According to a recent impact study, Northwest Missouri State University directly impacts the regional economy and generates $617.5 million. That $617.5 million is equivalent to 9,465 jobs.
Maryville and Nodaway County were both founded in 1845. Sixty years later in 1905, a bill would be brought forth in the state legislature by James Lemon to create a school somewhere in Northwest Missouri with no exact location in mind.
The town with the biggest draw and attraction for a school would be where the school would be placed.
The town of Maryville had put in an offer to have the school, but a town south of Maryville called Savannah would put in a higher bid.
After considerations of the bids it was decided that Maryville would be the most suitable location because of the large amount of land that Maryville offered to put the school on.
On July 13, 1906, classes began in at the time what was called “Northwest Normal” in a former seminary building. “Northwest Normal” had plans to expand by building an academic hall and having teachers from 4-year colleges come to teach at the school.
The school would continue to be called Northwest Normal up until 1919.
A bachelor’s degree was eventually created by the president of Northwest Normal Ira Richardson that brought on a name change of the school.
In 1919 Northwest Normal would change its name to Northwest Missouri State Teachers College with more focus on academics. During the time of the Depression the school faced challenges with keeping the school running.
The president at the time of the Depression, Uel W. Lamkin, used funds from the Public Works Administration to build a new library and lab school to keep the school going.
In 1949 the name of the school would change again. The school would no longer be called Northwest Missouri State Teachers College and would be changed to Northwest Missouri State College, officially becoming a state college.
During the time of the college being called Northwest Missouri State College, a master’s of science in education would be offered in 1955. During this time the Union, Fine Arts Building, and Colden Hall were completed.
Then in 1972 Northwest Missouri State College would change its name to what everyone knows it today, Northwest Missouri State University. In 1972 Northwest would officially become a university, and from that time the campus would continue to grow.
In 1987, Northwest would be the first electronic campus program. Northwest became the first college in Missouri to win several Missouri Quality Awards, which Northwest was awarded in 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2008.
Today Northwest has its highest freshmen enrollment in years with 1,438 first-time freshmen, creating an 11 percent increase just in the freshman class over fall of 2014.
Current enrollment throughout the university is at an all-time high as well high, with 6,593 students enrolled with 5,618 undergrads and 975 grad students offering 127 majors and programs.
Northwest Missouri State University been a rich part of the history of Maryville.
How would the town of Maryville be different if the bill by Lemon had been decided differently? Would Savannah have a Kawasaki plant and a Wal-Mart? Would Maryville just be another small town in Nodaway County?
“Without the college here, Maryville would be so small and probably just another small farm town community” said junior Lexi Ryan.
Longtime residents agree.
“I’ve grown up in Maryville, and worked at Northwest for so long, so without there being a college here, I think Maryville would suffer,” said Northwest employee Sean Wiltrout.
Maryville is a community that many college students call home. Some of those who are employed at Northwest went to school here and have been around this community all their life.
Some employees attended school at Northwest, received their degrees, and have never left the community and raised their families here. Some employees have moved here from the outside to work at Northwest.
This isn’t the case in all communities. Some experience, the “Town and Gown Divide” where the college and local community don’t get along.
Certain places and businesses in the community are strictly where you will just see college students or community members. Maryville, however, sees little of this throughout the year.
“I think there is a small divide by some of the community, some seem to not want to be associated with the college,” said junior Laiya Smith.
But for most, Maryville and Northwest are one and the same.
“Northwest just seems like my second home; everyone is so welcoming” Ryan said.
There are differing opinions about Maryville being a “Town and Gown” divide phenomenon. Some see Maryville as having a small divide, while others see the community as welcoming, supportive, and place to call home.
Some college communities have major divides where college students feel unwelcome and as a nuisance. In Kirksville, the divide is so large it once spawned an entire article about it in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
However, one thing is certain, had Northwest not landed in Maryville, the city as many have known it never would have had a chance to grow.