History of Southwestern College


June 1885

The South West Kansas Conference College

The Board of Trustees of the South West Kansas Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church filed a incorporation documents for “The South West Kansas Conference College” with the Kansas Secretary of State. The college location would be at “College Hill” in Winfield. (Photo: Committee on Location.)

March 1886

First Building Begins

Erection of the college building was well underway. Designed by Willis A. Ritchie, a 21-year old local architect, the imposing four-story structure was completed at a cost of about $60,000, making it one of Winfield’s most expensive structures at the time.

Sept 1886

First Day of Classes

First day of classes for the college is September 8, 1886, with an enrollment of 43.

Sept 1887

College Hall Completed

College Hall, the first college building (which would eventually become known as North Hall), was completed and used for the first day of classes.

June 1889

First Class Graduates

On June 3, 1889 Southwestern College graduated its first class— three students.

Fall 1891

Magdalene Phillips Library

SC President Dr. Milton E. Phillips and Mrs. Phillips celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary with an elaborate reception at the college. Friends and patrons who attended were invited contribute books and money to begin a college library. As a result, a library of more than 2,000 volumes was begun and was known as the “Magdalene Phillips Library.”


1st Annual May Fete

The first annual May Fete originated by the social group, Belles Lettres; in 1921, this tradition was handed over to the whole school and continued on into the 1960s.

Feb 1901

Winfield Anti-Saloon Uprising

Southwestern students join with other prohibitionist townsfolk in the famous Winfield anti-saloon uprising.


Moundbuilder Yearbook

The Southwestern Moundbuilder yearbook is launched. It is to become the written legacy of Southwestern’s history. View the yearbook archive.


First Motorized Street Car

First motorized street car arrived in Winfield on June 14, 1908. On May 6, 1909, the last trip by mule street car to College Hill marked the end of an era.


Now Southwestern College

The institution’s name changes to Southwestern College.


77 Steps are Built

The 77 Steps are built using mules and man-power, creating a grand entrance up to Richardson Hall.


Faculty Increases

Faculty has been increased to 35, and instruction is offered in six departments: Academy, Liberal Arts, Oratory, Art, Music, and Business.

April 1912

Straw Hat Season

Professor Latham declares opening of straw hat season on April 5, 1912.

Nov 1912

The Jinx is Born

For the first time in history, the Fairmount Wheatshockers are beaten 41-3 by the Moundbuilders on November 11, 1912. A Southwestern student prepared a tombstone with the figure of a black cat at the top and the score underneath. The black cat came to be called the "Jinx." SC continued to beat Fairmount for the next 14 consecutive years. Read the story of the Jinx


Alma Mater

The Southwestern Alma Mater first appears in a college yearbook. Written by Florence M. Cate, professor of Latin and French at Southwestern for 17 years, the song begins with now familiar words, “Far above the Walnut Valley, on a lofty height…”

March 1915

Greater Southwestern Campaign

The Board of Trustees approves the “Campaign for Greater Southwestern” to raise money to offset operational deficits that tuition does not cover. The campaign opened in October 1915 and closed in December 1916, with $678,000 subscribed.

Jan 1916

Official Accreditation

Official accreditation is given to Southwestern College by the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges.


Order of the Mound

The faculty of Southwestern establish the Order of the Mound, to provide recognition of scholastic achievement for seniors.

June 1917

Southwestern Academy

With high schools appearing in most Kansas communities, the 31-year-old Southwestern Academy is discontinued.

Spring 1919

Campus Players

Eleven members of the Southwestern College Dramatic Class, along with their teacher, Miss Martha Lee, lay the foundations for the Campus Players for the purpose of furthering the amateur standards of the school. At that time, membership was fixed at fifteen – nine men and six women.

May 1922

May Day Festival

Southwestern holds its first annual May Day Festival, including crowning of the May Queen.


