On December 25, 1890, the Oklahoma Territorial Legislature finally gained approval for Oklahoma Territorial Agricultural and Mechanical (A&M) College, the land-grant university established under the Morrill Act of 1862. Upon statehood in 1907, "Territorial" was dropped from its title.

The first students assembled for class on December 14, 1891. Classes were held for two and one-half years in local churches until the first academic building, later known as Old Central, was dedicated on June 15, 1894, on the southeast corner of campus, which at the time was flat plowed prairie. In 1896, Oklahoma A&M held its first commencement with six male graduates.

On May 15, 1957, Oklahoma A&M changed its name for the final time to Oklahoma State University to reflect the broadening scope of curriculum offered. The official name - Oklahoma State University of Agricultural and Applied Sciences - took effect July 1. The latter portion of the name was dropped in 1980.

In 1946, 76 ROTC Senior Division Air ROTC units were established by the War Department. General Orders Number 124, signed by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Army Chief of Staff, included Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College. At the beginning of the 1946-1947 school year it was known as the “Army Air Corps.” In 1947 the Army and Air Force became separate entities. In 1952, OSU Air Force ROTC became the first air division in the country, comprising the 52nd and 53rd wings.