History of the University of Florida

The history of the University of Florida is firmly tied to the history of public education in the state of Florida. The University of Florida originated as several distinct institutions that were consolidated to create a single state-supported university by the Buckman Act of 1905. The oldest of these was the East Florida Seminary, one of two seminaries of higher learning established by the Florida Legislature.[1] The East Florida Seminary opened in Ocala 1853, becoming the first state-supported institution of higher learning in the state of Florida. As it is the oldest of the modern University of Florida's predecessor institutions, the school traces its founding date to that year.[2] The East Florida Seminary closed its Ocala campus at the outbreak of the American Civil War and reopened in Gainesville in 1866

An artist's rendering of the University of Florida's Gainesville campus in 1916, looking from the northeast.

The other primary predecessor to the University of Florida was the Florida Agricultural College, established at Lake City in 1884 by Jordan Probst. Florida Agricultural College was the first land-grant college in the state, and as its name implies, the small college emphasized the scientific training of agricultural and mechanical specialists. In 1903, the Florida Legislature changed the name of Florida Agricultural College to the "University of Florida" in recognition of the legislature's desire to expand the curriculum beyond the college's original focus.

The Buckman Act of 1905 completely restructured Florida's higher education system. Six state-supported institutions were combined and reorganized into three schools segregated by race and gender. Four institutions – the East Florida Seminary, the University of Florida at Lake City (formerly Florida Agricultural College), the St. Petersburg Normal and Industrial School in St. Petersburg, and the South Florida Military College in Bartow – were consolidated to form the new University of the State of Florida, a school for white males.[3] At the same time, the legislature created the Florida Female College and the State Normal School for Colored Students, both in Tallahassee. These schools would eventually evolve into Florida State University and Florida A&M University, respectively.[4] Gainesville and Lake City competed to be the home of the new university. Gainesville was chosen, and construction on a new campus began just west of town in late 1905.

The University of Florida's student enrollment grew from 102 when it opened in Gainesville in 1906 to about 2,000 in 1930 and 10,000 in 1950. The school began accepting some white women students starting in 1924 and became fully coeducational as a result of the influx of new students brought in by the GI Bill after World War II. It became racially integrated in 1958. The school grew substantially in size and increased in academic prominence during the second half of the 20th century. It became a member of the Association of American Universities in 1985, enrollment topped 50,000 by 2000, and it was named one of the top five public universities in the United States in 2021.[5]

Buckman Hall was completed in 1906, and is currently used as a residence hall. It was named for state representative Henry Holland Buckman, the principal author of the Buckman Act, which consolidated Florida's public institutions of higher education in 1905.

1823–1905: Origins Edit

Early initiatives Edit

In 1823, the Territorial Legislature and the United States Congress began to plan a system of higher education for Florida.[6] As early as 1836, Congress authorized the establishment of a "University of Florida," and the first constitution of Florida Territory in 1838 specifically guaranteed that seminaries of higher learning be created.[7][8] It was not until the 1850s, however, that the Florida Legislature took steps towards implementing these plans.

In 1851, the legislature voted to allow the establishment of two seminaries on either side of the Suwannee River: West Florida Seminary and the East Florida Seminary.[7] On January 6, 1853, Florida governor Thomas Brown signed the legislation that provided public support for the seminaries. Gilbert Kingsbury was the first person to seek state support under the legislation, and his East Florida Seminary in Ocala, Florida became Florida's first state-supported institution of higher learning when it opened in the fall of 1853.[2] The West Florida Seminary opened in Tallahassee in 1857.

The East Florida Seminary closed in 1861 as Florida seceded from the US at the onset of the Civil War. Between a lack of students and funding, higher education in the state came to a virtual standstill during and immediately after the conflict.[9]

Post-Civil War Edit

East Florida Seminary Edit

James Henry Roper, an educator from North Carolina and a Florida State Senator from Alachua County, established Gainesville Academy in 1858. It closed three years later. The Academy's facilities were still vacant after the Civil War, so Roper offered the property to the state as a new home for the East Florida Seminary. The state accepted his offer, and the seminary was reestablished in Gainesville in 1866. Epworth Hall, the main building of seminary's Gainesville campus, still stands near downtown outside the modern university's campus.[10]

Florida Agricultural College Edit

In 1884, Jordan Probst established what became the other major predecessor to the University of Florida, Florida Agricultural College in Lake City. Florida Agricultural College became the first land-grant college in the state, and as it named implied, its curriculum focused on the scientific training of agricultural and mechanical specialists.

