The History of the University of Arizona

Published: 2023-01-03
The History of the University of Arizona
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Students Entertainment Community
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 912 words
8 min read

Despite the hurdles that the founders of the University of Arizona (UofA) had to overcome in the formative years, the university has grown to become a premier research institution not only in North America but also globally. Upon its establishment in Tucson in 1885, it was the only university in Arizona. Today, the university has a student population of over 40,000 in different schools and colleges and has a wide curriculum consisting of agriculture, sciences, architecture, business, engineering, education, as well as public administration. Over the years the university has produced numerous notable individuals in the society and has also excelled not only in academics but also in intercollegiate athletics. The history of this great university from the time it was founded in 1885 to 1940 will be explored in depth in this paper.

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The Formative Years

The university was a dream of the first territorial governor of Arizona, John Noble Goodwin, from as far as 1964. However, lack of funds and political bickering delayed the dream for 27 years. In 1885, the Thirteenth Legislation authorized that the university should be established in Tucson, provided the funds, and formed a board of regents. In the following years, infrastructure was developed, faculty hired, and curricula approved. A huge crowd gathered at the university to witness the ground-breaking on the 27th of September 1887.2 The construction, however, failed to meet the 1888 deadline and the board of regents had to give a three-month extension. At the same time, political struggles around the Fifteenth Legislature were threatening to derail the progress of the construction further.2 The construction neared completion in the summer of 1891. It featured 12 large rooms that could accommodate classrooms, laboratories, and library, among other facilities.2 The University opened its doors on the 1st of October 1891 with 32 students. It was organized into the School of Agriculture, School of mines, and Preparatory School, which prepared students to join the university since there were no high schools in the state.2 The heads of the various schools were in charge of management. A restricted curriculum and inadequate faculty handicapped the operations of the university in its first year of existence. At the beginning of the 1893-1894 year, Colleges of Letters and Natural Science were added. The school year was divided into fall, spring, and winter.2 the discussion shows how dramatic, colorful, and important the period between 1885 to1895 was for the university. The university weathered the political disputes and financial challenges of its formative years to set a high academic tone that has been followed over the years.

Expansion of the University

By the start of the 20th century, the university had 131 students and six faculty members. The first two masters' degrees were awarded in 1903. Both candidates were men. Following the founding legislation, the Department of Manual Arts, as well as classes in agriculture, were established in 1906 and 1912 respectively. The first time a woman graduated with a masters' degree from the university was in 1912. It was also in the same year that Arizona became a state. By 1915, the university had three colleges; college of agriculture, college of mines and engineering, as well as college of arts, letters, and sciences. The university was accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) in 1917. This followed the evaluation of the university to ascertain the quality of its various aspects such as governance and administration, academic offerings, finances, resources, and mission. The HLC is among the six regional accreditation agencies that are recognized by the Department of Education. The colleges of law and education were established in the 1920s while the college of public administration was introduced in 1934.

The first Ph.D. was awarded in 1922. The number has grown to almost 400 today.3 The 1935-1934 academic year saw the university award a Ph.D. to the first woman. This was even before universities such as Yale and Princeton began admitting female undergraduates. However, though graduate degrees had been offered for some years, it was not until 1934 that the Graduate College was established.3

The Old Main building, one of the university's most treasured buildings, was declared unsafe in 1938 following years of neglect. Proposals for its demolition were made but following a survey, it was established that tearing it down would be more costly than rehabilitation. It was rehabilitated by the Navy in 1942 and later handed over to the university. It still stands today as a testimony of the university's strong foundation and rich history. It was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Constructed in front of the Old Main in 1919, the Alexander Berger Memorial Fountain is among the most exclusive features of the university. It was constructed to remember the 13 students of the university who lost their lives in the World War I. The history of the University of Arizona, therefore, is intricately intertwined with that of the nation and its role in shaping the nation through research and other initiatives over the years cannot be overemphasized.


BIBLIOGRAPHY Arizona Athletics. 2019. "Arizona Wins Back-to-Back Arizona Intercollegiate Titles." January 29. Accessed May 5, 2019.

Mitchell, Margaret. 1985. "The Founding of the University of Arizona 1885-1894." Arizona and the West 27 (1): 5-36. http://www.jstor/stable/40169360.

Ontiveros, Vanessa, David Skinner, Jasmine Demers, and Beau Leone. 2019. "UA Minute in History: OLd Main." THE DAILYWILDCAT. January 30. Accessed May 5, 2019.

The University of Arizona. 2019. "A Short History of Graduate Education at the University of Arizona." Accessed May 5, 2019.

The University of Arizona. 2019. "Accreditation." Accessed May 5, 2019.

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