Letter to the Editor

Curtis ag college, a centennial history

Thursday, May 2, 2013

CURTIS, Nebraska -- A school site emerging in 1912 on the hill along the northeast edge of modern-day Curtis, Nebraska, started with a three-story brick building known at Agriculture Hall at the Nebraska School of Agriculture (NSA). It was dedicated with great ceremony August 15, 1913.

Now, a century later, that same building serves as the anchor structure for a 2-year technical ag school today known as the University of Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture.

The NCTA administrators, staff and alumni are planning a "Century of Ag Celebration" on August 9-11, 2013 at the 72-acre campus. A working farm includes 562 acres of nearby land.

When Nebraska's Legislature enacted the educational plan in 1911, the school was to be a high school as a terminal technical school for men and women interested in agriculture or home economics. Students had to be at least 14 years old and eighth-grade graduates when they started classes on September 9, 1913.

All facets of high school programs were taught, including what was then referred to as "normal training" for teachers. Peak enrollment of 415 students came in 1946, also when the name changed to University of Nebraska School of Agriculture (UNSA).

From 1965-1968 UNSA transitioned from a high school to a post-secondary, agricultural technical school, again with another name change to the University of Nebraska School of Technical Agriculture (UNSTA).

Through a tumultuous period of state funding cuts and administrative decisions to close the school, enrollments ceased and plans were made to sell the campus. However, in 1987, after a campus visit by Gov. Kay Orr and public pressure to maintain the ag college, state funding was restored by the Nebraska Legislature in April, 1988. Business and management technology programs were added to the curriculum.

In February, 1994, the University of Nebraska formally adopted UNSTA as the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis (NCTA). Dr. Weldon Sleight was Dean for six years and led the campus through curriculum and facility additions such as the Nebraska Agriculture Industry Education Center, a new residence hall, a biomass heating project using cedar chips, and an extensive addition to the Veterinary Technology Teaching Complex which includes the Dr. Walter Long Veterinary Technology Teaching Clinic.

Today, NCTA has about 330 students offsite and on campus, and will be graduating 85 students from December and May terms in commencement exercises at 1:30 p.m. CT at the Curtis Memorial Community Center, 201 Garlick Avenue, on Thursday, May 2nd.

Primary programs of study are: veterinary technology, animal science, agronomy, horticulture, agribusiness, agricultural education and agricultural equipment (welding, diesel mechanics, soon adding irrigation technology).

Also, a new NCTA program, "Comparative Medicine," is in the planning stages. The 2-year veterinary technology training program will teach students animal care with small and large animals and how animal health relates to human health and technology. The course will be taught at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) by NCTA's Comparative Medicine instructor and veterinarian, Dr. Glenn Jackson.

(Historical excerpts from NCTA Newsletter, Volume 8, Issue I by Eric Melvin Reed, NCTA Assistant Professor and Chair of the General Education Division)


1911 -- The Nebraska Legislature established the Nebraska Agriculture School for high school students

Sept. 9, 1913 -- Nebraska Agriculture School began high school classes

1946 -- NSA became the University of Nebraska School of Agriculture (UNSA)

1965 -- UNSA became part of the land-grant university system, supplementing the UN-Lincoln mission

1968 -- UNSA became the University of Nebraska School of Technical Agriculture (UNSTA)

1987-88 -- State funding was cut; no new students were enrolled at UNSTA

1988-1989 -- Student enrollment and colleges classes resumed at UNSTA

1994 -- UNSTA changed to University of Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture (NCTA)

2013 -- Aug. 9-11 NCTA will observe "A Century of Ag Education" in Curtis

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