Founded in 1956, the University of South Florida was the first independent state university conceived, planned and built in the 20th century. The university has made incredible strides in few more than 50 years, developing into one of the nation's leading research institutions.
Read about the major milestones in the history of this high-impact, global research university below.
June 18, 1955
Florida Governor LeRoy Collins signs into law House Bill 1007, written by Representative Sam Gibbons, creating a new state university in Hillsborough County.
December 18, 1956
The Florida Cabinet approves a resolution to build the new university on the Fowler Avenue property. At the time, World War II's Henderson Air Field occupied the space. USF would later be built on the practice bombing range just north of the airfield.
July 16, 1957
The Board of Control names John S. Allen the first president of USF.
August 1, 1957
John S. Allen's first day of work as president of USF.
October 22, 1957
The Florida Cabinet approves the name "University of South Florida," in part because it is the southernmost university in the state at the time. Representative Gibbons hopes the name of the university will ensure the support of legislators in southern districts, many of which fall under USF's area of operation.
USF acquires historic Chinsegut Hill property near Brooksville as a site for conferences and retreats. Some of the Foundation's first meetings take place at the site, and will be used for planning conferences between students, faculty, and administrators for the next ten years.
September 5, 1958
Florida Governor LeRoy Collins sinks a spade into a sandy USF campus at the groundbreaking ceremony. Construction has already begun on campus and takes place in the background of the event.
When the state cuts dormitory funding, USF launches its first campaign, "Dollars for Dorms," raising $80,000. In its first community effort with the university, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce teams up with USF for a historic grassroots effort.
September 1, 1960
One hundred thirty-four charter faculty members report for a week-long orientation to teach a charter class of 1,997 students.
September 26, 1960
The first day of classes and a convocation ceremony take place. With classes under way, USF becomes the first major state university planned, built and opened in the 20th century, as well as Florida's first metropolitan university.
"Golden Brahman" is chosen as the university's mascot and is unveiled at an All-University Fun Fest.
WUSF-FM begins broadcasting as the second noncommercial public radio station licensed in Florida.
First commencement ceremonies are held, with 326 degrees conferred. The first commencement takes place on December 22.
November 1, 1964
The Board of Regents approves planning for master's degree programs in all four colleges: Education, Liberal Arts, Basic Studies, and Business Administration.
USF gets full accreditation from Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
USF offers its first Head Start and Upward Bound programs to aid disadvantaged and minority preschoolers and high-school students.
July 1, 1965
USF occupies the site of the St. Petersburg campus on Bayboro Harbor.
USF plays its first intercollegiate sports event, defeating Florida Southern's men's soccer team.
The first edition of the student newspaper, The Oracle, is published. It replaces the campus edition of the Tampa Daily Times started in September 1960.
Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity becomes the first Greek organization on campus. It went national with four more fraternities and three sororities early in the month.
Graphicstudio is founded in the Division of Fine Arts in the College of Liberal Arts.
USF is admitted to the NCAA.
The USF Alumni Association is incorporated.
In the fall, USF establishes a Black Studies program in response to popular demand.
The College of Business Administration is accredited.
December 4, 1970
The first USF basketball game is played against the University of Florida at Curtis Hixon Hall. USF wins 85-78.
Cecil Mackey becomes USF's second president and begins an era that brings USF to a new level with a focus on research and funding.
May 25, 1971
First doctoral degree conferred to Joseph Houbrick, a student of biology and marine science.
The USF medical school opens. In July, the school's charter students begins their studies.
The College of Basic Studies is dissolved, and the College of Liberal Arts is split into four new colleges: the College of Arts & Letters, Social & Behavioral Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Fine Arts. The CBS acts as a community college within USF, instructing students in mandatory courses for the equivalent of two years. Faculty migrate from the CBS to subject-oriented departments, such as history and philosophy, within the new framework.
The School of Nursing opens.
September 6, 1974
New College in Sarasota joins the state university system and USF Sarasota.
USF becomes a charter member of the Sun Belt Conference.
April 15, 1978
John Lott Brown is inaugurated as USF's third president.
USF's Graduate School is created.
November 29, 1980
The USF Sun Dome is inflated and is booked for concerts, sporting events and commencement ceremonies. The first event is November 29, a basketball game against FAMU in which FAMU is the victor (65-63).
The Florida Legislature transfers the Florida Mental Health Institute from the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services to the University of South Florida (Chapter 81-206, Laws of Florida).
May 18, 1982
USF's baseball team wins its first Sun Belt championship.
USF becomes the nation's first university to offer a Ph.D. in applied anthropology.
H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute opens on the USF campus.
USF begins offering the state university system's first degree program in women's studies.
USF confers its 100,000th degree.
January 24, 1988
USF Lakeland opens.
February 15, 1988
Francis T. Borkowski begins his term as the fourth USF president.
Joy and Hugh Culverhouse present USF with a gift valued at $4.6 million. At the time it is the largest single gift in the university's history.
The USF Bulls win the Sunbelt Conference Championship in basketball and go on to compete in the NCAA tournament.
Campaign USF reaches its goal by raising $111 million. It's the largest fundraising campaign in the history of the State University System.
The Colleges of Arts & Letters, Natural Sciences and Social and Behavioral Sciences are merged into a new college: the College of Arts and Sciences. CAS becomes the largest college on the USF campus.
