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Ball State University History Resources in Archives and Special Collections

This guide provides an overview of principle print and digital archival materials that document the history of Ball State University.

Naming History

The institution currently known as Ball State University was founded in 1899 as the Eastern Indiana Normal Institute under the guidance of the Eastern Indiana Normal University Association. August 28, 1899 marked the dedication of the Administration Building, which was built on a budget of $33,000. 

On September 24, 1901 the Eastern Indiana Normal University closed its doors due to low enrollment numbers. In September 1902, it became Palmer University, named for New York bank Francis Asbury Palmer who contributed $100,000 to reopen the school’s doors. Upon Palmer’s death in September 1903, his heirs contested the deceased’s gift to the University, and the school closed for a second time. 

In 1905, Muncie residents urged the state legislature to take control of the buildings and grounds. The Association agreed, and Muncie’s college fell under the auspices of the state of Indiana and opened as Indiana Normal School and College of Applied Sciences. In 1907, the third attempt at post-secondary education in Muncie failed. The buildings and grounds were closed for 5 years, until 1912 when the Muncie Normal Institute reinvigorated the landscape. 

A combination of The Marion Normal College and Business University, the National Mutual Training Company, the Muncie Conservatory of Music, and the Eastern Indiana Normal Institute, the Muncie Normal Institute, renamed the Muncie National Institute after the first year, lasted until January, 17, 1917 when the Muncie Trust Company filed a complaint to foreclose. 

Also in 1917, the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation permitting state educational institutions to receive private gifts, and after a generous donation from the Ball family and six months of negotiations, the Board of Trustees of the Indiana State Normal School in Terre Haute accepted the Ball brothers offer of their school property in Muncie on April 4, 1918. On April 14, 1918, the school in Muncie became the Eastern Division of the Indiana State Normal School in Terre Haute. 

After the Ball family donated enough money to design and construct Ball Gymnasium, the Indiana State Legislature recognized their generosity by renaming the school yet again. In May of 1922, the Indiana State Normal School Eastern Division became Ball Teachers College, Eastern Division, Indiana State Normal School. In 1929, it was shortened to Ball State Teachers College, and in March of 1930, the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools acknowledged the school not as a teacher-training institution, but as a fully accredited college. In 1965, the school took on its current name, and Ball State Teachers College became Ball State University.

Naming Timeline

  • Eastern Indiana Normal University - August 28, 1899-September 24, 1901
  • Palmer University - September 1902-September 1903
  • Indiana Normal School and College of Applied Science - 1905-1907
  • Muncie Normal Institute and Muncie National Institute - 1912-January 17, 1917
  • Indiana State Normal School, Eastern Division - April 14, 1918- May 1922
  • Ball Teachers College, Eastern Division, Indiana State Normal School - May 1922-1929
  • Ball State Teachers College - 1929-1965
  • Ball State University - 1965-Present