The strength and spirit of the university were celebrated nationwide in March of 2004 when the Spirit Rider served as a backdrop for the launching of ESPNU. The Spirit Rider is a visual testament of the traditions, history and heart of the cowboy; loyal and true.
Songs, Hymns and Chants
“Proud and Immortal,” Oklahoma State University’s Alma Mater was written by Robert McCulloh in 1957. In addition, OSU’s spirit songs include the "Waving Song," adapted from the song “In Old New York” from the 1906 operetta The Red Mill, and the perennial favorite, "Ride ‘Em Cowboys."
To listen to all the OSU songs performed by the Cowboy Marching Band, click here.
Proud and immortal, bright shines your name;
Oklahoma State, we herald your fame!
Ever you’ll find us, loyal and true;
To our Alma Mater, O-S-U!
Oklahoma State! Okahoma State!
We'll sing your praise tonight;
To let you know where e're we go,
For the Orange and Black we'll fight
We'll sing your worth o'er all the Earth
And shout: Ki Yi! Ki Ye!
In books of fame we'll write your name,
Ride 'Em Cowboys
Ride, ride, ride, ride,
Ride 'em Cowboys,
Right down the field;
Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!
Fight 'em Cowboys, and never yield.
Ride, ride, ride, ride,
Ride on, Cowboys, to victory;
Cross (opponent)'s goal;
Then we'll sing "O-kla-homa State!"
Go! Go! Go Pokes! Go Pokes! Go Pokes! Go!
O! S! U!
OSU, the greatest in the nation!
OSU, the team that's got the go spirit and the will to win.
Make a score and we'll shout, "Beat (opponent)!"
OSU, it's orange and black we're cheering on to victory today, and so we'll say:
O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A! STATE! Univer-si-ty!
The first Oklahoma A&M College Band was organized in 1905 by an A&M student. It consisted of 22 members who provided their own instruments, music and uniforms. Originally, only men were allowed to play in the band. By 1936, women were in every section of the concert band were not allowed to march. In 1946, a marching band for girls formed, and in 1955 the two bands were combined into one "Aggie Band." Today's OSU band program consists of multiple bands with more than 400 participants.
The pond used at the turn of the century to water the college work animals eventually took its name from the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, then located nearby. Theta Pond has witnessed many “memorable” moments. Freshmen were often thrown into the pond, as were students who became “pinned” or engaged. In the early years, classes and colleges held tug-of-war competitions across the pond, with the losers getting a dunking!
Edmon Low Library
When one thinks of OSU symbols of academia, scholarship and orange pride come to mind. In the heart of the OSU campus is the Edmon Low library which was completed in 1953. Before the Edmon Low building was established, OSU’s library was housed in Old Central in 1894, the Williams Building in 1901 and the Library Building in 1921.
Named after former library director Edmon Low, the library continues to be one of the top 100 academic research libraries in the U.S. In 2003, the library celebrated its 50th anniversary with the theme: “That was then….This is Now”. The Edmon Low library has progressed with the times to include additional services, collections and advances in technology. To view the library's website, click here.
OSU has a proud tradition of excellence in athletics. Track became the first organized sport at OAMC, with women’s basketball second. Today, OSU participates in 17 intercollegiate sports and holds an impressive 50 NCAA titles, ranking fourth in the number of NCAA Championships won by a university.
Bedlam, also known as the oldest football rivalry between two state teams, began in 1904 between the Sooners and the Cowboys. The tradition of the Bedlam bell clapper was born in 1917 when OSU and the University of Oklahoma met in Oklahoma City, and the "Aggies" caused an upset over the Sooners, 9-0. That night the bell in the tower of Old Central rang out across Stillwater announcing the victory over the Sooners. By the time the fans who had attended the game arrived back in town, the townspeople and students still in town had started a torch-light parade.
All night the Old Central bell rang with a student relay pulling the bell rope. OU students stole the clapper from the bell tower during the Bedlam game of 1932; however, Cowboy spirit prevailed and the bell still rang out using a sledge hammer announcing OSU's victory over the Sooners. OSU students later stole the clapper back, but OU claimed it to be the wrong one- a clapper from a Norman church. In 1966, a compromise was made and the bell clapper that once hung in the bell of Old Central became the symbolic trophy in the Bedlam Game. The tradition of the Bell Clapper continues today but in a different form- a crystal bell given to the winning school of the Bedlam series.
Class Ring Tradition
Graduates owning an Official OSU Class Ring take a tangible symbol with them wherever they go, and can easily recognize each other as fellow graduates. The ring, the only one authorized by Oklahoma State University, is copyrighted to protect it from duplication. The ring can only be purchased by graduates of OSU or by students who have completed at least 60 hours and have achieved junior or senior standing. Click here to go to the Official OSU Class Ring page.