Historical Marker #1427 on the campus of Murray State University commemorates the school's history from normal school to regional teacher's college to state university.
In part, Murray State owes its existence to the influence of Rainey T. Wells. Wells, a Calloway County native, had started Calloway Normal College in the 1890s. Located in Kirksey, Kentucky, Calloway Normal trained future teachers until it closed in 1913. After leaving the school and entering law and politics, Wells did not forget his commitment to education. As a state legislator, Wells helped create the State Normal School Commission, which later proposed that schools be constructed in Murray and Morehead to train teachers. In 1926, Wells became Murray State's second president.
The doors opened to Murray State Normal School in 1923 after the State Normal School Commission designated that a school be constructed in Murray to serve the western portion of Kentucky. Murray State started operations in the fall of 1923 with eighty-seven students and eight faculty members who held classes in the local high school.
The school has undergone an enormous amount of change since that first class of 1923. In 1926, the school changed its name to Murray State Normal School and Teachers College. The name was changed yet again in 1948 to Murray State College, and finally to Murray State University in 1966. Over the years Murray State has continued to grow the number of majors it offers and its campus facilities. Core values at Murray State include teaching, research, and service. The school is known for its popular programs in nursing, animal health technology, elementary education, and biology. Murray State University now incorporates five academic colleges, a school of agriculture, and a school of nursing.