THE grand dame of educational institutions in Western Mindanao will mark its centenary this year.
Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) was actually founded in 1904, starting out that year as the Zamboanga Provincial Normal School. But the special committee formed by University President Dr. Eldigario Gonzales submitted its documented findings only recently, almost two years past the milestone year. Nevertheless, the consensus of school officials is to better celebrate it late than never.
Plans, therefore, are now afoot to fill the first semester of the next school year 2006-2007 with rounds upon round of centennial commemorative activities, climaxing towards the end of this year.
Centennial committee chairman and faculty regent Edgar Araujo said these activities will consist of a series of lectures and fora, concerts, exhibits, sports contests, fairs, and cultural performances. In addition, the university will also issue souvenirs, memorabilia, and publications including coffee, table book, and plaster mural paintings aside from constructing a university symbol monument in the campus, Araujo disclosed.
Araujo’s committee has also drafted the centennial theme, which is “WMSU: A Hundred Years of Excellence,” and centennial slogan, which is “WMSU At 100.”
Araujo said the centennial celebration will have a soft launching during this month’s celebration of Arts and Culture Month, for which WMSU is holding several special activities in the campus. WMSU and the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the principal government agency involved in the industry, have traditionally cooperated closely in the annual celebration.
The lengthily titled “Correct Year of Founding of the Forerunner Of WMSU Determining Committee,” headed by Dr. Ofelio Mendoza, in October last year submitted to the Board of Regents a certified resolution enumerating its research work concerning the founding of the institution. The research gathered both oral recollections about the early years of the school from surviving pioneer students and dug up records from national archives.
According to Dr. Mendoza’s report, “the correct year of founding of the University’s forerunner, based on the 1905 Secretary of Education Annual Report, is July 18, 1904.” The report further outlined the evolution of the school “as follows: Zamboanga Provincial Normal School (1904), Zamboanga City Normal School (c. 1920), Regional Normal School (1952), Zamboanga Normal School (1959), Zamboanga Normal College (1962), Zamboanga State College (1972), and Western Mindanao State University (1978).”
From a community school established by the Americans to primarily train teachers, WMSU has grown to be one of the five largest State universities in the country today with its population of over 18,000 students. It has12 colleges and three institutes offering 130 programs served by over 500 faculty members. In his nine years as university president, Dr. Gonzales has also established 15 external studies units in the various cities and towns of the region, to extend quality and relevant tertiary education to poor countryside students who are unable to afford to come and study in Zamboanga City.
Araujo said the centennial celebration is being geared to involve all colleges and departments of the university as well as various sectors of the city and region, especially the local government units.
“As a community school originally, this institution belongs to all Zamboanguenos,” he said.
Last year, too, Sulu Paramount Sultan Dr. Ibrahim Bahjin Shakirullah II conferred on WMSU the title of Royal University, making it the first with such exalted honorific in the country. (Rey-Luis Banagudos / PAO, WMSU)