150 Years of UMass Amherst History

Land-Grant Origins (1862-1899)

Massachusetts Agricultural College (MAC, or “Mass Aggie”) is founded under the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act to provide the commonwealth’s citizens with instruction in the “agricultural, mechanical, and military arts.” It struggles to define its mission and defend itself against the stubborn skepticism of some politicians and citizens.

1862 President Abraham Lincoln signs the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act.

1863 Governor John A. Andrew signs the charter of Massachusetts Agricultural College.

1865 MAC Board of Trustees elects Henry Flagg French the college’s first president.

1867 William Smith Clark, third president of the college and professor of botany, appoints a faculty and completes the campus’s long-delayed construction plan, thereby becoming MAC’s first functioning president and primary founding father.

1867 The first Mass Aggie class, 34 students, arrives. Tuition is $36. The faculty includes four members.

1869 The first edition of MAC’s yearbook, The Index, is published.

1871 Twenty-seven students receive B.S. degrees at MAC’s first commencement.

1871 MAC defeats Brown and Harvard at a regatta in Springfield.

1876 Clark invited by the Japanese government to help establish an agricultural college and experimental farm in the province of Hokkaido. In his absence, Levi Stockbridge serves as acting president.

1878 State Experiment Station established.

1882 Liberal arts added to curriculum

1886 Dedication of Stone Chapel.

1888 Hatch Experiment Station established.

1890 Aggie Life, a student-run weekly newspaper, is founded.

1890 First woman student enrolls.

1890 Two-year practical agriculture course established.

1892 Campus pond created.

1896 The graduating class is MAC’s first to wear caps and gowns at commencement.

1896 First two master’s degrees awarded.

Mass Aggie Evolves (1900-1930)

MAC’s curricular scope expands to include the liberal arts, and World War I and its aftermath inspire an increasingly international outlook on the part of faculty and students. There is a growing push to see the college recognized as something more than an agricultural school.

1901 Aggie Life becomes the College Signal.

1901 First professional coaches hired.

1902 MAC’s first Ph.D degree, in entomology, is awarded.

1903 First majors introduced: agriculture, horticulture, biology, chemistry, math, and landscape gardening.

1903 Elective feature introduced into junior-year curriculum requirements.

1904 Matthew Washington Bullock, first black coach at an integrated American college, is hired.

1908 Graduate School established as a separate entity.

1909 College extension service established.

1911 Academic restructuring divides 23 departments into 5 basic divisions.

1912 Five women enrolled.

1914 Smith-Lever Act, which establishes Cooperative Extension System, passed.

1914 The College Signal becomes the Weekly Massachusetts Collegian.

1915 First game on Alumni Field.

1916 First sorority, Delta Phi Gamma, established.

1917 To bolster the war effort, faculty votes to give students credit for 12 weeks of farm work.

1919 Memorial service for the campus’s 51 war dead.

1920 Abigail Adams House, first women’s dorm, built.

1920 Memorial Hall dedicated.

1921 194 disabled war veterans enroll.

1926 Tuition for Massachusetts residents rises to $60.

1927 Nation’s first course for greenskeepers offered.

1928 The name “Stockbridge School of Agriculture” adopted.

Braving Depression and War (1931-1946)

The Great Depression and World War II pose unprecedented challenges to the newly renamed Massachusetts State College. Women are a growing presence on campus.

1931 Massachusetts Agricultural College becomes Massachusetts State College (MSC) .

1931 Curry Hicks Physical Education Building constructed.

1933 Seventy women applicants turned away for lack of residence-hall space.

1935 Engineering and economics departments established.

1935 Goodell Library opens.

1938 B.A. degree first offered.

1939 Massachusetts State College Building Association incorporated.

1941 Enrollment at 1,263.

1942 Campus begins being used for military training.

1944 Wartime draft reduces enrollment to 725.

1945 As the war ends, enrollment rebounds to 1,002.

1946 1,300 war veterans enroll at MSC’s new satellite campus at Fort Devens.

The University in a Postwar World (1947-1959)

The G.I. Bill facilitates financial aid for returning veterans and causes an explosion of applicants at what is now the University of Massachusetts. New residential halls and other buildings dramatically transform the campus.

