By Gregory Thompson

Main building, University of Deseret, 1884

Originally named the University of Deseret, the University of Utah is the oldest state university west of the Missouri River. Founded in Salt Lake City on 28 February 1850, the school's first term - for men only - in November of 1850. The second term was opened to both women and men. At the end of the third term in 1852, classes were discontinued because of lack of funds.

The University was partially reopened primarily as a business school in 1867, and reestablished completely by 1869. The University was housed several places in Salt Lake City until 1884, at which time the school moved to the site of West High School. The first official commencement was held in 1886 when ten normal and two bachelor degrees were conferred. By 1900 enrollment had grown to 400 students, and B.A. and B.S. degrees were offered in classical, scientific, and normal programs.

The institution's name was changed from the University of Deseret to the University of Utah in 1894, and Congress granted sixty acres of Fort Douglas land on the east bench to the school. Classes opened on this site 1 October 1900.

Thirty-two more acres of land from Fort Douglas were annexed to the campus in 1904, and during the 1920s new classrooms and an athletic stadium were constructed. Programs established the early part of the twentieth century included authorizing masters degrees, opening a two-year medical school, organizing an extension division, and establishing a law school.

During World War I, a Department of Military Science and Tactics was developed. Military drill was compulsory for able male students and women had to participate in some form of war- preparedness work. The student army training corp was organized and regular ROTC instruction began. Enrollment increased from 1,029 in 1918, to 1,638 in 1920, and continued to increase from 2,910 in 1922, to 3,600 in 1932.

In the 1930s, sixty-one additional acres from Fort Douglas were deeded to the university. New buildings included a field house and central library, partially constructed with Public Works Administration funds. The Great Depression of the 1930s saw budget cuts of as much as fifty percent. Faculty and staff salaries were reduced, and normal advancements in rank and salary were eliminated. Needy students secured assistance from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration and the State Emergency Administration. A placement bureau was organized to serve employers and graduating students.

Professional courses in social work were introduced in the 1930s which led to the establishment of the Graduate School of Social Work. The advanced training of nurses developed in the School of Education until the establishment of the College of Nursing. Freshman and sophomore years were separated into lower division devoted primarily to general education. Specialization was required in the upper division junior and senior years.

The Experiment Station of the School of Mines, the Biological Survey of Utah, the Geological Survey of Utah, and the Bureau of Economic and Business Research were organized. A full-scale graduate curriculum was obtained by the mid-1940s. The College of Medicine, now a four-year school, graduated its first class in 1944.

During World War II, all first-year civilian males were required to take a course in military science and tactics. Courses on the economics and philosophy of war were taught, and the physical education requirements were increased to meet the demands of military programs. A four-quarter schedule of classes was adopted to facilitate training doctors, engineers, and technicians for the military services.

The years following World War II saw classes scheduled from 7:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M.; temporary buildings renovated for dormitories, classrooms, and offices; new faculty hired; and the further acquisition of Fort Douglas land. Schools were converted into colleges and new colleges were created. Improvements in curriculum, faculty, and facilities were made to meet the accreditation standards of the various professions. Interdisciplinary programs gave rise to institutes and centers.

The first football and track teams were organized in 1892, and the first paid coach hired in 1900. Besides football and track, early athletics included tennis, basketball, field hockey, and skiing. Intramural teams in 1990 number more than seventy, and there are clubs for rugby, lacrosse, ski racing, and other team sports. Intercollegiate teams compete in Division I of the NCAA. In men's and women's skiing and in women's gymnastics, the university's teams have won national championships. In football, basketball, tennis, and swimming, the regular placement of teams at first or second place in conference ratings has come to be expected, and nationally ranked teams are occasionally fielded.

In 1963 the Legislature funded a program a new construction, and for many years the campus was constantly under construction. Today, there are 225 buildings on the 1,500-acre campus. Enrollment increased from 11,515 in 1960, to 14,364 in 1983, to 23,500 students in 1990.

The University of Utah's regular and auxiliary faculty are among the nation's most prolific researchers. The University has research connections worldwide and ranks among the top twenty-five American colleges and universities in funded research. In 1970 the University acquired land immediately adjacent to the campus and developed a research park, which in 1990 houses fifty-seven companies many of which grew out of faculty research.

Degrees are offered in sixty-four undergraduate and ninety graduate-level subjects as well as more than fifty teaching major and minors. There is currently a teaching faculty of 1,355 members, with a large support staff. Present-day campus organizations include orchestras, bands, jazz combos, an opera ensemble, and several choral, chamber, dance, and theatre groups. The Pioneer Memorial Theatre Company; a professional equity company; Utah Museum of Fine Arts; Museum of Natural History; and the state Arboretum are located on campus. The University also has a public television and radio stations and operates a state instructional television channel. It remains an important and vital state institution as Utah prepares to enter the twenty-first century.

Disclaimer: Information on this site was converted from a hard cover book published by University of Utah Press in 1994. Any errors should be directed towards the University of Utah Press.