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Constructed in 1910, Gates Hall was named in honor of Wayland's first president, Dr. Isaac Edgar Gates, a pioneer missionary and pastor of the First Baptist Church in Plainview, Amarillo, and San Antonio. For almost twenty years after Wayland's founding, it was one of only two buildings on campus at what is the oldest institution of higher learning still in existence on the High Plains of Texas. The building sits on a rise in the western part of the city and dominates the view in that direction. To take advantage of West Texas' breezes, frequent garden parties were held on the roof in the college's early days. The Greek revival columns and red brick exterior symbolized education in the minds of early West Texas pioneers.
The building is associated with a major historical event in 1951 when Wayland became the first four-year liberal arts college in the states of the old Confederacy to admit black students voluntarily and on the same basis as all others. When the first black students arrived to register for classes in June 1951, they came to the registrar's office in Gates Hall to do so.
Gates Hall remains the most recognizable building associated with Wayland.
At the time of its building, it was believed that the concrete shell would be completely fireproof. The building has both a basement and a sub-basement to provide shelters from the frequent tornados that once plagued West Texas. Renovations occurred whenever a new facility assumed some of the functions formerly located in Gates Hall. The dormitory on the third floor was remodeled for use of the music department until Harral Auditorium and music and art wings took on those functions. Major renovations in the building occurred in 1968 and 1990.