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 60 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
USF is admitted to the NCAA.
The USF Alumni Association is incorporated.
December 4, 1970
The first USF basketball game is played against the University of Florida at Curtis Hixon Hall. USF wins 85-78.
The USF medical school opens. In July, the school's charter students begin their studies.
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 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.
The School of Nursing opens.
September 6, 1974
New College in Sarasota joins the state university system and USF Sarasota.
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 booked for concerts, sporting events and commencement ceremonies.
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.
February 15, 1988
Francis T. Borkowski begins his term as the fourth USF president.
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.
USF is ranked as the nation's 18th largest university in terms of enrollment; it is the 8th largest urban university.
January 17, 1994
Betty Castor becomes the fifth president of USF.
The Sam & Martha Gibbons Alumni Center opens.
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.
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.
July 5, 2000
Judy Genshaft takes office as the sixth president of USF.
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.
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.
USF St. Petersburg opens its first student residence hall and officially becomes a residential campus.
August 28, 2006
USF Sarasota-Manatee holds its first day of classes on its new 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.
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.
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.
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.
April 4, 2009
The USF women's basketball team makes program history by winning the WNIT Championship for the first time.
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 The Office of Veteran Services on Campus.
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.
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.
Sept. 4, 2011
The university's athletics center is renamed in honor of Lee Roy Selmon, the first athletic director at USF, after he passes away.
March 30, 2012
USF Health opens the revolutionary Center for Advanced Medical Learning Simulation (CAMLS) in downtown Tampa.
Sept. 10, 2013
In the 2014 edition of the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges, USF is ranked 14th as an ‘up and coming’ university among the country’s national universities.
Dec. 2, 2013
The University of South Florida moved up to No. 43 in the federal government’s ranking of research spending among both public and private institutions.
Oct. 10, 2014
Longtime USF supporters Pam and Les Muma give $25 million, the single largest individual gift in the university's history, to the USF College of Business.
Sept. 9, 2015
Researchers across the University of South Florida System set a new record of $440,577,680 in research grants and contracts in the 2014 -15 academic year.
Dec. 18, 2015
The University of South Florida ranks among the nation’s top 50 best values in public higher education for 2016, according to a new list by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.