Adams State University, founded in 1921 by the Colorado General Assembly, opened June 15, 1925. The name Adams State honors long-time San Luis Valley resident William "Billy" Adams, former state senator and Colorado governor who tirelessly pursued establishment of the college.

Since 1925, the university has grown from a Normal School that offered a Bachelor of Arts degree in education with a life certificate to teach in Colorado public schools, to an institution offering Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Arts, Master of Science, associate degrees, and selected preprofessional programs of study. Adams State has historically made important contributions to educational opportunity, economic development, and cultural enrichment in Southern Colorado. Adams State University maintains its vital role as a leader in teacher education throughout southern and western Colorado and is the region's primary provider of selected graduate teacher education programs.