Biographical / Historical
East Texas State Teachers College (ETSTC) was the name of the university now known as Texas A&M University–Commerce from its renaming as East Texas State Teachers College in 1923 (to define its purpose "more clearly") to its renaming as East Texas State College in 1957 (to recognize its broadening scope). During this era, ETSTC was led by four different presidents (Randolph B. Binnion, Samuel H. Whitley, A. C. Ferguson, and James Gilliam Gee), two of whom (Whitley and Gee) served for more than a decade. The ETSTC period was marked by increasing recognition, notably through obtaining membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) in 1925, as well as marked growth in its faculty, student enrollment, and physical plant. ETSTC grew from 65 faculty in 1925 to 132 in 1957, from approximately 1,000 students in 1925 to over 3,000 in 1958–59, and from six buildings valued at roughly $500,000 in the early 1920s to a physical plant valued at over $4 million in 1949.
While in the early 1920s ETSTC's faculty lacked advanced degrees and was relatively poorly compensated, by 1927 a majority of the faculty held degrees higher than bachelor's degrees and by 1957, 59 of its 132 faculty members held doctorates. All four ETSTC presidents exerted a marked conservative influence on the campus; during his presidency, for instance, Whitley disapproved of smoking and refused to hire married women. The ETSTC era also included the Great Depression, which witnessed a steep drop in enrollment and federal student aid principally from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) and the National Youth Administration (NYA), and World War II, which saw the campus host the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), and the Civilian Pilot Training Program, while 63 former students were killed in the conflict.
The post-World War II era at ETSTC was marked by a return to growth, in terms of the faculty, student enrollment, and physical plant alike. New dormitories and athletics buildings, including Memorial Stadium and the Field House, were built during this period.