The Bemidji State Centennial

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Delegates dedicated the site for a new normal school in Bemidji in June 1915.

Bemidji State University's first 100 years are marked by tremendous growth — in our size, in our purpose and in our mission to serve the people of Minnesota and beyond.

When we opened our doors in 1919 as Bemidji Normal School, the sixth normal school for teacher education in the state of Minnesota, few could have imagined what we would become. Our first four-year degree offering came in 1921, and we renamed ourselves Bemidji Teachers College. In 1957, we became Bemidji State College. Then, in 1975, our journey took its next step when we became Bemidji State University — a name recognizing our role as a multi-purpose institution with regional importance.

Taking full advantage of our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to recognize a 100-year milestone, our observance of A Bemidji State Century lasted for nearly 18 months. We kicked off in April 2018, nearly 100 years to the day from the groundbreaking ceremony for our first building on campus. That celebration continued into 2019, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of our first fall semester, which began on Sept. 2, 1919, when 38 students registered for classes.

The students who first rushed to the shores of Lake Bemidji to pursue their dreams of becoming teachers could not have known that theirs were the first steps in what has become our 100-year journey. It is because of their dreams, and the dreams of those who believed that this institution could only belong in Bemidji, that BSU endures to this day.

From all of us at Bemidji State University, please enjoy some highlights from this rich story through the people who lived it, then and now.

Bringing history to life

The late Dr. Art Lee, professor emeritus of history, sat down with us in 2018 to discuss Bemidji State's centennial. As the definitive historian of BSU, there was no one better than Lee to hold one more masterclass.

A storied past on the shores of Lake Bemidji

Bemidji State University's rich history dates back to the earliest years of the 20th century. This video, created in conjunction with BSU's centennial in 2019, shows the ups and downs of the University in the Pines across its first century.

BSU Centennial History Walk

Go through the decades of Bemidji State's first century by embarking on the BSU Centennial History Walk.


bsu timeline

From the 19th century to today, here's how Bemidji State has grown into the present.

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the origins

Explore how Bemidji State came to be – including the rip-roaring party that started it all.

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bsu pioneers

All across campus, these Beavers put Bemidji State on the map and built the university into what it is today.