ETSU President Brian Noland said the university, which began as East Tennessee State Normal School in 1911 before eventually expanding into a campus of nearly 15,000 students complete with colleges of medicine and pharmacy, has been “intertwined from day one” with the surrounding Johnson City community.
“Today is a milestone day in the history of the institution, because on Oct. 10 in the year 1911, President Sidney Gilbreath stood on the campus and gave his inaugural address to the faculty and to the community,” Noland said. “In this, our (Johnson City) sesquicentennial year, we spent a great deal of time reflecting upon the history of this community that we have the honor to call our home.
“You know that this campus would not be here in this location if it were not for the support, dedication and the commitment of city leadership and community leadership for the location to be selected here.”
New trees were planted near the soccer stadium ahead of Thursday’s ceremony. Mayor Jenny Brock said she hopes those trees will continue to grow when the city celebrates its bicentennial in 2069. Brock also challenged others to grow more trees throughout the community.
“While we can look around today and say that we have plenty of trees in East Tennessee, modern development has cleared much, and with purpose, we need to make sure our city is appropriately forested to contribute to a locally balanced ecosystem,” she said. “We will watch these trees grow every year as we come to an ETSU football game or to an ETSU soccer match. Well placed.”
Brock thanked some university leadership for recognizing the city’s 150th anniversary and organizing events leading up to it.
“Johnson City is in its waning months of celebrating our 150th birthday,” she said. “We thank the university’s participation in this historic year with ETSU’s First Lady Donna Noland serving on the (Sesquicentennial) Commission. Through this commission’s leadership, we have researched, recorded, educated and now are leaving a legacy to future generations about our beloved Johnson City.”
At the end of the ceremony, a plaque placed on a piece of stone saved during the campus’ construction was unveiled to commemorate the partnership between the university and Johnson City.
“From the moment our doors first opened in 1911, East Tennessee State University has been a proud partner with the City of Johnson City in enhancing the quality of life for the people in our hometown and across the region,” the plaque read. “ETSU is proud and honored to call Johnson City home. Happy 150th anniversary!”