Take a walk through this timeline of significant milestones in UMBC’s history — from its beginnings as a plot of Baltimore County farmland to an increasingly prominent public research university — and you’ll see moments of grit and greatness all along the way.
This is a living document, meant to change over time. Click on any image to enlarge.
- The Maryland General Assembly passes a bill to establish UMBC as one of four additional campuses of the University of Maryland. The legislation is the fruit of four state commissions – dating back to the mid-1950s – that recommended expansion of higher education in Maryland.
WHEREAS, Baltimore County is blessed with a number of science-based industries which are currently engaged in highly specialized research and development work and a graduate branch of the University would undoubtedly be of great assistance to these industries and would attract new industry into the metropolitan region.” (Senate Bill 73, Approved April 30, 1963)
- The University of Maryland’s Board of Regents approves a location for UMBC: A 435-acre tract of land operated by Spring Grove State Hospital. The site was suggested by Maryland Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, and the hospital’s donation of the site saves the state millions of dollars in costs to acquire land for the campus.
- Read about UMBC’s oldest standing building in UMBC Magazine.
- Albin O. Kuhn is named as vice president of the so-called “Baltimore Campuses” – UMBC and University of Maryland, Baltimore. (In 1967, he is named as UMBC Chancellor.)
- Ground broken at UMBC.
- UMBC opens its doors. On its first day of classes, the campus consists of three buildings: Gym I, Lecture Hall I and a portion of the present-day Biological Sciences building. UMBC has 45 faculty members, 35 support staff and 500 parking spaces.
“Each of you brings individual background, talents and education to our new campus. Collectively, you are a different student body from any previously assembled. In working with the faculty and staff of UMBC, make the most of this opportunity to help create a center of learning in which those who give their best in the laboratory and on the playing field develop a brilliance that is the mark of their efforts and the UMBC environment.” – Albin O. Kuhn
- Read about the first student to register for classes in UMBC Magazine.
- UMBC plays its very first intercollegiate game on November 4 — a spirited 4-1 loss by the men’s soccer squad to the University of Maryland, College Park.
- The school gets its first live athletics mascot. First intercollegiate game played at UMBC is a men’s soccer game against University of Maryland, College Park on November 4, 1966. The UMBC’s women’s basketball team forms without a coach. They play (and win) their first game on January 11, 1969.
- Just months before his tragic death in a plane accident, soul music superstar Otis Redding played a show on campus. Read more about Redding and other famous performers on campus in UMBC Magazine.
- UMBC announces its first Winter Session. It is the first university in Maryland to offer such classes.
- Phase I of the university library opens.
- The campus literary magazine, Dialogue, publishes a series of nude photographs by artist Robert Stark. The publication draws criticism from legislators and creates rifts between UMBC administrators and the university’s faculty and students. Read more in UMBC Magazine.
- The physical campus continues to grow with the opening of the Mathematics/Psychology building.
- Commencement for UMBC’s first graduating class. In all, 241 students are granted degrees. See a slideshow of Undergraduate Commencements throughout the years.
- UMBC’s first dormitory opens, housing 118 students. Two more dormitories and a dining hall follow by 1973.
- Albin O. Kuhn resigns. Calvin B. T. Lee—acting president of Boston University—is named as UMBC’s second Chancellor after a nationwide search.
- The Fine Arts Building, the Social Sciences Building and Administration Building open.
- The UMBC Department of Theatre presents You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown. The production is a finalist in the American College Theatre Festival at the Kennedy Center – the first of UMBC’s seven trips to university theatre’s most prestigious competition.
- Master’s degree program in Policy Sciences is founded.
- Men’s baseball standout Mel Hammel ’76, history, pitches the first UMBC no hitter in a 20-0 win over Coppin State.
- The Office of Cooperative Education is created at UMBC. This office is the forerunner of today’s Shriver Center, which is established in December 1993.
- UMBC men’s cross country goes 10-0 and wins the Mason-Dixon conference title.
- UMBC awards its first Ph.D.in applied mathematics.
- After a spring semester of strong opposition from faculty and students, Chancellor Calvin B.T. Lee resigns his position. Louis L. Kaplan, former Chancellor of the University of Maryland’s Board of Regents, is named as the interim Chancellor.
- John Dorsey – Administrative Vice President at the University of Maryland, College Park – is appointed as UMBC’s third Chancellor.
“Most importantly, [UMBC Acting Vice Chancellor Robert K.] Webb said UMBC must provide ‘programs to catch up with the quality of the faculty we’ve got.’ He said UMBC’s role in the Baltimore area was a distinctive one. ‘It’s the only publicly supported university in the genuine sense of the term.’ ” – The Retriever Weekly, August 29, 1978
- The men’s soccer team becomes the first UMBC team to compete in a postseason NCAA tournament.
