25 Events in the life of the School With a Heart

1890 - Arkadelphia Methodist College founded
On March 3, 1890, the Arkadelphia Citizens Committee called a meeting and resolved to establish a Methodist college in Arkadelphia. Almost immediately, work began on a central building that would house students and all of the operations of the college. The
Board of Trustees named George C. Jones the first president. Enrollment for the first year reached 150. Among the first students to arrive were Mattie Runyan, Mattice Biggs and Sallie Biggs, all from Amity.

1891 - First commencement held
On June 7, 1891, the first commencement ceremony was held. The mistress of English literature degree was conferred on three students. The student body initiated the tradition of presenting a floral offering to the Senior Class of Ouachita at the close of their graduation ceremony. This soon became a reciprocal custom.

1893 - Alumni Association formed
During commencement week in 1893, then president George C. Jones called a meeting to establish an Alumni Association, starting with the Classes of 1891, 1892 and 1893. During subsequent commencements, graduates of the college returned to campus and were honored at a reception, and a day was set aside for Alumni Association activities.

1905 - Alma mater written
In 1905, a freshman named Gordon Lockhart wrote the words to “The College Song” sung to the tune of “My Old Kentucky Home”. The song soon became known as “Henderson Song” and was sung to an original tune written by Harriet Stanley Sage. The current alma mater was written by Henderson’s then president James Workman and adopted in 1929.

1905 - Colors red and gray chosen
In 1905, the colors red and gray were selected by a committee as school colors. In addition to the red and gray uniforms of the football players, the first volumes of the The Star yearbook had gray backs with red titles and artwork.

1906 - Traditional game with OBU began
In 1906, an official Henderson football team played against Ouachita’s team for the first time.

1907 - “Battle of the Ravine” began
Following the 1906 football game between Henderson and Ouachita, both colleges’ presidents realized that the local rivalry created a great excitement in the community. The following year, they decided to establish the game as an annual event open to the public, now known as “The Battle of the Ravine”. Henderson won the first game, played Oct. 28, 1907.

1908 - Term “Reddie Spirit” first used
The term “Reddie Spirit” was first used by Henderson students in 1908 in reference to a spirit of loyalty to the college.

1909 - Oak trees planted
The tradition of the senior class planting an oak tree in the front lawn was started in March 1909. With the entire school in attendance, a decorated spade was used to plant the tree and the class president made a speech in honor of the occasion. Some of these trees remain on campus today.

1912 - Legend of the “Lady in Black” began
The Legend of the “Lady in Black” began in 1912, following the tenure of a Henderson student named Nell Page, who is credited with creating the story. According to legend, the Lady in Black roamed the halls in the girls’ dormitory predicting who would win the Battle of the Ravine. If she wore black, it signified a victory for the Reddies; if clothed in white, a victory for Ouachita was predicted. After Nell’s death at an early age, the story goes that it was her ghost who walked the halls.

1914 - Main building of campus destroyed
In the early morning hours of February 3, 1914, the main building on Henderson’s campus was completely destroyed due to a fire that started in the kitchen. Instead of leaving campus, students and faculty gathered on the lawn and vowed to rebuild the campus. It is said that the Reddie Spirit was born this day. Classes were conducted in temporary structures and  students boarded in local homes until more permanent facilities could be constructed.

1923 - Fight song “That Old Reddie Spirit” introduced
The fight song “That Old Reddie Spirit” was introduced by cheerleader Anna Lee Chidester in 1923.

1929 - Blanket award ceremony tradition began
In 1929, the tradition of presenting red and gray blankets to Henderson football players was established. Although the blankets belonged to the squad, each player who graduated from Henderson could take a blanket with him.

1935 - Student Senate organized
On Nov. 19, 1935, Henderson students authorized the president of the student body to appoint a Constitution Committee for the purpose of creating a foundation for a Student Senate. About a month later, the constitution was approved and officers were elected.

1936 - Compulsory ROTC began
In 1936, the War Department approved Henderson’s request to establish an R.O.T.C. unit on campus. As a result, male students at Henderson were required to complete two years of military training.

1944 - Holly trees planted
As it had during World War I, Henderson authorized the planting of holly trees in honor of those Henderson students killed in action during World War II. On April 5, 1944, the trees were planted in a ceremony held to the north of the men’s residence hall, where the former students had lived.

1946 - Heart and Key organized
October 1, 1946, was the first meeting of Heart and Key, an honorary service organization established to help host campus visitors, sponsor pep rallies, present awards, and aid in advertising college events, among other things. 

1955 - Graduate division for teachers added
In 1955, Henderson established its graduate division, which led to the conferring of the master of science in education degree. Seventy-six students enrolled in the new program.

1957 - First African-American graduate
Maurice R. Horton was the first African-American to graduate from Henderson in 1957.

1969 - Newberry House acquired
In 1969, Henderson acquired Newberry House at 1057 Henderson St. for the president’s home, when it was bequeathed to the university by Farrar Newberry in his will. Newberry was a former alumnus and teacher at Henderson. Former president M.H. Russell and his wife were the first to live in the new residence.

1975 - Henderson State College becomes Henderson State University
In a special ceremony on Jan. 22, 1975, Gov. David Pryor, Henderson alumnus and former freshman class president, signed the bill  changing the university’s name from Henderson State College to Henderson State University in recognition of the university’s academic standard of excellence, organizational leadership and the broad services offered.

1982 - Henderson State University Foundation established
In 1982, the Board of Trustees established the HSU Foundation, which would be a nonprofit organization that would solicit additional sources of funding for the university and promote the university’s needs. 

1984 - Honors College founded
In 1979, at the request of the former president Martin B. Garrison, Bill Gentry began developing ideas for the creation of an honors program at Henderson. In 1984, the Honors College began with a group of 23 incoming freshmen. Now the program welcomes more than 100 freshmen each year.

2001 - Captain Henderson House Bed and Breakfast opens
The Captain (Charles Christopher) Henderson House is named for its former owner and namesake of Henderson State University. The 9,000-square-foot mansion on the National Register of Historic Places began as a small cottage built in 1876. A series of renovations, the most recent in 1999, have made the home what it is today—a beautifully restored bed and breakfast, opened in 2001.

2011 - Simonson Biological Field Station dedicated
The 7,200-square-foot Simonson Biological Field Station was established in 2011, with major donations from the Simonson Family. The learning facility, located on the shore of Degray Lake, contains residence rooms, a classroom, a laboratory and a resource room, and is used for the pursuit of scientific study and research.

Information taken from Henderson State University: Education Since 1890 by Bennie Gene Bledsoe and the Henderson State University website.