Universities of Florida Edit

Florida's post-Civil War 1868 constitution required the establishment of a state-sponsored university. The state's first attempts to establish a multi-college university came in 1883 in Tallahassee, where the legislature merged the West Florida Seminary with the Tallahassee College of Medicine and Surgery to create the "Florida University."[11] The old West Florida Seminary became the new university's Literary College and contained several "schools" or departments, though its "separate Charter and special organization" was maintained.[12] The university charter also mentioned three more colleges that were to be established at a later time: a Law College, a Theological Institute, and a Polytechnic and Normal Institute.[12]

In 1885, the Florida Legislature voted to rename the school in Tallahassee as the "University of Florida" but did not supply additional funding, and the institution struggled to finance its expanding academic programs.[13] The school never actually adopted the name, and the medical college relocated to Jacksonville later in 1885.[11][13] Florida Agricultural College in Lake City announced its desire to merge with Florida University for the 1887 school term, but the legislature did not act on the idea. The Tallahassee-based school adopted the name "Florida State University" from 1891 until 1901, when it became Florida State College.[13]

In 1903, the Florida Legislature transferred the "University of Florida" designation to Florida Agricultural College in Lake City in recognition of the school's desire to expand its curriculum beyond its original focus on agriculture and engineering.[13] It operated under that name for two school years before Florida's system of higher education was completely reconfigured and restructured by the Buckman Act and all state-sponsored schools were consolidated.[14]

1905–1909: University of the State of Florida Edit

The Buckman Act Edit

Andrew Sledd, the first president of the University of Florida (1905–1909). During his presidency, the university was officially known as the "University of the State of Florida"

In 1905 the state passed the Buckman Act, which reorganized the State University System of Florida and empowered the Florida Board of Control to govern the system. The act, named for legislator Henry Holland Buckman, mandated the consolidation of the state's six institutions into three: one for African Americans, one for white women, and one for white men. Four of the institutions – the University of Florida at Lake City (formerly Florida Agricultural College) in Lake City, the East Florida Seminary in Gainesville, the St. Petersburg Normal and Industrial School in St. Petersburg, and the South Florida Military College in Bartow – were merged into the new University of the State of Florida.

The University of the State of Florida served as the institution for white men; the State Normal School for Colored Students (the future Florida A&M University) served African Americans, and the Florida Female College (the future Florida State University) served white women.[4] A fourth school provided specialized training and education for the deaf and blind (the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind).

Though several cities vied to be chosen as the site of the new university, Lake City and Gainesville quickly emerged as the two leading candidates. Newspapers and leading citizens of the nearby towns extolled the virtues of their community in the media, and in July 1905, both sent delegations to the meetings of the state Board of Control where the placement of the school would be decided. Lake City offered the use of the campus of Florida Agricultural College plus additional acres of adjacent land, while Gainesville's proposal included over 500 acres of land west of the town, the extension of Alachua Road (now West University Avenue) to the site, and water service to the university "without charge in perpetuity".[15] On July 6, 1905, the Board of Control voted 6 to 4 to establish the new University of the State of Florida in Gainesville, much to the disappointment and anger of the citizens of Lake City.[15]

Establishment in Gainesville Edit

Since the facilities of the East Florida Seminary were not large enough to accommodate the new university while construction commenced on its new campus, the Board of Control decided to house the institution at the FAC campus at Lake City for the 1905–1906 academic year. Andrew Sledd, president of the University of Florida at Lake City, was chosen as the first president of the new university, and architect William A. Edwards was commissioned with designing the first permanent buildings for the new Gainesville campus in the Collegiate Gothic style.

