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Morrill Act Celebrates 150th Anniversary

Please copy this text and paste it into your newsletters, emails, and other communications with your members and stakeholders. Thank you, Dan Bernardo

On July 2, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act, one of the most important pieces of legislation in the history of American agriculture. The act created the land-grant university system and stipulated that these colleges would emphasize teaching and research in the practical arts — agriculture, science and engineering. It also required that they would be accessible to the public. That concept alone was revolutionary, given that up to that point higher education had focused more on the liberal arts and accessibility was limited primarily to the upper class. Of course, out of the land-grant system evolved the agricultural research and extension programs that catalyzed the most productive food and agricultural system the world has ever known.

Consider the context of President Lincoln’s decision to take that bold step. It was July 1862. Civil war had raged within our country’s borders for nearly 18 months. Thousands had been killed, even more wounded. Homes, crops and businesses had been destroyed. Commerce in country and out had been disrupted. We were a nation divided, and, there was no end in sight.

President Lincoln was killed before he saw that hope realized, and yet, the robust and resilient network of land‑ grant colleges and universities serving in the United States today is testimony to the wisdom of his vision. Land‑ grant institutions such as Washington State University continue to provide quality, accessible education to students of all walks of life, and our scientists continue to generate new knowledge and research in agriculture, engineering and science. Our Extension educators — located in each of Washington’s 39 counties — continue to test, apply and deliver that knowledge into the hands of those who need it most.

Providing the general public with access to the latest scientific knowledge and education has helped to shape our nation. The Morrill Act empowered the American people with the tools and technological advances they needed to prosper 150 years ago, and continues to do so today. We at Washington State University are very proud of our land‑ grant roots and honored to serve our state, nation and world. We want to take this opportunity to thank all of the agricultural producers in our state for their unyielding support of WSU and its agricultural programs. Because of your support, the land-grant tradition is alive and well in our state.

To celebrate this historic event, we will be holding a celebration on Saturday, September 22. Plan to attend our pre-game tailgate barbecue and watch the new-look Cougars take on the Colorado Buffalos. A block of 400 game tickets has been secured. Get tickets here »