University History

Founded as a land-grant college and state university in 1871, the University of Arkansas opened its doors to students on Jan. 22, 1872. Under the Morrill Land-Grant College Act of 1862, federal land sales provided funds for the new university, originally called Arkansas Industrial University, which was charged with teaching "agricultural and the mechanic arts," "scientific and classical studies," and "military tactics" to Arkansas scholars.

Statewide elections, held to establish bonds to help finance a university, eventually determined the school’s location. Washington County and the city of Fayetteville submitted the highest bid, a total of $130,000, to which was added a $50,000 state appropriation for the benefit of the institution and $135,000 from the sale of federal lands. With $12,000 of this money, the university's board of trustees purchased a 160-acre farm, the homestead of William McIlroy, and established its campus on a hilltop overlooking the Ozark Mountains.

There were few facilities and little money that first academic year, but the eight students and three faculty members who gathered for classes in 1872 showed the same dedication to learning and commitment to excellence that has carried the University of Arkansas into the 21st century.

Other Important Dates

1871 – Arkansas Industrial University is founded.
1872 – First classes are held. (Jan. 22)
1875 – Old Main, then called University Hall, is finished.
1879 – The Arkansas Medical Society establishes a School of Medicine at Little Rock in affiliation with Arkansas Industrial University.
1893 – Arkansas Industrial University establishes a law department at Little Rock.
1896 – School color of Cardinal is chosen and mascot of the Cardinals is soon after adopted.
1899 – The Arkansas Industrial University changes its name to the University of Arkansas.
1905 – The College of Agriculture is created.
1905 – The first section of Senior Walk is poured by the class of 1905. Earlier classes were added later.
1906 – The student newspaper, The University Weekly, begins publication. Its name is changed to The Arkansas Traveler later.
1910 – By vote of the student body, the mascot is changed from Cardinals to Razorbacks, although the name was in vogue by 1909.
1912 – What had been one college is split into three: the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Education and the College of Engineering.
1913 – The university’s connection with the Law School at Little Rock is severed.
1920 – An Engineering Experiment Station is created, joining the research efforts of the Agricultural Experiment Station that had been part of the university’s founding.
1924 – The Board of Trustees approves creation of a School of Law at the Fayetteville campus.
1926 – The School of Business Administration is created.
1948 – The University of Arkansas becomes the first public university in the south to integrate peacefully and without litigation.
1951 – The University of Arkansas becomes the first land-grant institution in the country to organize a foreign agricultural mission, establishing a program with Panama.
1952 – The university creates a Nursing School in cooperation with the Medical School at Little Rock.
1959 – The Board of Trustees creates a Division of Agriculture to oversee research at the university’s Agricultural Experiment Station and its branch stations across the state.
1960 – The University of Arkansas System became more formalized as other campuses were brought under the purview of the Board of Trustees.
1969 – The Continuing Education program is created out of what had been the General Extension Division.
1974 – The School of Architecture is created.
1982 – A separate position of chancellor is created for the Fayetteville campus to allow the president of the university to oversee the University of Arkansas System.
1998 – The Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation makes a gift of $50 million to the College of Business, the largest gift ever made to an American school of business.
2002 – During the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century, the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation makes a gift of $300 million to establish an Honors College and create an endowment for University Libraries.
2004 – The University of Arkansas is ranked among the top tier of public and private universities in the country for the first time by U.S. News & WorldReport.
2004 – The Clinton School of Public Service is founded with several partner campuses, including the University of Arkansas, providing faculty.
2005 – The Campaign for the Twenty-First Century finishes with more than $1 billion in gifts.