The school's first year was a time of transition. Classes were held on the existing Lake City campus while supplies and personnel where gradually moved to Gainesville against the wishes of Lake City leaders, who filed a series of unsuccessful legal challenges attempting to halt the move. In the summer of 1906, the university attempted to procure the use of wagons to move the final shipment of supplies and equipment to the train station, but no Lake City livery stable would take the job, and wagon teams had to be brought from Gainesville. A crowd of angry Lake City residents watched as the last four wagons left the campus on July 23, the professor in the lead wagon holding a rifle across his knees to discourage interference.[15]

President Andrew Sledd oversaw the designing of the new school's courses of study, the opening of its campus in Gainesville (Buckman Hall and Thomas Hall being the first buildings completed), and the establishment of its athletic program, and classes began in Gainesville on September 26, 1906, with 102 students enrolled. However, Sledd drew increasing criticism from members of the Florida legislature and Board of Education for setting high admissions standards which they felt limited the university's growth potential. On the other hand, members of the university's Board of Control defended Sledd and insisted that the new school should not compromise its academic standards to artificially raise enrollment. To end the controversy, Sledd resigned as the school's president near the end of the spring 1909 term.

1909–1945: Reorganization, reform, depression and war Edit

Murphree era Edit

Campus statue of Albert A. Murphree, the second president of the University of Florida (1909–1927). Murphree organized many of the university's constituent colleges and schools.

The fledgling school's name was simplified to the University of Florida in 1909, the same year that Albert A. Murphree was appointed to be its second president. Murphree had previously served as the president of Florida State College and had led its transformation into the Florida State College for Women. During his 18 years as UF's president, Murphree oversaw the establishment of many of its constituent colleges and schools: the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Law, the College of Agriculture, the College of Engineering, the College of Education, the School of Pharmacy, the School of Architecture, and the College of Commerce and Journalism along with the university's graduate program.[16] Student enrollment increased from just under 200 when Murphree arrived in 1909 to over 2,000 when he unexpectedly died in 1927.

Another important event that occurred during Murphree's tenure was the naming of the Florida Gators. The university had established an athletic program immediately upon opening in Gainesville in 1906, but its teams did not initially have a mascot. This changed in 1911, when a local vendor designed and sold school pennants and other regalia featuring an alligator. The school colors of orange and blue, also chosen about the same time, are believed to be a combination of the blue and white school colors of the University of Florida at Lake City and the orange and black school colors of the East Florida Seminary in Gainesville, the university's two primary predecessors.[17]

In 1924, the Florida Legislature permitted women of a "mature age" (at least 21 years old) who had completed sixty semester hours from a "reputable educational institution" would be allowed to enroll during regular semesters at the university in programs that were unavailable at Florida State College for Women. Before this, only the summer semester was coeducational, to accommodate teachers.[18] Lassie Goodbread-Black from Lake City became the first woman to enroll at the University of Florida, at the College of Agriculture in 1925.[19] However, the percentage of women students in Gainesville remained quite low until after World War II.

Tigert era Edit

John J. Tigert became the university's third president in 1928. Before arriving in Gainesville, Tigert had been the president of Kentucky Wesleyan College; a philosophy professor, athletic director, basketball coach and football coach at the University of Kentucky; and the U.S. Commissioner of Education for seven years. Tigert brought many new ideas for reforming academics, athletics and administration to the university. Disgusted by the under-the-table payments being made by universities to athletes in this era, Tigert advocated the grant-in-aid athletic scholarship program in the early 1930s, which was the genesis of the modern athletic scholarship plan currently used by the NCAA.[20] Under Tigert's administration, UF founded the University Athletic Association (UAA) to raise funds and administer the university's sports programs. UAA's first project was the construction of a new football stadium, Florida Field. and two years later, Florida became a charter member of the new Southeastern Conference. On the academic side, the school awarded its first doctoral degrees, was granted a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, established the new University College, and placed new emphasis on liberal arts general education requirements during Tigert's presidency..

When the United States entered World War II following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, most students withdrew to enlist in the U.S military. Having survived the financial stresses and strains of the Great Depression, the university could have failed financially when most of its student body departed. To survive the financial stresses of the war years, the university offered its campus, classrooms and dormitories to the U.S. Government for the training of aircrews for the U.S. Army Air Force.

1946–1984: GI Bill and post-World War II era Edit

UF Health Shands Hospital

When World War II ended and veteran students began to return to Gainesville in 1946, the university was overwhelmed with both returning and new students buoyed by their GI Bill of Rights (Servicemen's Readjustment Act) educational benefits. By 1947, over 7,500 students were enrolled, more than three times the number of students in 1928.