Intercollegiate Debate

The first intercollegiate debate tournament is held on the Southwestern College campus. Southwestern is a charter member of Pi Delta Kappa, the national debate fraternity. Debate teams from SC through the years will build a tradition of excellence that will continue for many decades.


Stewart Field House

Affectionately known as “Bill’s Parthenon” in honor of SC’s director and coach of Athletics and Physical Training, Willis S. Bates, Stewart Field House is completed and ready for use. It is the oldest basketball facility west of the Mississippi River still used for its original purpose.

Aug 1924

Pi Gamma Mu

Pi Gamma Mu, which would grow to become the international Social Science society with chapters in colleges and universities all over the world, is started by Dean Leroy Allen at Southwestern College. By 1930 Pi Gamma Mu had grown into one hundred and five chapters throughout the U.S., with nearly eleven thousand members.


Winfield College of Music

The Winfield College of Music consolidates with Southwestern to form the School of Fine Arts at Southwestern College.


Moundbuilding Ceremony

Dean Leroy Allen proposes a new custom, unique among colleges of the world - "The Building of the Mound Ceremony." This custom has become a tradition and the hallmark of Southwestern College. At the beginning of every school year, each of the Southwestern students, faculty, and friends places on this mound a rock bearing his name, thus signifying his desire to be a Builder. Learn about Building the Mound


Black Gold

Five oil wells are drilled on the Southwestern College campus; four are good producers. In the spring of 1937, the derricks were torn down and the campus was once again quiet from the creaking sound of the engines as they pumped.

Dec 1932


President Kirk asks Miss Helen Graham to direct a Christmas play for the final chapel before Christmas vacation. In her files, she found her script of Eagerheart by A.M. Buckton. Dr. Kirk is so pleased that he asks for a repeat performance the next year. The play has been performed at the final chapel before Christmas nearly every year since.

April 1934

First "Elijah"

The Winfield Oratorio Society presents Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” for the first time.


NAIA Basketball Champs

The Southwestern College men’s basketball team wins the NAIA Championship.

Fall 1946


Peace returns to the world and men return to the college. The largest freshman class in SC history has swelled this year’s enrollment to over 600 students.


Sonner Stadium

Sonner Football Stadium, gift of P.J. Sonner, is built.

April 1950

Richardson Fire

Richardson Hall, built in 1910, burns on April 16, 1950. At this time, the college had only three main buildings, Richardson Hall, Stewart Field House, and North Hall- and North Hall had been condemned and was in the process of being torn down. The college’s future was very much in doubt. In spite of the damage, at graduation, seniors still marched up the 77 steps on Cap and Gown Day.

June 1950

Million Dollar Building Program

The Central Kansas Conference of the United Methodist Church votes to continue the college and assures its future through the “Million Dollar Building Program.” Richardson Hall would be rebuilt within the original stone shell, and christened Christy Administration Building.


Alvin the Alligator

The campus' unofficial mascot for four decades became affiliated with SC when members of the Pi Epsilon Pi fraternity brought a pair of six-inch alligators back from vacation. Before long an SC biology professor became the keeper of Pi and Ep (names of the original pair.) When Pi ate Ep, the survivor was renamed "Alvin” and soon became a highlight of campus tours. (Photo from 1977)


The Mound Moved

The Mound, which had been located at the top of the hill, north of Christy Hall, is moved to a new permanent location at the bottom of the hill in front of Mossman Hall.


Darbeth Fine Arts Center

The highlight of SC's 80th Founders Day was the laying of the cornerstone for the Darbeth Fine Arts Center. This modern structure, located where the original Mound once stood, houses the music and art departments.

Fall 1967

"Whoopsie Daisy" Sculpture

Controversial sculpture of “Whoopsie Daisy” arrives on campus. The piece of art would be the subject of many discussions of whether it belongs on a church-related, liberal arts campus.


Football Team goes Undefeated

The season provided nine triumphs and a tie, giving SC its first undefeated season since 1918. The Moundbuilder team placed nine of its members on the KCAC all-conference team and Coach Bud Elliott was elected "Coach of the Year" by his fellow coaches in the Kansas Conference.


