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Centennial Timeline

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Explore the U of M through the last century:


1909—Memphis and Shelby County Normal School Committee on Oct. 8, submits its “statement of the claims… for the West Tennessee State Normal School” based on “…accessibility, centralness of position,  healthfulness of location, cheapness of living, opportunities for arranging for suitable practice and observation schools, and the value and usefulness of offers of donations of grounds, buildings, money, etc.”  The General Education Law of 1909 creates the 2-year WTSNC.

1912—West Tennessee State Normal School, a state school for the training of teachers—tuition free and board at cost—begins its first session of Sept. 10 with Seymour A. Mynders, former public schools supervisor, as president, three buildings on 80 acres (Administration, Mynders Hall and the president’s residence) and 300 students.  WTSNS plays first football game on Oct. 15 against MUS.  Students select school colors as blue and gray.

1913—John Willard Brister, former state superintendent of education, named second president.

1914—First student publication is a monthly journal The Columns.  School library is two rooms in the Administration Building.

1916—DeSoto yearbook begins publication.

1918—Andrew A. Kincannon, former chancellor of the University of Mississippi, named third president.

1919—WTNS becomes a three-year college.


1923—First dining hall is built and used until 1958.  During each football game this season, the pre-game prayer ended with “… everyman fights like a tiger” and a nickname was born.

1924—J.W. Brister reappointed president.

1925—WTNS becomes a four-year State Teachers College.

1927—First student education loans made.

1928—First library (later named Brister Library) and first gymnasium (Memorial Gymnasium) built.

1929—Name changed to West Tennessee State Teachers College.


1930—Enrollment reaches 672.  Construction begins on Manning Hall.

1931—Student newspaper The Tiger Rag established.

1932—The Depression hits hard at the College: budget cut, future uncertain.  Enrollment reaches 840.

1933—Depression era (1933–37) sees annual budgets of only $56,000.

1938—State Teachers College football team goes undefeated and untied.  Enrollment is 775.

1939—Richard C. Jones, former college dean, appointed fourth president.


1940—Enrollment at 1,096.

1941—Now known as Memphis State College.

1943—Jennings B. Sanders, former UT History Department chair, named fifth president.  World War II enlistments cause enrollment to drop to 216.

1944—Department of English begins offering French, Latin, and Spanish classes.

1946—J. Millard “Jack” Smith, an alumnus and former dean of MSC, named sixth president; enrollment hits 1,505 as World War II veterans return to campus, budgets begin rise as veterans return to MSC.

1947—MSC boasts its first Miss America, Barbara Jo Walker.  Enrollment stands at 1,970.

1948—Enrollment 2,313.

1949—Enrollment 2,368.  Master’s degree in education offered.


1950—Gov. Gordon Browning endorses proposal for MSC to become University of Tennessee at Memphis - Enrollment 2,479.  English and Mathematical Sciences departments offers first graduate classes.

1951—Enrollment 2,324.  First B.A. degrees established.  The Field House, student center and cafeteria are under construction.  Air Force ROTC program began.

1952—Greater Memphis State, Inc. founded and leads effort for university status.

1953—Undergraduate programs reorganized into three schools:  Arts & Sciences, Education, and Business.  Enrollment at 2,000.

1955—Memphis State Press established to publish scholarly publications.  Student golfer Hillman Robbins wins National Intercollegiate Golf Championship.

1956—Evening Division begins to attract adult and part-time students.

1957—MSC becomes Memphis State University. MSU is defeated by Bradley University 84-83 for National Invitation Tournament championship at Madison Square Garden.  Game is broadcast on national television.  State Legislature approves name change to Memphis State University.  Professor R.W. Johnson donates $100,000 for a social science building (now Johnson Hall).  MSU’s winningest football coach, Billy J. “Spook” Murphy, hired.

1959—Memphis State admits its first black students and enrollment hits 4,845.  Football team upsets Florida State on Homecoming.


