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Northwest Missouri State University

Northwest History

PictureThomas Gaunt House

The Thomas Gaunt House, located on the south edge of campus, was constructed during the 1870s and has been the home to all Northwest presidents since the institution’s founding 1905. Gaunt purchased the tract on May 4, 1860, added an additional 19 acres on March 31, 1864, and by 1882, his holding had grown to 72 acres.

In 1905, his daughters donated the house and grounds for the proposed site of the new Maryville Fifth District Normal School. The home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

PictureAdministration Building

The four-story brick building was constructed in the Tudor Gothic or Collegiate Gothic style and opened Oct. 3, 1910, overcoming shifting legislation and appropriations that protracted the building’s construction for three years. With its limestone and terra cotta accents, the building stood as the campus’ sole academic building until 1959.

The building survived tornado damage in 1919 and a devastating fire in 1979 that erased its north wing theater. In 2010, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places and it stands today as an iconic symbol of the University’s perseverance and strength.


Although Mike the Dog served as an unofficial mascot during Northwest’s early years, the student body adopted the identity as Bearcats in 1916 after a basketball coach at Drury College in Springfield, Missouri, asked a Northwest coach whether his “fighting Bearcats” were ready to play.

The animal is characterized as a beast that is difficult to hold or capture, and early representations of the Bearcat varied from a realistic-looking cat to a creature resembling a bear. The first Bobby Bearcat costume was created by the art department in the early 1970s and made of fiberglass. A subsequent Bobby costume consisted of only a white felt head and mittens fashioned by a local Maryville seamstress. In the mid-to-late 1970s, Bobby paired with Betty "Roberta" Bearkitten. In the 1980s, Bobby received a makeover with a furry and more huggable costume made of yellow faux fur.

PictureThe Stroller

Having made his or her first appearance in 1918, The Stroller appears weekly in the student newspaper and remains preserved in anonymity. The Stroller offers observations and comments on campus and Maryville life.

PictureHomecoming and Walkout Day

Homecoming week is a time-honored tradition at Northwest that dates back to 1924 and culminates with a grand parade and football game. Other events include variety show performances, philanthropy activities, alumni gatherings, banner and decorating competitions, the election of Homecoming royalty, and the M-Club Hall of Fame induction.

On the Friday of Homecoming week, all classes are canceled and students participate in a variety of activities on the campus. The tradition dates back to Oct. 22, 1915, when students walked out of classes and declared the day an unscheduled holiday. Early Walkout Days featured all-school picnics and hikes. Link to

PictureRoberta Hall

Roberta Hall wasn't always a building that housed sororities or went by its current name. In its earlier incarnation, the structure was called Residence Hall and was the only women's residence hall on campus, and between 1942 and 1945, the building housed men enrolled in Northwest’s V-12 Navy officer’s training program.

On April 28, 1951, a gasoline storage tank  behind the building exploded, causing a fire. Thirty women were injured, four of them critically, including Roberta Steel. She died a year and a half later from her injuries, and her gentle, loving spirit is said to playfully haunt the building that honors her memory.

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PictureColden Pond

Originally referred to as Lamkin Lake, the pond was known as Lamkin's Folly during its early days because it did not retain water. After the problem was resolved, the pond was stocked with fish and became a pleasant oasis for the campus community. The pond and the surrounding landscape was renovated during the late 1990s and remains a popular spot for students today.

PictureKissing Bridge

According to Northwest lore, a freshman was not considered an official student “co-ed” if he or she had not been kissed on the Kissing Bridge by the first snowfall. The small rustic wood bridge is located on the south side of Colden Hall and suggests that it is a place for student romance to begin. Throughout its history, the bridge has become a destination for first dates, engagement proposals and the occasional wedding.

PictureBell of ’48

The class of 1948 gifted Northwest with a bronze memorial bell in honor of all soldiers who fought and died during World War II, especially those fallen soldiers who attended Northwest or who once lived in northwest Missouri. The bell heralds Northwest achievements and celebrations and mournfully chimes to honor the passing of students.

PictureAbraham Lincoln statue

The Abraham Lincoln statue has survived a gunshot by a night watchman in 1959 and the Administration Building fire on July 24, 1979. The statue sustained no permanent damage during the fire, and fireman battling the fire that night later recalled that the statue symbolized a bond of strength, protecting the firefighters and the rest of the building from the flames.

PictureMemorial Bell Tower

Centrally located on campus, the open-air Memorial Bell Tower is an iconic structure that was completed in 1971 to memorialize students, faculty and others who had served the country, including the military. The Bell Tower stands 100 feet tall and measures 25 feet in diameter. It also features brass memorial plaques and an electronic carillon that plays at morning, noon and night.

University President Robert Foster announced his plan to build the Bell Tower in 1965 and it was completed entirely with funds donated by University alumni and friends. In 2004, the Bell Tower underwent an extensive renovation that included structural repairs and improved handicapped accessibility.

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PictureFamily Weekend

Each fall, parents and families of Northwest students are invited to experience the Northwest campus while enjoying a weekend of entertainment, athletics and family fun. Events include family-friendly performers such as hypnotists, comedians and magicians and the annual Alumni Awards Banquet.

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PictureMissouri Arboretum

As the home of the Missouri Arboretum since 1993, the Northwest campus features more than 1,700 trees and more than 130 species. In the fall, Northwest plants a tree on the campus in honor of the freshman class.

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PictureAdvantage Week

First-time freshmen and transfer students move into their residence halls the Thursday before fall classes and begin to meet people, learn about the campus and adjust to their new environment. The week includes educational activities mixed with cultural presentations and fun entertainment for students. Advantage Week culminates on Sunday with a convocation and the March to the Tower, marking their entrance into Bearcat Nation.

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PictureJoyce and Harvey White International Plaza

The Joyce and Harvey White International Plaza has existed on the Northwest campus since the fall of 1998 as a tribute to Northwest students and alumni who have come to the University from other nations and as a reminder of the size and diversity of our world.

The Friday of Homecoming Week includes a flag-raising ceremony where Northwest students raise their nations’ flags.

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