January 17, 1994
Betty Castor becomes the fifth president of USF.
USF is ranked as the nation's 18th largest university in terms of enrollment; it is the 8th largest urban university.
The Sam & Martha Gibbons Alumni Center opens.
The Martin Luther King Plaza is rededicated after students fund renovations to symbolize Dr. King's spirit and values as well as to provide an environment for campus life and student activities. The plaza is rededicated in November to celebrate USF's 40th anniversary.
September 6, 1997
USF begins its first-ever season of NCAA football. The Bulls, playing in Division I-AA, open with an 80-3 win at Raymond James Stadium over Kentucky Wesleyan before 49,000 fans.
USF is named by the Florida Board of Regents as a "Research I" university, along with the University of Florida and Florida State.
September 10, 1999
The USF Marching Band, the Herd of Thunder, makes its debut.
July 5, 2000
Judy Genshaft takes office as the sixth president of USF.
USF St. Petersburg begins admitting freshmen and sophomores under a plan approved by the Board of Regents and the Legislature to offer more classes for underclassmen. Students can take all the classes they need at St. Pete and earn a 4-year degree there.
USF enters NCAA Division I-A football.
Governor Jeb Bush announces USF's first-ever Board of Trustees, which will assume more of the policy-making decisions for the Board of Regents, abolished by the Legislature in 2001.
September 11, 2001
Professor Robin Murphy sends search and rescue robots to New York City to aid in the World Trade Center recovery efforts.
President Genshaft announces her goal of "Top 50 in 5 Years."
November 5, 2003
USF is admitted into the Big East Conference.
October 26, 2004
The Board of Trustees approves for USF to become a system.
USF Lakeland signs a land agreement to develop its own campus.
May 20, 2005
Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel pledge $18 million to USF. With the state match, the gift is valued at $34.5 million, the largest gift in USF history. The gift will be used to construct the Dr. Kiran C. Patel Center for Global Solutions.
August 28, 2006
USF Sarasota-Manatee holds its first day of classes on its new campus.
USF St. Petersburg opens its first student residence hall and officially becomes a residential campus.
USF is the only university in Florida to be selected by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching's new Community Engagement classification.
December 23, 2006
In only its tenth season, the USF football team earns its first bowl game title, defeating East Carolina at the Papa John's Bowl.
November 2, 2007
USF celebrates the grand opening of C.W. Bill Young Hall, which houses USF's Joint Military Leadership Center and ROTC programs.
The National Science Foundation announces that USF ranks 63rd among the nation's top research universities, according to a survey of federally financed research and development expenditures at universities and colleges in 2006.
February 27, 2008
USF becomes the first university in Florida to open a Confucius Institute, which assists the educational and business communities in Tampa Bay in developing closer ties with China through Chinese language instruction and the incorporation of Chinese culture into an array of classes.
August 20, 2008
The new Phyllis P. Marshall Student Center opens to the public. As the hub of student life on the USF Tampa campus, the center features an expanded dining center, food court, a 1,200 seat ballroom, meeting spaces and lounges.
September 28, 2008
A record 67,012 fans fill Raymond James Stadium to witness USF's upset over no. 5 ranked West Virginia – it is the first sellout crowd in USF history.
USF Health opens the Carol and Frank Morsani Center for Advanced Healthcare, the first ambulatory health center in the country built from the ground up around quality, service and technology, where the patient is the center of the health care system.
The USF men's soccer team wins the first Big East championship in program history.
February 9, 2009
USF President Judy Genshaft named chair of the board of the American Council on Education.
April 4, 2009
The USF women's basketball team makes program history by winning the WNIT Championship for the first time.
April 10, 2009
Former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio officially declares April 9 USF Day in Tampa.
USF becomes the first university in the country to strike an accord with the Department of Veterans Affairs to offer special services for veterans taking advantage of the new GI Bill, called VetSuccess on Campus.
June 17, 2009
USF and Mote Marine Laboratory sign a landmark affiliation agreement that allows two of the state's leading research institutions to join forces in new science ventures, provide expanded learning programs and create economic development opportunities for the region and state.
August 28, 2009
The Chronicle of Higher Education names USF the nation's fastest growing university for federal research funds.
USF kicks off the USF: Unstoppable Campaign, a comprehensive fundraising effort by the University of South Florida to celebrate the energy, vision and future of one of the country's most exciting and engaged universities.
April 20, 2010
The USF College of Marine Science is among the first researchers to begin studying the impact of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
August 17, 2010
USF President Judy Genshaft named first female chairperson of the NCAA Division I Board of Directors.
New initiative titled Provost Scholar Program encourages USF students to earn their bachelor's degree in three years.
February 5, 2011
USF President Judy Genshaft and her husband, Steve Greenbaum, donate $1 million to create the new Genshaft/Greenbaum Passport Scholars Fund, which provides financial support to USF students who want to study abroad. USF student Thu Can is the first recipient of the scholarship.
Following the opening of the state-of-the-art School of Music building, USF commits to become an All-Steinway School, giving students access to pianos of the highest quality.
Sept. 4, 2011
USF's first athletic director, Lee Roy Selmon, dies. USF President Judy Genshaft announces the university's athletics center will be renamed in his honor.
March 30, 2012
USF Health opens the revolutionary Center for Advanced Medical Learning Simulation (CAMLS) in downtown Tampa.