- Despite its growing resident student population, UMBC is still largely a commuter campus. By the end of the 1970s, the university will have over 3,000 parking spaces. The first parking meters are installed in 1978, with a fee of 10¢ per hour.
- After almost a decade of graduations, UMBC creates an official Alumni Association.
- UMBC’s innovative Option II program, established in 1969 to allow students to develop their own courses of study, becomes the Interdisciplinary Studies department.
- The Retriever men’s basketball squad — ranked number six in the nation — advances to the NCAA Division II tournament quarterfinals, losing at home to Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame coach John Chaney’s Cheyney State team.
- UMBC creates a master’s degree program in instructional development.
- The Emergency Health Services department is founded. It is one of the first such programs in the nation.
- UMBC men’s lacrosse team wins the NCAA Division II national championship. It is the university’s only team intercollegiate title. The next year, the university moves to Division I in the sport.
- Media reports that Sheldon Knorr, executive director of the Maryland Higher Education Commission, will propose that UMBC be shut down and turned into an industrial park create a campus firestorm. Students, faculty and administrators rally to defend the university.
“Photographers snapped away as [UMBC Chancellor John] Dorsey deplored the ‘unfortunate incident.’ Saying the newspaper reports were ‘demoralizing and damaging,’ Dorsey asserted that ‘if the threat is real, we are prepared to fight it.’ ” – The Retriever Weekly, March 4, 1981
- The Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research is founded.
- University Center opens.
- The Image Laboratory – precursor to UMBC’s Imaging Research Center – is founded.
- UMBC’s modern languages and linguistics department is among the first programs to adopt “immersion” techniques in acquisition of languages.
- Chancellor John Dorsey resigns. Bennington College president Michael Hooker is named as UMBC’s fourth Chancellor.
“The knowledge discovered and created in universities will be the fuel rods powering the economy of the 21st century.” – Michael Hooker
- UMBC undertakes comprehensive strategic planning for the first time in its history, partly in response to critical comments from the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
- True Grit statue is installed on campus.
- The Meyerhoff Scholars Program is founded. The effort becomes internationally renowned for its advancement of diversity in the sciences and engineering, and creates a model for pedagogical innovation across UMBC’s campus.
- A proposed merger between UMB Cand the University of Baltimore is voted down by the University System of Maryland’s Regents. Two years later, in 1991, a different merger plan for UMBC and the University of Maryland, Baltimore wins approval in Maryland’s House but is not taken up by the State Senate.
- The university issues its first comprehensive strategic plan – Advancing the Greater Baltimore Region: The Strategic Enhancement of UMBC. The focus of the plan is bolstering the university’s strengths in the sciences, engineering, mathematics and technology – as well as in public policy.
- UMBC establishes a College of Engineering.
- Michael Hooker leaves UMBC to become president of the University of Massachusetts system. UMBC’s executive vice president, Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, is named as interim president.
- Hrabowski is formally named as UMBC’s fifth President.
“We will continue to strengthen our arts and sciences programs, for the benefit of all our students. We will be a national leader in educating students in science and engineering, including minorities and women. And we will continue to focus on issues of diversity.” – Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, Installation address as President of UMBC
- UMBC rebrands itself as “An Honors University in Maryland” – a new title that reflects the institution’s achievements and aspirations.
- The Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology (JCET) − a cooperative agreement between UMBC and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center – is established.
- UMBC women’s volleyball wins the Big South conference title.
- Scott A. Bass becomes the UMBC Graduate School’s first full time dean. The position was previously shared with the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
- UMBC marks its 30th anniversary with an addition to the Albin O. Kuhn Library and a “Mindfest” that celebrates the intellectual life of the university.
- UMBC holds its first Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day (URCAD) – a demonstration of the university’s commitment to excellence in undergraduate education.
- UMBC begins its first capital campaign with a goal of raising $50 million. By the campaign’s end in 2002, it has raised $66 million.
- After more than a decade of protests and lawsuits, construction begins on bwtech@UMBC − a research park at the university. The process also yields the 50-acre Conservation and Environmental Research Areas (CERA), with much of it adjacent to the new research park.
- UMBC students are inducted into the university’s new chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
- The Center for Women in Technology (CWIT) is founded by Joan Korenman – a professor of English and director of the UMBC’s gender and women’s studies department.
- UMBC women’s tennis wins the second of two consecutive conference championships, and qualify for their first-ever NCAA tournament.
- UMBC’s Honors University Task Force issues its final report. Among its recommendations are making “the rigorous ways of learning” offered through selective programs at the university available to the wider student body.
- Alex. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship is founded.
- The gap between the percentage of commuter and resident students narrows to 20 percent.
- The Commons opens on the site of the former Gym I. The flags of the world on the building’s Main Street celebrate UMBC’s diversity.
