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150 Years at the University of Florida


President Sledd

Andrew Sledd (left) came to Florida with the conviction that Florida needed a first-class state university. He believed, as the University has proven to date, that Florida had the resources to support an institution that could compare favorably with major universities in the North and Midwest. At a board meeting in Jacksonville on July 6, 1904, Sledd was appointed president of the University. With a guiding hand, Sledd lead the institution during its last two years in Lake City, 1904-1906, and during its earliest years in Gainesville. Although a trailblazer for the University of Florida, President Sledd's administration was cloaked in controversy from all over the state. Immediately following Sledd's resignation, Albert A. Murphree accepted the presidency and his administration began in July of 1909.

Football Game, 1907

Following the implementation of a football team in 1907 (right), Phillip Miller, a local merchant who owned the popular drugstore "hangout," went to visit his son who attended the University of Virginia. While visiting, Miller wanted to order pennants for UF fans and contacted the local Charlottesville company to do so, but unfortunately UF did not have a mascot. Miller thought of the alligator, a native Floridian animal, and went back to Florida putting the gator paraphernalia in his store using orange alligators on blue banners. The rest, as they say, is history.



Dr. Albert A. Murphree was an outstanding organizer and educational leader. He used these qualities to effectively reconstruct the University into four separate colleges: Arts and Sciences, Agriculture, Engineering and Law. Murphree's family was deeply rooted in the history and traditions of the South. When someone asked President Murphree for his views on the matter of morals in 1923, he said that he would tolerate neither an atheist nor a drunkard at the University. President Murphree died suddenly in his sleep in December of 1927 and was the first president of the University to die in office. His vice president served as acting president until Dr. John J. Tigert took over in September 1928 as the University's third president.


Homecoming celebrations at the University of Florida first began in 1915, but few graduates attended and no special events were held. However, in 1916, another try was made and 200 graduates came to cheer for the Gators against Alabama on October 21st. The celebration began on Friday night with a bonfire (right) on the football field. A parade was also held before the game and led by the university band. However, the first official homecoming parade was not held until 1948. For the next few years, attendance at the homecoming festivities dwindled due to the country's involvement in World War II. But in 1924, Florida Blue Key organized the homecoming activities with the first Dad's Day, in which parents visited the campus, met with faculty members and enjoyed the football game.

University Auditorium

University Auditorium (left) was completed in the mid-1920s and was renovated during the bicentennial project in 1976-77. This building is one of several on campus to be included in the National Register of Historic Places. The auditorium seats 867 and has a concert stage suitable for concerts, lectures and convocations.




Dr. John T. Tigert was already a strong advocate of general education when he became president of the University. He also supported the thriving alumni program developed by President Murphree. Despite the tightening of entrance requirements introduced by Tigert, University enrollment continued to increase: 3, 138 students were registered in 1937. Most were from Florida and the South, but others were from different parts of the country and from Europe, Asia and Latin countries. Students from Cuba, the Caribbean and Latin America had been coming to the University for many years. Tigert saw the need to developed a closer relationship with this part of the world, and he organized the Institute of Inter-American Affairs on June 2, 1930.

Male Cheerleaders

Ben Hill Griffin Jr. Stadium at Florida Field (left), known as The Swamp, was originally constructed in 1930. The original structure consisted of only the lower half of the current stadium, but with the completion of the south end zone in 1982, seating capacity was raised to over 72,000. The completion of the north end zone brought the capacity to over 84,000, and Florida Field became the largest stadium in the state and one of the loudest in the country.

Homecoming Beauties

In 1932, the student pep rally moved to the new football stadium and became Gator Growl, the largest student run pep rally in the world. Over the years, an alumni barbeque, pageant and skits have become staples of the celebration and these traditions continue into the present.



Peabody Hall

Dr. J Hillis Miller, fourth president of the University added the architectural vision that can still be seen today at the University of Florida. With women enrolling in large numbers and an increase in the general student body, the University had to make many changes and additions to the campus. Among construction and renovation taking place during President Miller's administration was the construction of new dormitories for male students, a teaching auditorium named for William Graves Carleton, a classroom-office building for ROTC named for James A. Van Fleet, a livestock pavilion named for Cecil N. Webb and a College of Engineering building later named for Dean Joseph Weil. Others built during this period include the Student Service Center (the Hub) and a medical entomology laboratory and a new transmitter station for WRUF. In 1949, a new gymnasium was dedicated and became a multi-purpose building. Basketball games were played there and, since it was the big band era, famous dance bands also played in the gym on social weekends.


