NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – A local university celebrates its birthday.

Norfolk State welcomed students exactly 88 years ago right in the middle of the Great Depression.

“Education was about the only means Blacks had to advance,” said Dr. Tommy Bogger, a Norfolk State University historian.

Education was expensive.

“The Black community had even more needs,” Bogger said. “The Black parents could not afford to send their kids to a four-year college.”

About 85 students made up the first-ever class. Students only paid $10 a month for tuition.

“It was three rooms at the upstairs of the Y,” he said.

Eighty-eight years later, it looks much different. The university added more buildings and students, but still offered a rich education to Black students and produced some of the best.

“The pride in what we are able to do once we graduate,” Bogger said. “We can compete. We can hold our own in the workforce. We can advance to the top of our profession.”

It’s not just the academic excellence. NSU also provides a safe harbor for the Black community.

“It’s the feeling that you belong,” Bogger said. “It’s my campus. I belong here, not that I have to apologize for being on someone else’s campus.”

NSU is celebrating Founder’s Day all week. It’s about looking back and seeing the changes.

“It’s a time to reflect on the sacrifices and the hard work that preceded us,” he said.

Bogger hopes to see even more growth in the future.

“Ten years from now,” he said, “I will see just as much growth and development and adaptation as I saw from 2012 to the present day.”

NSU is celebrating all week. Click here for a list of events.