- The UMBC Women’s Center celebrates its 10th anniversary.
- UMBC women’s lacrosse makes its first NCAA tournament appearance.
- Women’s softball beats Liberty, 7-1, in the 2002 NCAA Tournament.
- UMBC Athletics joins the America East conference.
- On the 25th anniversary of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, UMBC boasts an array of similar programs attracting students across disciplines with more to come in the next decade – including Linehan Artist Scholars, Humanities Scholars, CWIT Scholars, Sondheim Public Affairs Scholars and Sherman Scholars (STEM education).
- An intense period of strategic planning for the university results in Framing the Future: A Strategic Framework for 2016.
“UMBC: An Honors University in Maryland seeks to become the best public research university of our size by combining the traditions of the liberal arts academy, the creative intensity of the research university, and the social responsibility of the public university. We will be known for integrating research, teaching and learning, and civic engagement so that each advances the others for the benefit of society.” – Framing the Future
- Erickson School of Aging Studies is founded.
- UMBC men’s swimming wins its first America East Championship title.
- The College of Arts & Sciences divides into two new colleges: the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (CAHSS) and the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences (CNMS). The school’s information systems program is folded into the College of Engineering, creating the College of Engineering and Information Technology (COEIT).
- President Hrabowski joins 330 college and university presidents in signing the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.
- UMBC women’s basketball earns its first NCAA tournament bid.
- UMBC’s men’s basketball team wins the America East Conference Tournament and earns school’s first NCAA men’s tournament bid.
- UMBC is named the #1 “Up-and-Coming School” by the editors of U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” guide. It maintains this lofty ranking for five years.
- The College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences (CNMS) Active Science Teaching and Learning Environment – better known as CASTLE – opens its doors in the University Center. The CASTLE extends on the successes of the Chemistry Discovery Center as an engine of innovation in undergraduate learning.
- Ayers Saint Gross creates a new master plan for UMBC that reflects the university’s growth beyond Hilltop Circle and south to the bwtech@UMBC complexes.
- UMBC closes its second capital campaign − “Exceptional by Example” − which raises $15 million over its stated $100 million goal.
- UMBC opens the first phase of its new Performing Arts and Humanities Building with a ribbon-cutting and campus celebration.
- Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, celebrates his 20th anniversary as UMBC’s President by establishing a new fund for innovation in teaching at the university. He is also named as one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.”
“You know, there is a level of greatness we’ve achieved at UMBC that people rarely appreciate, and it has to do with the spirit of this community. It’s a spirit in students, faculty, staff and alumni that focuses on serving…. People at UMBC may have different points of view and disagree, but there is a belief in the importance of the common good. A belief in the importance of what makes us a great university and a great community.” – Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, UMBC Magazine, Winter 2013
- The university formally commences a new strategic planning process with a series of campus conversations. The process will result in a new strategic plan for UMBC that will coincide with the university’s 50th anniversary in 2016.
- Retriever men’s soccer advances to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the second time in two years.
- We are the World: The College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (CAHSS) creates a new major in Global Studies, and the College of Engineering and Information Technology (COEIT) introduces a Global Engineering track to its traditional engineering studies.
- UMBC women’s soccer caps a stunning reversal from last place in the conference to first place in a single season with a bid to the NCAA tournament.
- Phase Two of the Performing Arts and Humanities building opens.
- UMBC’s total fall enrollment exceeds 14,000 students for the first time, including 11,200 undergraduates and 2,800 graduates students from 48 states and more than 100 countries.
- UMBC’s endowment reaches more than $76.6 million, the university’s highest level to date.
- The university formally announces plans for a new Event Center and Arena, which will house numerous athletics and community events and bring the UMBC’s commencement back to campus in 2018.
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This timeline of UMBC history is a work in progress. Special thanks for help in creating this presentation (providing charts, identifying source materials and suggesting interpretive threads) are due to:
- George LaNoue, professor of political science and public policy, and the author of the forthcoming book, Improbable Excellence: The Saga of UMBC (Carolina Academic Press).
- The staff of the Special Collections Department at the Albin O. Kuhn Library, especially Tom Beck (chief curator) and Lindsey Loeper (university archivist).
- The staff of UMBC’s Office of Institutional Research (OIR), especially Michael Dillon (associate provost) and Connie Pierson (assistant director).
- The Creative Services Department of UMBC’s Office of Institutional Advancement, especially Jim Lord (design director) and Marlayna Demond (photographer).
- UMBC’s Department of Planning and Construction Services, especially Joe Rexing (director and university architect) and Julianne Simpson (assistant director for planning).
The timeline was conceived and written by Richard Byrne ’86, Office of Institutional Advancement, with contributions from Steve Levy ’85, Athletics.