Unable to accommodate the immediate increased demand for college education in Florida, the Florida Board of Control opened the Tallahassee Branch of the University of Florida on the campus of Florida State College for Women in Tallahassee.[21] By the end of the 1946–1947 school year, 954 men were enrolled at the Tallahassee Branch. The following semester, the Florida Legislature returned the Florida State College for Women to coeducational status and renamed it Florida State University, and the University of Florida began open enrollment of female students. Thereafter, all of the university's various colleges and schools were open to female students. The J. Hillis Miller Health Science Center was founded in 1956 and Shands at the University of Florida was founded two years later, at the same time as the College of Medicine was established under the direction of dean George Harrell. Rapid expansion of the university's campus structures and student population began in the 1950s under presidents J. Hillis Miller, Sr. and J. Wayne Reitz. Under Reitz, the university peacefully integrated and African-American students were allowed to enroll in the university in 1968.

1985–present: National and international prominence Edit

Former President Dr. James Bernard Machen

In 1985, Florida became a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), a higher-education organization presently composed of sixty-two public and private United States and Canadian research universities. Florida is one of thirty-four public universities that belong to the AAU. In 2009, President Bernie Machen and the University of Florida Board of Trustees announced the future reduction of the number of undergraduates, and an increase of resources for graduate education and research.[22]

The University of Florida has continued to rise in the U.S. News & World Report college and university rankings. In 2001, Florida was labeled a Public Ivy, and, in 2010, was ranked second in Kiplinger's "Best Buys of Education," behind the University of North Carolina).[23] U.S. News & World Report currently ranks the University of Florida twenty-eighth among national universities, public and private, and fifth among all public national universities.[24]

In 2013, Florida Governor Rick Scott publicly announced his support for the University of Florida to ascend into the top ten among public universities, as measured by U.S. News & World Report. In 2017, the University of Florida became the first university in the state of Florida to crack the top ten best public universities according to U.S. News.[25] The University of Florida was awarded $837.6 million in annual research expenditures in sponsored research for the 2018 fiscal year.[26] In 2017, university President Kent Fuchs announced a plan to hire 500 new faculty in order to break into the top five best public universities; the majority of new faculty members will be hired in STEM fields. 230 faculty have been hired with the remaining 270 faculty to be hired by fall of 2019.[27]

Historic sites Edit

Griffin-Floyd Hall
Peabody Hall

A number of the University of Florida's buildings are historically significant. The Campus Historic District comprises numerous buildings and encompasses approximately 650 acres (2.6 km2).[28] Two buildings outside the historic district, the old WRUF radio station (now the university police station) and Norman Hall, are also listed on the historic register.[29] The buildings listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places for their architectural or historic significance are:

Timeline of colleges Edit

University presidents
President Years

Andrew Sledd 1905 – 1909
Albert A. Murphree 1909 – 1927
* James M. Farr 1927 – 1928
John J. Tigert 1928 – 1947
* Harold Hume 1947 – 1948
J. Hillis Miller, Sr. 1948 – 1953
* John S. Allen 1953 – 1955
J. Wayne Reitz 1955 – 1967
Stephen C. O'Connell 1967 – 1973
* E. T. York 1973 – 1974
Robert Q. Marston 1974 – 1984
Marshall Criser 1984 – 1989
* Robert A. Bryan 1989 – 1990
John V. Lombardi 1990 – 1999
Charles E. Young 1999 – 2003
J. Bernard Machen 2003 – 2014
W. Kent Fuchs 2015 – 2023
Ben Sasse 2023 – Present
*Denotes acting/interim president
See also List of University of Florida presidents
College/school founding[30]
College/school Year founded

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences 1906
Rinker School of Building Construction 1906
College of Education 1906
College of Law 1909
College of Engineering 1910
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences 1910
College of Journalism and Communications 1916
College of Pharmacy 1923
College of Design Construction and Planning 1925
Warrington College of Business 1926
P.K. Yonge Research School 1934
College of Health and Human Performance 1946
J. Hillis Miller Health Science Center 1956
College of Medicine 1956
College of Nursing 1956
College of Public Health and Health Professions 1958
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences 1964
College of Dentistry 1972
College of Fine Arts 1975
College of Veterinary Medicine 1976
Division of Continuing Education 1976
Fisher School of Accounting 1977
International Center 1991
Graham Center for Public Service 2006

