History of Peru State College

Pure Nebraska
Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 10:45 AM CST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2022 at 11:35 AM CST
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PERU, Neb. (KOLN) - It’s known as the Campus of a Thousand Oaks, and it’s also the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of Nebraska.

We caught up with Ted Harshbarger with the Peru State College Foundation. We talked with him about the school’s history inside the Little Red Schoolhouse on the campus.

“The Little Red Schoolhouse was located on the corner of Highways 67 and 75,” Harshbarger said. “In the early 2000′s, then President Johnson worked with the farmers who owned it. The school was brought into the campus, because it does connect to the fact that Peru State started as a teacher’s college. We were the first institution in the state of Nebraska. We started June 20, 1867. That was the charter. The first day of classes was October 24, 1867.”

At one time, there was a high school on the grounds of Peru State College.

“As part of the teachers’ training, that school was housed in the building that is now T.J. Majors,” Harshbarger said. “Teachers who were in training worked with current teachers and taught the school, which was called Peru Prep at the time. And it was in operation until the late 1960′s.”

Many refer to the school as the Campus of a Thousand Oaks.

“At one time, there were a thousand oaks,” Harshbarger said. “The school has worked with the Nebraska Arboretum to add more varieties of trees, and that’s something our grounds crew works with on an annual basis.”

“We just recently had our hall of fame banquet,” Harshbarger said. “Listening to the individuals who were inducted into the hall of fame, everything that came up from those individuals from a 95-year-old to those in their 40′s, said Peru State was their family. They had great educators, staff, and that’s the way the entire Peru State campus is. It’s engaging, and we focus on making it that. It still rings true today.”