1960—Dr. Cecil C. Humphreys becomes MSU’s seventh president, presides over a 12-year period of unprecedented growth. Enrollment hits 5,171.  Goodwyn Institute Lecture Series moves from downtown Memphis office building to MSU.  First M.S. degree in chemistry awarded.

1961—Enrollment reaches 6,130.  State deeds 175-acre Chucalissa Park and Museum to MSU.

1962—50th anniversary celebrated.  Law school established at MSU by taking over two proprietary law schools; Ph.D. programs offered.  MSU defeats foe Mississippi State for first victory over an SEC team.  Southern Journal of Philosophy founded.

1963—Football team, coached by Billy “Spook” Murphy goes 9-0-1.  Enrollment now 8,697.  Bureau of Business and Economic Research begun to provide information for Memphis and the Mid-South.

1964—Herff College of Engineering and Department of Nursing established at MSU. Enrollment leaps 26 % to 10,975.  Mississippi Valley Collection of historical documents set up at MSU Library.  First basketball game played in the Mid-South Coliseum.

1965—MSU Foundation established to provide private support for the University.  First football game played at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.  Enrollment increases to 13,561.  Division of Research and Services oversees $800,000 in research grants.

1966—First annual fund drive conducted.  Doctoral programs begin in education and psychology.  Enrollment 14,541.  Distinguished Teaching Award initiated to recognize outstanding classroom teaching.  Doctoral programs in chemistry, economics and history are approved by State.  J.M. Smith Chemistry building opens.

1967—The 129-acre Kennedy Veterans Hospital property (now South Campus) given to MSU by the General Services Administration in Washington on Oct. 5.  Enrollment is 15,274.  Juris Doctor degrees in law awarded to 49 students.  Memphis Speech and Hearing Center becomes part of the University.  Meeman Forest Farm, a 623-acre property in northwest Shelby County, given to MSU by the Edward J. Meeman Foundation as well as $200,000 toward construction of a journalism building.  Patterson Hall occupied on site of former President’s residence.  Office of Oral History Research established.

1968—First Ph.D. awarded; Library Tower and University Center dedicated.  Enrollment 16,637 with 79 Tennessee counties, 42 states and 36 foreign countries represented.  109 black students stage a sit-in in the President’s office demanding 50 new black faculty, $1,800 for speech on campus by suspended congressman Adam Clayton Powell (NY) and a reduction of student fees.  Dr. Helen Nunn hired as first black faculty member.  Construction of three engineering buildings on Central Ave. at a cost of $6.5 million begins.  Tennessee Higher Education Commission recommends developing MSU into a comprehensive doctoral-level institution similar to UT-Knoxville.  Office of Research Administration, opened in 1966, received over $3 million in its first three years of operation.  Martin Luther King assassinated in Memphis.

1969—Enrollment 17,467.  Five additional building projects get underway—psychology, business administration, journalism and South Campus’ athletic complex and married student housing.  Arnold Air Society and Angel Flight of the MSU Air Force ROTC were both voted best in the country, the first time one institution had won both honors.


1970—MSU is the first university to stage the rock musical Hair amid a vast amount of both positive and negative publicity (nude scene was omitted).  Law students published the first issue of the MSU Law Review.  Enrollment now 18,754.  The Phoenix, a student literary magazine (now called The Pinch), established.  Psychology building occupied.

1971—Enrollment hits 20,043.  Institute of Criminal Justice started—the forerunner of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.  Student newspaper The Tiger Rag becomes The Helmsman.  Football team plays in Pasadena Bowl in California.

1972—Dr. Cecil C. Humphreys named 1st chancellor of the newly established State University and Community College System of Tennessee (Tennessee Board of Regents).  Ph.D. in mathematics and M.F.A. in theatre begun.  Life Science building opened.  The Lady Tigers basketball team returns to competition for the first time since women’s athletic programs were abolished in 1937.