University of Florida was the all-male institution, while Florida State University served as the university for women until 1947. Men would often hitchhike to Tallahassee to visit or find girlfriends. However, this changed in the wake of WWII. Former soldiers attending UF on the G.I. Bill wanted their wives to attend school with them. In 1947, women were admitted, however, there were no co-ed dorms and the women were forced to follow strict dress codes.

Century Tower

Century Tower (left) was built in 1953 as part of the celebration commemorating the 100th anniversary of UF. It was dedicated to University of Florida students killed in World Wars I and II. The inside of the building was originally planned as a historic museum and art gallery but was never completed. In 1979, a bell carillon was installed and the campus now enjoys music played daily during class breaks and ringing in every hour.



Old Health Science Center

Following President Miller's death, Dr. J. Wayne Reitz, provost for agriculture at the University of Florida, assumed the presidency in 1955. Dr. Reitz's inaugural address was "A State University Responds to the Needs of Society," and that was to be the theme of his administration. Approximately fifty million dollars was spent on construction during Reitz's administration, much of it going to the J. Hillis Miller Health Center (left) for the completion of the Medical Science Building, the new Teaching Hospital and the Pharmacy wing.

In 1956, the University of Florida opened a medical school, with the first class of 40 doctors and 26 nurses graduating in 1960. Shands Hospital was opened in 1958 and was a 576 bed, non-profit facility. Doctors at Shands performed the state of Florida's first open-heart surgery in 1959.

Gator Bowl

Also during Reitz's administration, the Gator football team made its first bowl appearance. Florida beat Tulsa 14-13 in Jacksonville's Gator Bowl (right). Another first for Gator football was the start of the Seminole rivalry. After much urging by sportswriters, Tallahassee citizens, members of the Legislature and the governor, Florida agreed in 1958 to play against the Florida State University Seminoles. The Gator victory of 21-7 brought wild jubilation in Gainesville. A huge bonfire at Thirteenth Street and University Avenue impeded traffic for hours and the rest, as they say, is history.

Integration began at UF in 1957 with much controversy, and in 1958, only token integration had taken place at the University of Florida. The administration, led by President Reitz, was committed to a policy of gradual integration, but serious racial issues were on the horizon for undergraduates in the 1960's. On campus, a group of students and faculty formed the Student Group for Equal Rights and many of the wives of faculty launched the Gainesville Women for Equal Rights, which became one of the most effective civil rights groups in the region. Gainesville earned a reputation as a center for social activism in the southeast.

Dr. Robert Cade

When a football player and a security guard asked Dr. Robert Cade (right), a physician in UF's College of Medicine, why players didn't need to go to the bathroom during the games, Cade realized that players lost all of their fluids through sweat. During the 1965 game against LSU, Cade gave the team the first batch of Gatorade, which was a blend of water, glucose and salts. The mixture contained chemicals necessary for muscle and nerve functions, according to Cade and was named for UF's mascot.

Steve Spurrier

Steve Spurrier (left), the current UF football coach from Tennessee, was the first player in UF history to win the Heisman Trophy. Spurrier was a quarterback and won the award in 1966.



Stephen C. O'Connell

Stephen C. O'Connell (right), was the first University alumnus to serve as president of the University. O'Connell had assumed the presidency at a tumultuous time in the history of the University and nation, and although labeled by some as "the most controversial of the University's presidents," he had carried the institution relatively unscathed through trying times. He had promised in his inaugural address that the University would be "the first in the South." Not every program had achieved that goal by his retirement in 1973, but several of the colleges- Law, Engineering, Medicine and Business were now ranked among the nation's most outstanding.

Reitz Union

The J. Wayne Reitz Union (left) opened on May 1, 1967 and was named to honor Dr. J. Wayne Reitz. Some services offered at the union include: a student activities center, office of student activities, dining facilities, meeting and hotel rooms, the university box office, retail shops, a bowling alley, a movie theater and other services such as a travel agency and bank. "The Reitz" or "The Union," as students call it, also houses a message board for organization of trips to various parts of the country for students needing transportation or riders.

Sports began being integrated in 1968 when an article in the Tampa Tribune-Times reported that the University of Florida was not complying with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Since no black athletes were receiving scholarships, President O'Connell sent a letter to the athletic director demanding compliance with the law. The university was relatively slow in integrating its athletic programs and this was not fully achieved until black students were finally able to join the football team.

Institute for Black Culture

Although integration at the University of Florida was a slow process and many conflicts occurred, there have been steps in the direction of equality taken ever since. In 1971, the Institute for Black Culture (right) was established. This institute provided a place for social and cultural events and the celebration of black peoples.



