Welcome to USF History 101

If only we could all lead such exciting and action-packed lives to have a book written about us for our 50th birthday. USF President Judy Genshaft and Provost David Stamps have chosen the library system’s Florida Studies Center to research and write a pictorial history of USF for its 50th anniversary in 2006.

I’ve been conducting archival research for the book, and have found many interesting stories to share. We don’t have the old, crusty history of say, the University of Florida, but ours offers something much different. USF was the first university in the state to be planned and opened in the 20th century. While Florida State University and UF operated in small towns, USF opened in one of the most populous and quickly growing areas in the state. Perhaps most significantly, USF opened as a racially integrated institution, while other colleges just got the nerve to educate both genders side by side.

By the time USF opened in 1960, it was sorely needed. World War II brought a huge wave of soldiers and workers to Florida’s cities., and after the war, many veterans chose to make the Sunshine State their home. With its beaches, resorts, nature and tourist attractions, Florida became a dreamland of new beginnings for optimistic newcomers.

With a rising population, a post-war baby boom, and the educational benefits of the G.I. Bill, a large new generation of students from affluent families needed educational opportunities. Florida was never known as a great state for education an image that still persists today but the contributions of dedicated legislators and educators made a positive and indelible change.

When the idea for a new state university was first brought up in the Florida Legislature, some shortsighted participants thought the idea was premature. As it turned out, USF opened just in time. The charter class of 1960 was a mere 2,000 students, paying about $250 for a whole year of classes, including books. Today, almost 40,000 students enroll at USF’s five campuses for considerably more money.

Believe it or not, “Drive-Thru U” has a rich history. Ever hear of the “Shorts Riots,” when students revolted against the stringent dress restrictions in 1961? How did a visit from President Ronald Reagan disrupt a fraternity tradition in the 1980s? What happened to the big Picasso sculpture that was promised to USF in the 1970s? The answers are all in the archives, along with a plethora of vivid photos portraying student life, activities, ceremonies and productions.

This column, which will run twice a month, is not just an attempt to share USF’s history, but to gather it. As the Florida Studies Center works on this massive undertaking over the next few years, we plan on relying heavily upon the memories of the people who lived USF’s history.

By working as a team, we can write USF’s history together. If you see an Oracle column about the way the campus used to look, and you remember those sandy days, we welcome your feedback. If you lived in one of the first dorms, we’d like to hear from you. If you have photos to share, we would be honored to scan them and return them to you. The history of USF is comprised of people and traditions, not just institutions, and we anticipate to telling and listening to your stories.

Want to share a memory or suggest an idea for a column? Send an email to Andrew Huse at or call 974-7622.

Want to know more? Check out the Florida Studies Center’s Web site at or call Director Mark I. Greenberg at 974-4141.