Walnut Valley Folk Festival

On October 23, 1971 The Walnut Valley Folk Festival is born on Southwestern’s campus. The Cultural Arts Board and SAA sponsor the festival. With afternoon workshops, concerts, and a fantastic display of flat-pickin’, this is the perfect beginning for what would become the internationally known Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival.

Summer 1973

Horsefeathers & Applesauce

The Walnut Valley Horsefeathers and Applesauce summer theatre program is born through the fertile imagination of Norman Callison. Shows for the first season are: “Oklahoma”, “Star Spangled Girl”, “Music Man”, “The Importance of Being Earnest”, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, and “Spoon River Anthology.”


Builders Around the World

“Builders Around the World,” a collection of flags represented by Southwestern students and faculty from other countries, is established and displayed on special days at SC.


Professional Studies

A Professional Studies Center opens in downtown Winfield for learners completing college degrees. This, plus centers in such sites as Wichita and Oklahoma City, would combine with online opportunities to give college opportunities to thousands of working adults.

Summer 1998

Stewart Field House Renovation

Stewart Field House, built in 1924, is the oldest field house still in use for its original purpose. This summer saw the completion of a 1.5 million dollar, three phase renovation to update it into a modern athletic facility.


Beech Science Center

Beech Science Center and Mabee Laboratory Complex is opened with the most up-to-date science facilities around.


Laptop/Wireless Initiative

Southwestern is the first college/university in the region to issue laptops to all new students. SC is also the first college in Kansas to go wireless with access provided in all classrooms and commons areas.


Alvin the Alligator Dies

Alvin the Alligator dies on January 13, 2000, and an autopsy reveals that he is really a she. Alvin would be preserved by a taxidermist for permanent display in “his” home in Mossman Hall.


77 Steps Rebuilt

The 77 Steps, originally constructed in 1910, are rebuilt, with the pride and emotion that have made them a nearly century-long tradition of Southwestern College.

Fall 2004

Helmer's 25th KCAC Championship

This year marks the 25th year that Coach Jim Helmer has trained his Moundbuilder cross country team to take a first place finish in the KCAC – and the team produces their 25th KCAC Championship. This marks the 21st season the men’s team heads to nationals during Helmer’s coaching career.

Fall 2006

Builder Camp

Builder Camp, a 3-day adventure for incoming freshmen, and Fall Frenzy with a carnival, are among the newest traditions at SC.

Oct 2006

Cole Mound Plaza

The Mound is transformed with a new retaining wall, alumni tributes in brick, and an adjoining plaza.

Oct 2008

Deets Library

The Harold and Mary Ellen Deets Library is renovated to bring it up to first-class standards for a college library in the 21st century.

Nov 2009

Biological Field Station

The Norman Hege Educational Center at Southwestern College's Floyd and Edna Moore Biological Field Station is dedicated on November, 14, 2009. The log cabin contains a large classroom which is completely off the grid, generating its own power using solar panels and a wind turbine.

Oct 2010

Jantz Stadium

The Richard L. Jantz Stadium is dedicated on October 2, 2010. Southwestern College partners with the Winfield Public Schools to build the $4 million sports complex.

Oct 2011

Richardson Performing Arts Center

The completely renovated Richardson Performing Arts Center is dedicated on October 8, 2011 at Homecoming.

March 2012

Wind Turbine

A Skystream 3.7 land turbine system is installed thanks to a grant from the Wind for Schools program and is dedicated March 14, 2012.

April 2012

Reuters Organ Dedication

On April 21, 2012 the newly-renovated Reuters Organ is dedicated with an organ concert featuring retired SC professor of music Dr. James H. Strand and James M. Leland.

Nov 2017

Hayward Gates Dedication

The George and Inez Hayward Gateway to Success is dedicated on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017. The gateway was made possible by the generosity of Jack and Helene Hayward.