Arizona State University

By Kristy McCaffrey
In 1886, the Arizona Territory offered a less-than-ideal educational environment. The Pleasant Valley War between competing cattle rustling gangs was in full swing and wouldn’t end until six years later in a fatal gunfight in the town of Tempe. Despite this, however, Tempe—with the burgeoning towns of Phoenix and Mesa nearby—would become home to the Arizona Territorial Normal School.
The school was opened on February 8, 1886 on a 20-acre cow pasture that belonged to George and Martha Wilson. The institution began with a four-classroom building, a well, and an outhouse to instruct the first 33 students. These young men and women arrived on horseback—some having ridden for miles from Mesa or tiny farming communities even farther away—and, in addition to their studies, would need to rent a room with a local family during their enrollment.
Teddy Roosevelt visits Old Main at Arizona State University
March 20, 1911
The Normal School was charged to provide “instruction of persons, both male and female, in the art of teaching, and in all the various branches that pertain to a good common school education; also, to give instruction in the mechanical arts and in husbandry and agricultural chemistry, in the fundamental law of the United States, and in what regards the rights and duties of citizens.”
Charles Trumbull Hayden
The idea for a school of higher education was spearheaded by two men, Charles T. Hayden and John S. Armstrong. Arizona Territory was struggling to achieve statehood but the national press loved to print stories of the lawlessness present. It was Hayden who sought to civilize the place with education and culture.
Today, Arizona State University is a sprawling multi-campus school with over 71,000 students and covers more than 1,500 acres in metro Phoenix.

Kristy McCaffrey is an alumni of Arizona State, along with her husband, mother, father, and two uncles. Her oldest son currently attends. As a newly-married couple, Kristy and her husband named their dog Sparky after the ASU mascot.

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