The University's official founding date is December 18, 1956. But today is another notable anniversary in our school's history. On this date 50 years ago, the University of South Florida officially opened its doors with a ceremony and the first classes held on the Tampa campus.
When the Fall quarter began on September 26, 1960, the school served only 1,300 students and had just four buildings. There was no Library building yet, so the temporary library was housed in the University Center, which is the only of the original buildings that no longer exists. (It was demolished after the new Marshall Center opened.) In the Fall 2010 semester, USF welcomed a total of 47,576 students to its four campuses. There are more than twice as many students pursuing doctorates at USF this year (2,876) than there were total students in that charter class.
It's amazing to think of the progress the school has made since then. A humble, sparse, sandspur-filled campus in 1960 is now the epicenter of a large and diverse university with over 200 degree programs, and a research powerhouse that was awarded over $380 million in grants and contracts in the 2008-09 academic year. Not bad for a school whose peers have a head start on them that can be measured in generations or even centuries.
Thanks to the magic of Google News's archive of newspapers, I've clipped a couple of stories from the St. Petersburg Times from back in 1960. One is a full-page spread from the day the school opened, and the other is a recap of the opening ceremony. (Check out former Florida governor LeRoy Collins teeing off on beatniks in his speech.)
"A New University Becomes a Reality" -- St. Petersburg Times - September 26, 1960
"New University of South Florida Officially Opens" -- St. Petersburg Times - September 27, 1960