1973—MSU makes its first trip to the NCAA basketball finals, losing to the Bill Walton-led UCLA Bruins; Dr. Billy M. Jones becomes eighth MSU president, succeeding Acting President Dr. John Richardson.  Dr. Paul Erdos, Wolf Prize recipient, becomes an adjunct professor and long-time friend of the mathematics department bringing international recognition to MSU.

1974—The college fad of “streaking” hits campus.

1975—Innovative University College established at MSU.   Enrollment reaches all-time high of 22,236.  Annual operating budget surpasses $43 million.

1976—Female athletes were awarded athletic scholarships for the first time.

1977—3,036 degrees awarded and College of Communication and Fine Arts established at MSU.  Student Claire Ford selected Miss Black America.  The Earthquake Information Center (now Center for Earthquake Research and Information) established by Tennessee Legislature.

1978—Memphis State Press publishes 13 books.  Annual Fund contributions total over $750,000.  Avron and Robert Fogelman pledge $2.5 million to enrich the College of Business programs.  Vice President George H.W. Bush visits the campus.  Nursing Department transfers its associate degree program to Shelby State Community College and offers its first baccalaureate degree.  First doctor of business administration degree awarded.

1979—National History Day contest for area junior and senior high students established.


1980—Dr. Thomas Carpenter becomes MSU’s ninth president, makes program quality, not growth, top goal.   High Water Records established as a record label and a division of the University.

1981—The University Art Museum and Communication and Fine Arts building opens.

1982—MSU celebrates its golden anniversary as well as its silver anniversary as a university.  Journalism department receives full accreditation by the American Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.  Center for Research on Women established with a grant from the Ford Foundation.

1983—Film makers in Theatre and Communication Arts produced an adaptation of Peter Taylor’s The Old Forest for PBS.  With All-American Keith Lee, the basketball Tigers make it to the NCAA “Sweet Sixteen” and finish with a 23-8 record.

1984—The Centers and Chairs for Excellence programs are instituted and MSU has first chair.  Center for Electron Microscopy created.  Cognitive science seminar becomes the forerunner of the Institute for Intelligent Systems (now an Accomplished Center of Excellence).  Information Center WATS line handles some 700 telephone calls daily while 100 visitors check in at the center.

1985—MSU signs exchange agreement with Huazhong Normal University of China.  Brothers Bert and David Bornblum donate $1 million to establish a Judaic Studies program.  Men’s basketball, with a 31-4 record, advance to the NCAA’s Final Four.

1986—100% of all eligible academic programs are accredited.  School of Accountancy established and Fogelman Executive Conference Center opened.

1987—MSU celebrates its 75th anniversary as well as 30 years as a university.  Kellye Cash become MSU’s second Miss America.  Office of Development raises $4.3 million from 6,200 donors.  Center for Academic Athletic Services created Ph.D. program in engineering approved.  Marcus W. Orr Center for the Humanities founded.

1988—Dorothy K. Hohenberg Chair of Excellence in Art History approved.

1989—MSU now has five Centers of Excellence an 18 Chairs of Excellence and Robert Wang Center for International Business dedicated.  The Center for Research Initiatives and Strategies for the Communicatively Impaired (CRISCI) designated as an Accomplished Center of Excellence by the State of Tennessee.  Board of Visitors, advisors to the president, established.  Biomedical Engineering program begun.


1990—Department of Nursing becomes the William A. and Ruth F. Loewenberg School of Nursing.  Campus radio station WUMR increases power from 250 watts to 25,000 watts.  Doctoral programs in geophysics and philosophy approved by TBR.

1991—V. Lane Rawlins named tenth president.  The Tigers play their first basketball game in the Pyramid.  University’s first parking garage opens on Deloach St.  Bengal tiger mascot TOM II born.