Robert Q. Marston

In, 1974, the Board of Regents unanimously selected Robert Q. Marston (left) as the seventh president of the University. During this time, the state was suffering from a serious economic recession. Major budgetary cutbacks would seriously interfere with his plans for growth and expansion.

In 1977, the University changed from the Florida testing program to using the SAT scores as the main criterion for admission. Since it was generally less expensive to attend a state university than a private institution, many students who had the qualifications to be accepted by the so called ivy-league schools began applying to UF. The University limited the size of the freshman class and was selective about whom it accepted.

Florida Field

The south end of Florida Field (right) was enclosed in August 1982, increasing the seating capacity of the stadium to more than 72, 000. The Ben Hill Griffin, Jr. Athletic Training Center was dedicated in 1982.

In 1983 the first female, Charlotte C. Mather, was elected student body president. Pamela Bingham was elected student body president in 1986, the first black woman to hold that position.

During Dr. Marston’s presidency, 20 major buildings were added. Another 30 buildings were renovated or increased in size. For the first time in the University’s history, every college had its own building or complex of buildings.

O'Connell Center

The O'Connell Center (left) was completed in 1980. It was built primarily for instruction and recreation but is also used as a training facility for many athletic teams and has hosted events such as concerts, swim meets, and basketball games. The building originally had a translucent roof made of Teflon-coated fiberglass and kept inflated by huge fans that boosted the air pressure. However, the O'Connell Center underwent renovations to replace this roof with a permanent steel roof in 1998.



Marshall M. Criser

Marshall M. Criser’s inauguration took place in the O’Connell Center on February 16, 1985. Criser (right) became president of a thriving, active, expanding institution. The financial condition of the University was stable, and the future looked very promising.

The 1984 football season was sensational. The 9-1-1 record gave Florida its first ever Southeastern Conference Championship. Coach Galen Hall was named SEC Coach-of-the-Year.

In September 1986, the University celebrated its 80th year in Gainesville. At an event commemorating the anniversary, President Criser reflected on the long, hard road the University had followed over the years. He listed the University’s many achievements but noted that its greatest progress has been the “continuing increase in academic excellence.”



Dr. John Lombardi

After Criser resigned from the presidency in 1989 to practice law in Jacksonville, historian, teacher, administrator and author, Dr. John Lombardi (left) became the 9th president of the University of Florida in March of 1990. Lombardi came to UF from Johns Hopkins University, where he had been provost and vice president for academic affairs since 1987.

Monet, Champ d'avione

The Harn Museum of Art opened its doors in 1990 providing art facilities for exhibition, study and preservation of works of art. The museum serves a broad audience with a diverse range of cultural programs while working to fulfill its duty to research and education. The Harn is one of the largest university museums in the southeastern United States. Today, the museum houses works by Milton Avery and George Bellow from the early 20th century, sculptures from India, tribal art from Africa and many examples of art from various cultures. In 1999, the museum obtained the artwork, Champ d’avione (right), an impressionistic piece by famed artist Claude Monet.

The Center for Performing Arts opened in 1992. The center contains a 1,800 seat main theater and state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems. Performers like Ray Charles, Bill Cosby, David Copperfield, Johnny Cash, Gladys Knight, Natalie Cole and the Temptations have graced the stage at the Center as have many professional plays and musicals.

1996 National Championship

In 1996, the Gators were unstoppable. They beat FSU in the championship game 52-20, with Danny Wuerffel (No. 7) as quarterback. Wuerffel (No. 7) went on to win the Heisman Trophy.



Dr. Charles Young

On November 1, 1999 internationally recognized leader of higher education, Dr. Charles Young (right) formally accepted the exciting opportunity to take the University of Florida into the 21st century. Chancellor emeritus of the University of California at Los Angeles, Dr. Young changed a regional college with an operating budget of $170 million into a world-class institution with expenses of $2 billion.

The University of Florida’s five-year capital campaign raised $850 million, a figure that far outstrips the $500 million goal set at the beginning of the campaign. The capital campaign began in 1996, under the leadership of then-President John Lombardi.

UF Brain Institute

With the advent of the new millennium, the MBI-UF was renamed the Evelyn F. & William L. McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida (left) to celebrate and commemorate a $15,000,000 gift from the McKnight Brain Research Foundation. This award was the largest cash gift in UF history and it was matched by the State of Florida.

Baughman Center

The Baughman Center (right), located on the shores of Lake Alice, is a place of meditation and public celebration. The center seats 96 and incorporates gothic design elements, strategic placement and environmentally appropriate materials.