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Last Updated: Oct 11, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Establishment of Governors State University 1969

Illinois House Bill 666 established Governors State University when Governor Richard B. Ogilvie signed it into law on July 17, 1969 at the Olympia Fields Country Club.

Program BookThe program book from this historic event includes the text of Illinois House Bill 666, a letter signed by Governor Ogilvie, a list of distinguished guests, and the names of the speakers for the program that evening as well as a listing of the Illinois governors and the Board of Governors in office at that time.

Events Marking the Establishment of Governors State University (program book). 


Board of Higher Education Report 1966

In December 1966, the Board of Higher Education released A Master Plan - Phase II for Higher Education in Illinois: Extending Educational Opportunity.

Included among the document's recommendations was the proposal to build two new upper-division colleges for commuter students to strenghten the role of junior colleges. One was to be located in Springfield and the other to be located in the Chicago metropolitan area. The former became Sangamon State and the latter became Governors State University.

The following mandates were given:

  • to serve commuter students
  • programs blending liberal arts and sciences
  • emphasis on work and study
  • utilize community resources to train students
  • instruction commencing at junior-year level and extending through masters degree
  • no lower division work to be offered
  • any student with 60 credit hours of college work with C average or an associate degree shall be admitted
  • admission on first-come, first served basis if restrictions need be imposed
  • free standing institutions with autonomy necessary to be flexible and responsive
  • innovative and experimenting educational programs and other systems

Text Source: History of GSU 1969-1979 by Ted Andrews.

Additional archives resources include these Illinois Board of Higher Education documents:


Memorable Quotes

Melvin N. Freed, Vice President of Administration

GSU will probably be the last public university to be built in Illinois for many years. The pioneer attitude and vitality are to be found within this fledgling institution. I believe that as the Illinois prairie nurtured this state's early pioneer will this pioneer University on the south suburban prairie be molded into a creative moving force and influence for the future growth of Illionois.

Virginio L. Piucci, Vice President for Institutional Research and Planning

Ten years as a university is just a speck in time. Yet much can be written about this prairie flower that is blooming into an excellent regional university.

Source: History of GSU 1969-79 pp. 441-442


A College in Park Forest

The GSU Library collection contains a thesis published in 1965 by Samuel Patrick Kelly titled "A College in Park Forest: A Study of the First Stages of a Contemporary Effort to Build a College in Suburbia.

View the catalog record.


Planning the New University 1969-1971

William E. Engbretson

One room over a paint store in Park Forest Plaza served as temporary headquarters for planning and development. The first planners were William E. Engbretson (pictured), Keith Smith, and Ted Andrews.

On August 22-24, 1969, a three day brainstorming session with twenty-five people took place. Participants included educational planners, media specialists, curriculum specialists, architects, site planners, learning theorists, curriculum researches, and need survey specialists. Their far ranging discussions covered curriculum, instruction, physical facilities, community resources, commuting students, community college relations, mission, goals, university structure, collegial structure, built-in change mechanisms, learning resources, and more.

The following year, faculty members called Directors of Academic Development were appointed. They were included in the planning process for the new university because the direct involvement of faculty and administrators who would later implement and manage the academic programs was strongly desired.

Planning Meeting

From July 1969 through September 1971, more than forty professional and twenty support people worked as teams to plan all systems of the University. Through this process a document called the Educational Planning Guidelines was created in 1971 that would direct the physical facilities, academic programs, support services, and other aspects of the new university. 

Text Sources:
History of GSU 1969-1979 by Ted Andrews pp. 13-14, 19-21.

Images Source: Digital Collections
Top photo
Bottom photo

Learn more in this 59 page book titled The Open University - which features photos and diagrams of Governors State University during the planning process.
The Open University
Published in 1973, the chapters include: 

  • What is the open university?
  • How do you plan the open university?
  • Who are the students and how did they influence the planning process?
  • How will the educational aims be realized?
  • How did the open environment respond to the educational program?

The Directors of Academic Development (DADs) were reunited at the 10th anniversary celebration in 1979. Source: Innovator July 10, 1979 Schedule of Events on p.1


Educational Planning Guidelines 1971

"The Guidelines delineate the concepts undergirding GSU's mission. The challenge is to develop a senior division university serving juniors, seniors, and masters students, concentrating on service to junior college graduates...the University has been charged with becoming a model, open, flexible, unique, changing, innovative, and experimenting institution constantly concerning itself with individual and societal needs and values in its search for both qualitative excellence and efficiency in its teaching/learning, research, and service functions."

Tentative approval of an earlier edition of these Guidelines was conferred by the Board of Governors in 1969.

Text source: Educational Planning Guidelines p. 3.

Educational Planning Guidelines

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