History

Our history is remarkable. In just 60 years, the University of South Florida has flourished into a top Florida university and a world-renowned research institution.

The University of South Florida is an institution like no other. Founded in 1956, we have redefined what it means to be a young university, breaking records and forging ahead to challenge even our oldest peer institutions. With incredible velocity, we advance communities and pioneer new higher education standards. We embrace the unknown. Conquer it. And then do it again. We define ourselves not by a name, a date, or a city, but by the impact we have on the world. We share one goal. We transform lives.

Take a look back at the 60 years of our institution’s history to learn more about our extraordinary progress – and what remains to be achieved.

1950s

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.

House Bill 1007

December 18, 1956

The Florida Cabinet approves a resolution to build the new university on the Fowler Avenue property. At the time, a private civilian airport occupied the space, which had functioned as the Hillsborough Army Airfield during World War II. USF would later be built on the practice bombing range just north of the airfield.

Map of original site of USF campus

July 16, 1957

The Board of Control names John S. Allen the first president of USF.

John S. Allen at his desk

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. 

Florida Cabinet approves the name, University of South Florida

September 5, 1958

Groundbreaking ceremonies take place on the new Tampa campus. Contracts for the first three buildings were awarded shortly thereafter. 

Invitation to USF groundbreaking ceremony
President Allen breaking ground on USF's campus

1960s

September 26, 1960

A convocation ceremony marks the first day of classes for USF’s first-ever students. 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 university located in a major metropolitan area.

Program from first convocation ceremony

November 1962

The "Golden Brahman" is chosen as the university's mascot and is unveiled at an All-University Fun Fest.

A cartoon drawing of the Golden Brahman

1963

WUSF-FM begins broadcasting as the second noncommercial public radio station licensed in Florida. 

Exterior of WUSF

December 1963

The university holds its inaugural commencement ceremony on December 22. Throughout the month, 326 total degrees are conferred during commencement ceremonies.

Graduates at USF's first commencement ceremony

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.

1965

USF receives full accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

July 1, 1965

USF occupies the site of the St. Petersburg campus on Bayboro Harbor.

USF St. Petersburg campus

September 1965

USF plays its first intercollegiate sports event, defeating Florida Southern College's men's soccer team.

1966

Students publish the first edition of “The Oracle,” the student newspaper that replaced the campus edition of the Tampa Daily Times, started in September 1960. 

September 1967

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.

March 1968

USF is admitted to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

1969

The USF Alumni Association is incorporated.

1970s

December 4, 1970

The first USF basketball game is played against the University of Florida at Curtis Hixon Hall. USF wins, 85-78.

An exterior view of Curtis Hixon Hall

1971

The USF medical school opens. In July, the school's charter students begin their studies.

February 1971

Cecil Mackey becomes USF's second president and begins an era that brings USF to a new level, with a focus on research and increasing funding.

Cecil Mackey

May 25, 1971

First doctoral degree conferred to Joseph Houbrick, a student of biology and marine science.

1972

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.

1973

The School of Nursing opens.

September 6, 1974

New College in Sarasota joins the state university system and USF Sarasota.

USFSM campus

April 15, 1978

John Lott Brown is inaugurated as USF's third president.

John Lott Brown on the telephone

1980s

1980

USF's Graduate School is created.

November 29, 1980

The USF Sun Dome is inflated and booked for concerts, sporting events and commencement ceremonies.

USF Sun Dome

May 19, 1982

USF's baseball team wins its first Sun Belt championship.

1984

USF becomes the nation's first university to offer a Ph.D. in applied anthropology.

1986

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.

Francis Borkowski speaking

1990s

1991

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.

1994

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.

Betty Castor with Lee Roy Selmon and Paul Griffin

1996

The Sam & Martha Gibbons Alumni Center opens.

Gibbons Alumni Center exterior

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.

1998

USF is named by the Florida Board of Regents as a "Research I" university, along with the University of Florida and Florida State University. 

2000s

2000

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.

President Judy Genshaft

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.

August 2006

USF St. Petersburg opens its first student residence hall and officially becomes a residential campus.

A view of the Bull on USFSP campus

 

August 28, 2006

USF Sarasota-Manatee holds its first day of classes on its new, bay-front campus in Manatee County.

December 2006

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.

2008

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.

Marshall Student Center

October 2008

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. 

November 2008

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.

June 2009

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.

Service members in uniform

August 28, 2009

The Chronicle of Higher Education names USF the nation's fastest growing university for federal research funds.

October 2009

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.

President Genshaft announces USF: Unstoppable campaign success

2010s 

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. 

September 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.

CAMLS ribbon-cutting ceremony

September 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. 

December 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.

October 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.

September 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.

December 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.

June 21, 2016

The Florida Board of Governors designates USF as the state’s first “emerging preeminent university,” recognizing its strong trajectory toward national prominence.

President Genshaft announces USF's status as emerging preeminent

March 1, 2017

USF is recognized as the top university in Florida – and #6 in the nation – for eliminating the completion gap between black and white students. 

September 2017

The Chronicle of Higher Education recognizes USF Tampa as the nation’s leader among public universities in showing the greatest improvements in six-year graduation rates, from 2011 to 2015.

December 4, 2017

The Education Trust names USF the top public university in the nation for Latino student success.

March 2, 2018

Governor Rick Scott signed the Florida Excellence in Higher Education of 2018, requiring the USF System and its three campuses to consolidate accreditations under one umbrella by July 1, 2020.

June 2018

The university achieves Preeminent State Research University Status, as designated by the Florida Board of Governors.

President Genshaft announces that USF achieved preeminence

August 2018

USF is awarded a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest and most prestigious national honor organization in the country.

USF earns the next chapter of Phi Beta Kappa

September 9, 2018

USF System President Judy Genshaft announces her retirement. After 19 years at the helm of the university, President Genshaft will retire effective July 1, 2019.

President Judy Genshaft announces her retirement

November 2018

The University of South Florida ranks 25th among public universities for research spending and 42nd among all universities nationally.

USF recognized as top 25 public research university