Repurposed with a New Purpose

The history, tradition and renovation of Texas Tech’s Dairy Barn 

Amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday college life, hundreds of Texas Tech University students pass by the Dairy Barn, unaware of its profound history and present-day purpose. However, 50 years ago, many students’ lives and education depended on the Dairy Barn.   

Built in the 1920s, the Dairy Barn provided a way for students to pay their tuition. Students were allowed to bring up to three dairy cows that would be fed and housed at the barn. Many students took advantage of this opportunity, having no other way to pay for their education. 

Into the early 1940s, the exchange of dairy for education had been discontinued; however, the barn still remained functional for agricultural-based classes and dairy milk production. Larry Nelson, of Lubbock, Texas, fondly remembers his time in the Dairy Barn. 

“After my wife and I had gotten married our senior year, we were really strapped for money,” Nelson said. “To this day I still think the professor had made a mistake, but I ended up with the highest grade in the class, which led me to get a scholarship from the Borden dairy company. We were able to get through because of that scholarship and the dairy program.”

Not only did the programs offered through the Dairy Barn help Nelson, but they also helped thousands of other students as well. One of those students Nelson considers to be a dear friend, who expressed his gratitude for the barn and the programs it offered for struggling students. 

“He told me he could not have gotten an education if it were not for the Dairy Barn’s program in the 1950s,” Nelson said. “And that is just something I am really proud of during my time at Texas Tech.”

Dairy production classes ended soon after the dairy for education trade ended between Texas Tech and its students, and it seemed as if there was no longer a use or hope for the Dairy Barn—until 2020.

A $3.5 million remodel has transformed the barn into an innovative, collaborative and functional space for faculty, staff, and students to use and enjoy. In addition to study areas, old photographs, artifacts, signs and logos create a museum-like feel to a space that is educational and entertaining to all guests. In addition, the second floor provides a historic yet modern and intimate space for any type of event or gathering. 

“The Dairy Barn is one of the oldest buildings on campus,” said Jane Piercy, senior director of development and external relations for the College of Agricultural Sciences Natural Resources. “It has a story to tell about agriculture, the history of the university, and the work ethic we are known for in our industry.”