Jesse Hall and the columns

History of the University of Missouri

Our Founding

The University of Missouri owes its existence to 900 citizens of Boone County who, in 1839, pledged $117,921 in cash and land to win the bid to locate the new state university in Columbia. This investment in the promise of a better future for all through public higher education made the University of Missouri the first public university west of the Mississippi River. In fact, it's the first in Thomas Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase Territory.

Our Beginnings

University cultural life began in 1842 with the formation of two literary societies, the Union Literary and the Athenaean Society. The first department of art was directed by George Caleb Bingham, the famous Missouri artist.

In 1849 the first course in civil engineering west of the Mississippi River was taught at MU. Today, the College of Engineering offers courses in everything from biological to nuclear engineering, and its students work on cutting-edge research projects such as designing a better NASA spacesuit and creating more efficient solar cars.

The “Normal College,“ now the College of Education, was established in 1867 to prepare teachers for Missouri public schools and enrolled the university's first female students. Women were admitted to all academic classes in 1871. Today the College of Education leads new teachers in efforts to reform the American public school system and develop new classroom technologies.

Our Growth

The real impetus for growth occurred in 1870 when MU was awarded land-grant status and the College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, later renamed the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, opened its doors. The Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station began operation in 1888. Today it encompasses 10 centers and research farms, allowing scientists to test discoveries from university laboratories and share their research results with the public.

During those early years, MU also added schools of law and medicine. Undaunted by a disastrous fire in 1892, the University rebuilt around all that remained of its first academic building, six Ionic Columns that now symbolize public higher education in Missouri.

The Mizzou Difference

In large part, MU's quality can be traced to Missouri's comprehensive view of education. While other states created separate research and land-grant institutions, Missouri combined its research and land-grant efforts at one university. MU professors generate new knowledge through research and share that knowledge with students, and with the public through one of the nation's first extension programs.

Our Growth Continues

By the beginning of the 20th century, the university had increased the number of graduates, acquired an affectionate nickname, Mizzou, and blossomed as a major research university. During this time, a number of programs were added, including home economics, later renamed the College of Human Environmental Sciences; nursing, which in 1975 became the Sinclair School of Nursing; the College of Business; and an interdisciplinary graduate school.

In 1908, MU established the world's first journalism school now globally famous for its Missouri Method of teaching students in authentic media outlets, including a daily city newspaper, an NBC-affiliate TV station and one of National Public Radio's top affiliates.

Our Team

Athletics have always played an important role in university life. Intercollegiate programs date back to 1873 when MU played Westminster College in baseball. Mizzou fielded its first football team in 1890. In 1911, Mizzou invited alumni to “come home” for the MU vs. KU football game, thus beginning the tradition of Homecoming on campus.

In 2012 MU joined the Southeastern Conference. MU is the only institution in the state that operates all of its sports in NCAA Division I, the nation's highest level of intercollegiate athletics.

Modern Mizzou

Following World War II, MU's enrollment escalated, partially due to the GI Bill. It became fully integrated in 1950 when it opened its doors to African-American students. By 1962, the university became a four-campus system with flagship Mizzou as its largest university member.

Today, the Mizzou family is a community of 35,000 students, more than 13,000 full-time faculty and staff members, 267,000 alumni worldwide and countless friends who support the university.