Historical photos Edit

See also Edit

Notes Edit

  1. ^ Klein, Barry (July 29, 2000). "FSU's age change: history or one-upmanship?". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved July 13, 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Kingsbury Papers" Archived 2016-10-02 at the Wayback Machine, Smathers Library.
  3. ^ About the Buckman Act consolidation Archived 2006-08-26 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b "State Library and Archives of Florida - The Florida Memory Project Timeline (see 1905)". Archived from the original on 2008-06-11. Retrieved 2008-06-05.
  5. ^ Erwin, Maya (September 13, 2021). "UF ranked top five public university". The Independent Florida Alligator.
  6. ^ Bush, p. 30.
  7. ^ a b Klein, Barry (July 29, 2000). "FSU's age change: history or one-upmanship?". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved July 9, 2010.
  8. ^ State Library and Archives of Florida - The Florida Memory Project, Florida Constitution of 1838, Article X - Education Archived 2007-06-24 at the Wayback Machine. "Section 1. The proceeds of all lands that have been or may hereafter be granted by the United States for the use of Schools, and a Seminary or Seminaries, of learning, shall be and remain a perpetual fund, the interest of which, together with all monies derived from any other source applicable to the same object, shall be inviolably appropriated to the use of Schools and Seminaries of learning respectively, and to no other purpose. Section 2. The General Assembly shall take such measures as may be necessary to preserve from waste or damage all land so granted and appropriated to the purposes of Education." Retrieved on July 13, 2010.
  9. ^ "UF Early History" Archived 2007-01-22 at the Wayback Machine, University of Florida.
  10. ^ "The Heritage Collection." Archived 2007-12-13 at the Wayback Machine, Alachua Library.
  11. ^ a b Bush, pp. 46–47.
  12. ^ a b Constitutional Convention, Florida (June 9, 1885). Journal of the Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of the State of Florida, p. 21. Harvard College Library. Retrieved July 13, 2010.
  13. ^ a b c d Armstrong, p. 40.
  14. ^ Armstrong, p. 41.
  15. ^ a b c Proctor, Samuel (1958). The University of Florida: Its early years, 1853-1906. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida. Retrieved November 14, 2020.
  16. ^ University of Florida, Past Presidents, Albert Murphree (1909–1927) Archived 2014-02-27 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved October 24, 2012.
  17. ^ University of Florida, University of Florida History 1906-1927 Archived 2008-12-27 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved July 13, 2009.
  18. ^ University of Florida: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences-Notable Women at UF Archived 2008-05-28 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ University of Florida website: History-1925 » First Woman Enrolls Archived 2008-12-27 at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ Fred Russell, "Columnary Craft: Pioneer of Open Aid," Archived 2004-11-26 at the Wayback Machine NCAA News, December 15, 1970. p. 2. Retrieved August 11, 2009.
  21. ^ Florida State University, Florida State History. Retrieved August 15, 2009.
  22. ^ UF looking to transform itself
  23. ^ "2009 Kiplinger Ranking". Archived from the original on 2009-06-04. Retrieved 2009-06-11.
  24. ^ "University of Florida Overall Rankings" U.S. News.
  25. ^ "UF first in Florida to crack U.S. News list of top 10 best public universities". news.ufl.edu. September 13, 2017.
  26. ^ "University of Florida smashes research awards record with $837.6 million in fiscal year 2018". University of Florida. July 31, 2018. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
  27. ^ Writer, Angela DiMichele, Alligator Staff. "More than 200 new faculty hired to begin in Fall as part of UF initiative". The Independent Florida Alligator. Retrieved 2018-08-30.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  28. ^ "Florida's History Through Its Places: Alachua County". Florida Department of State. Retrieved 2008-09-09.
  29. ^ [1] Official UF Historic Site Guide.
  30. ^ "University of Florida Colleges". University of Florida. December 26, 2008. Archived from the original on December 27, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-26.

References Edit

  • Armstrong, Orland Kay (c. 1928). "The life and work of Dr. A. A. Murphree, p. 40". Retrieved July 13, 2010.
  • Bush, George G. (1898). History of Education in Florida. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Bureau of Education, Circular of Information 1888, # 7.

External links Edit