1947 Massachusetts State College becomes the University of Massachusetts.

1947 School of Engineering founded.

1948 Sports teams dubbed the Redmen.

1949 The Fort Devens campus is closed.

1949 Student-operated AM radio station WMUA begins broadcasting.

1950 School of Business Administration founded.

1953 School of Nursing founded.

1955 Sciences and liberal arts joined to create College of Arts and Sciences.

1956 School of Education founded.

1957 Student Union Building constructed.

1959 Massachusetts Review founded.

1959 Public Health Center constructed.

Expansion Amid Social Unrest (1960-1979)

In 1960, the university’s greatest period of development and expansion begins. As social and antiwar protests erupt, a multi-campus UMass system is born.

1960 Honors program established.

1962 State grants trustees greater fiscal autonomy.

1963 University celebrates its centennial.

1963 Enrollment reaches a new high of 7,600.

1964 As baby boomers come of age, undergraduate enrollment jumps to 10,500.

1964 Construction of the Southwest Residential Complex begins.

1966 Morrill Science Center completed.

1966 Curfews for women abolished.

1966 Lederle Graduate Research Center and Whitmore Administration Building built.

1968 Committee for the Collegiate Education of Black Students helps enroll 128 African American students.

1969 Greenough approved as the first co-ed residence hall.

1969 Herter Hall built.

1970 The University of Massachusetts system is officially created with five coequal campuses.

1970 Amherst campus enrollment stands at 23,389 undergraduates and 4,500 graduate students.

1970 W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies founded.

1970 Student strike protests invasion of Cambodia.

1971 University Without Walls, one of the nation’s first adult bachelor’s degree completion programs, is founded.

1972 Everywoman’s Center opens.

1973 Library Tower, later named for W. E. B. Du Bois, completed.

1974 Fine Arts Center built.

1975 State fiscal crisis leads to protests against budget cuts; hiring freeze begins.

1977 Massachusetts Society of Professors, the faculty union, established.

Emerging Research Giant (1980-1996)

As the flagship of the five-campus state universiy system, UMass Amherst emerges as a research powerhouse.

1982 Full-time instructional faculty numbers 1,211.

1984 In-state undergraduate tuition $1,208.

1985 Stonewall Center created.

1989 The Board of Trustees commissions the Saxon Commission, a blue ribbon panel to examine “the future role of the University of Massachusetts in the Commonwealth, its governance and financing.”

1990 Graduate students unionize.

1991 Legislation decrees that the five-campus University of Massachusetts system will have a single president and board of trustees.

1993 Mullins Center completed.

1996 Men’s basketball team becomes Atlantic 10 Conference champs and goes on to the NCAA Final Four.

1996 Silvio O. Conte Center for Polymer Research built.

1996 Campaign UMass launched.

International Presence (1997-2013)

As its research standing reaches new heights, UMass Amherst becomes a magnet for students and faculty from across the nation and around the world.

1998 Minuteman Marching Band wins the prestigious Sudler Trophy for excellence.

1998 Massachusetts Center for Renaissance Studies founded.

1999 Commonwealth College (later Commonwealth Honors College) created.

2003 UMass Amherst Foundation created.

2003 Massachusetts State Legislature legally designates UMass Amherst as a Research University and the “flagship campus of the UMass system.”

2005 Learning Commons at W. E. B. Du Bois Library opens.

2008 Studio Arts Building opens.

2009 Integrated Sciences Building opens.

2009 UMass Amherst stakeholders issue their “Framework for Excellence.”

2009 UMass Amherst named a top producer of Fulbright Award winners in 2008–09.

2010 Combined heat-and-power-generation facility dedicated.

2010 Student-run permaculture garden created.

2010 Post-doctoral students unionize.

2012 Combined SAT average for first-year students reaches a new high of 1197.

2012 Out-of-state undergraduate enrollment reaches a new high of 22 percent.

2012 UMass designers submit master plan for campus development.

2012 U.S. News and World Report ranks Amherst among America’s Top 10 Great College Towns.

2012 UMass football team upgrades to the FBS level and the Mid-American Conference.

2013 UMass Amherst celebrates its sesquicentennial.