Appalachian State University

Written By Jonathan Martin

In 1899, two brothers, natives of the western mountains of North Carolina, opened Watagua Academy, the precursor of Appalachian State University. Blanford and Dauphin Dougherty established the Watauga Academy in Boone, North Carolina, with the initial plan of preparing students to teach in western North Carolina schools. Shortly after the school was opened, Watauga Academy was chartered by the General Assembly in 1903.

After the academy became a charter school, the school’s name changed to the Appalachian Training School for Teachers. Dauphin served as president of the school while Moses Cone, a prominent Greensboro textile businessman, provided funds to the school and the school grew during the 1920s. By 1929, Appalachian Training School became a four-year college, and its name was changed again to Appalachian State Teachers College.

Dauphin Dougherty passed away the same day registration opened at the new college on June 10, 1929. Blanford became the new president, and the school accomplished major feats during his long tenure. Appalachian became the first teacher’s school in the south to grant graduate degrees in 1948, and the schools enrollment exceeded 1,000 students by the beginning of the 1950s. After devoting more than a half-century of to Appalachian State, Blanford Doughtery retired in 1955.

By the time a new president had been appointed, Appalachian State was growing beyond its parameters as strictly a school for teachers. So, in 1967, the school officially became Appalachian State University due to its expansion in offering majors ranging from business to history to music. Five years later the college joined to the University of North Carolina System.

Beginning in the late 1960s, Appalachian improved still further under the leadership of presidents Dr. Herbert Wey, Dr. John Thomas, and Dr. Francis Borkowski. Under the guidance of Dr. Wey, Appalachian added a new student teachers program and founded the College of Business. Dr. Thomas sought to increase enrollment to include 10,000 students and he succeeded. In 1993, Dr. Borkowski enlarged Appalachian State’s extension programs. In addition, the university became Time Magazine’s College of the Year in 2001 under Dr. Borkowski’s leadership.

Due to its location in the western mountains of North Carolina, Appalachian State University has remained committed to mountain culture. As one of the founders of the Appalachian Consortium, the university has long proclaimed the Southern Highland way of life and history. In addition, Appalachian publishes the Appalachian Journal, promotes the Appalachian Summer Festival, and hosts the National Center for Developmental Education.

Appalachian State University enrolled 21,253 students in the fall of 2023. It offers more than 150 undergraduate majors and 80 graduate majors, according to the university’s website (accessed in January 2024). Appalachian has 1400 full-time faculty members, with a student-to-faculty ratio of less than 16 to 1. Ninety-eight percent of full-time faculty  have a doctorate, master’s, or professional degree.  Appalachian rests on 1,200 acres, 375 of which had been developed by January 2024.

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