1993—First Board of Visitors’ Eminent Faculty Award given.  Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology renamed as School of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology.  The U of M goes online with its first website, one of the first college/university sites in the nation.  Our Egyptian Institute site was one of the first museum Web sites as well.

1994—MSU becomes The University of Memphis on July 1.  State-of-the-art Ned R. McWherter Library opens.

1996—First completely online accredited master’s degree in journalism anywhere in the world launched.  U Of M defeats 6th ranked UT 21-17.  ESPN selects Kevin Cobb’s 95-yard kickoff return as college football play of the year.  The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change is established.

1997—The Teen Appeal, a national model newspaper in conjunction with The Commercial Appeal, to help foster high school journalism begun.  Ph.D. program in communication started.

1998—The audiology program and the speech-language pathology program ranked 8th and 10th respectively by U.S. News and World Report.  Faculty and staff members assist new students move into their dorms during first annual “Warm Welcome Move-In.”

1999—The Carrier Center, a state-of-the-art teaching location provided by the Carrier Corp., opens in Collierville.  Lady Tiger Tamika Whitmore finishes her college basketball career as the nation’s leading scorer and heads to the WNBA.  Feinstone Chair of Excellence in functional genomics established.


2000—Music faculty member Dr. Lily Afshar wins the national Orville H. Gibson Award for best female classical guitarist.  Benefactors Rudi and Honey Scheidt endow the music department and the name is changed to the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music.  Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) degree approved by TBR.  The prestigious academic journal Newspaper Research Journal returns to our campus where it originated.  M.S. degree in electronic commerce begun.

2001—Dr. Shirley C. Raines named 11th president.  Plough Chair of Excellence in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology established as the 25th chair on campus.

2002—90th year since our founding and 45th year as a university.  The U of M captured its first post-season title in any sport as the Tigers won the NIT championship in Madison Square Garden.  The Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management, a $15 million facility given by the founder of Holiday Inns, opens.  12-year-old U of M junior Alex Brueggeman becomes the youngest student ever to receive the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.  Loewenberg School of Nursing, with a 99 percent passage rate on state licensure exams, is reaccredited through 2010.  The first Regents Online Degree Program students graduate.  The U of M buys the Millington satellite campus

2003—FedEx Technology Institute opens.  The University opens the Heritage Room, which showcases photos and memorabilia from the University’s past.

2005—“Coming Home,” a U of M art exhibit that explores evangelism and the South through the eyes of self-taught artists, opens in New York City.  A U of M team unearths a new tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings.

2006—The University acquires its first supercomputers.  The first softball team is fielded.

2007—Former U of M President Billy Mac Jones passes away.  The Center for Sustainable Design breaks ground on the TERRA House, one of the first buildings in the region to conform to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED guidelines for homes.

2008—Bill J. Murphy, long-time University of Memphis football coach and athletic director, passes away at age 87.  The University dedicates its new state-of-the-art data center.  Helen Hardin donates $2 million to the University’s honors program, and the program is renamed to the Helen Hardin Honors Program.

2009—The School of Public Health established.  Construction started on the new University Center.  The Confucius Institute founded at the U of M.

2010—Tiger Lane, a new entrance to the Liberty Bowl Stadium, opens in time for the U of M’s first football game of the season.  Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks, civil rights leader and Distinguished Adjunct Faculty Member in the Department of Political Science and History at the U of M, passes away.  The University opens its new 169,000 square-foot University Center as well as the new Law School facility, located downtown in the old U.S. Post Office building.  The University has its highest enrollment ever:  22,412 students.  The “New West” living/learning residence opens.  Dr. Santosh Kumar is named one of Popular Science’s “Brilliant 10” researchers.

2011—Former U of M basketball star and coach Larry Finch passes away at age 60.  The School of Audiology and Speech Language Pathology changes its name to School of Communication Sciences and Disorders.  Loewenberg School of Nursing has a 100 percent passage rate on licensure exams.

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Last Updated: 5/15/15