Our Blog

The History of the University of Northern Colorado (State Normal School)

Please help spread the word!
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponPrint this pageEmail this to someone

The University of Northern Colorado (UNC) has existed in Greeley since 1890. However, the college was not always called the University of Northern Colorado. It began as the State Normal School and has had four names over the last 126 years. UNC has a strong science department, arts and performance, business school, nursing program and much more, but it started out as a teachers college. The City of Greeley lobbied for a college in the late 1880’s and was awarded the school by the state of Colorado, among strong competition from other towns across the state. Along with a college, UNC also had a laboratory school for K-12 children, which was one of the most progressive in the nation.

How was the State Normal School when it first opened in 1890?

The State Normal School was the first name for UNC. It was called the normal school, because that was what teacher colleges were called back then. “A normal school is a school created to train high school graduates to be teachers. Its purpose is to establish teaching standards or norms, hence its name. Most such schools are now called teachers’ colleges.” From Wikipedia.

Attending college was not the same a century ago as it is now. All that was required to get into the State Normal School was to have completed grades 1 through 8. It only took a couple of years to get a teaching degree that would last a lifetime. The State Normal School also had a K-12 school called the Lab School, which is now University School. The Lab School was located on UNC’s campus for over 100 years, until it moved to the West side of town. In the beginning if you completed high school at the Lab School you could begin college your senior year and only needed one more year at college to get a lifelong teaching degree.

Check out this page for more information on Greeley’s history.

How did University of Northern Colorado become one of the most advanced schools in the nation?

Cranford Field Greeley CO UNC

Cranford Field Greeley CO UNC

UNC stated with 96 students and four instructors with the intention to train teachers for Colorado’s public schools. In 1891 Zachariah Xenophon Snyder, became the president of the college. Zachariah had a very successful hardware business, but gave it up to become the president of the school. He earned a quarter of the money he made in the hardware business, but had a passion for math and science. Not only was Zachariah the president, but he also taught many courses.

Zachariah was at the school for 24 years and added physics, chemistry, botany, zoology, geology, physiology, physical geography, public school science, algebra and geometry to the curriculum. The school established the first kindergarten in Colorado and was one of the first to implement playgrounds at schools. The school was recognized nationally as one of the most advanced and best schools of its time. Here are some other achievements for the Lab School portion of UNC.

  • First High School to offer a driver’s education program
  • First middle school west of the Mississippi
  • First school to implement a block schedule
  • First field testing site for BSCS Biology and Chemistry Study

What have been the different names of the University of Northern Colorado over the years?

The school started out as the Colorado State Normal School, but had many changes over its lifetime.

  • 1911 – The name was changed to the “Colorado State Teachers College
  • 1935 – The name was changed to the “Colorado State College of Education” Teacher colleges had no athletic standing in California, which may have been part of the reason for the change.
  • 1957 – The name was changed to the“Colorado State College” The school was now much more than a teachers college and the new name reflected a wide range of programs and athletics.
  • 1970 – The name was changed to the ‘University of Northern Colorado” The school was not predominantly for teachers at this point and saw a huge increase in enrollment thanks to baby boomers entering college.

What are some interesting events over the years at the University of Northern Colorado?

  • The school mascot was changed from the “Teachers” to the “Bears” during president George W. Frasier’s tenure from 1924 to 1948
  • In 1911, the institution offered a four-year program and changed
  • In 1913 the school began offering graduate classes
  • 1930, doctoral programs were added
  • UNC’s Sport Administration graduate program is one of only two U.S. ranked in the top five worldwide by the leading publication covering the international sport business community. [CITE SportBusiness International magazine]
  • The University Orchestra has been named the top university orchestra in the U.S. seven times.
  • Nearly one-third of the winners of the Colorado Department of Education’s Teacher of the Year award are UNC graduates.

How has UNC’s campus changed over the years?


Cranford Hall Greeley CO

Cranford Hall Greeley CO

The original UNC campus was located between 8th Avenue and 10th Avenue and between 16th Street and 20th Street. The first building constructed on campus was Cranford hall. The building was built in 1890 and demolished in 1972 after it was deemed unsafe. There was a major fire in the building in 1949, but the hall was repaired.

To the south of Cranford hall was Cranford Field which was in use from 1890 to 1927. In 1927 Jackson Field was opened East of 6th Avenue and between 18th St and 20th St.

Carter Hall UNC Greeley CO

Carter Hall UNC Greeley CO

A library (Carter Hall) was built in 1907 that is seen in many of the schools early pictures. The library is still there today, but the building was completely renovated in 1940 and looks nothing like it used to.

The University has continued to add more buildings and grow over the years.

Here is a great site with more before and after pictures. 


Ready to talk to a Greeley Real Estate Agent?

We love to hear from you.

Call us at 970-573-6441 or

Please help spread the word!
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponPrint this pageEmail this to someone

Leave a Reply