USA: A Brief History

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The University of South Alabama was founded in 1963 without a single building to call its own. More than 50 years and quite a few buildings later, USA is a vibrant university that continues to serve as a catalyst for transformational change in the city, the state and the Gulf Coast region.

USA's story began in the early 1960s, when Mobile’s civic leaders saw the need to improve access to higher education in southwest Alabama. Realizing the region had outgrown the small extension program that operated out of a building downtown, they formulated plans for a four-year, degree-granting institution. On May 3, 1963, a bill creating a new, independent university successfully passed the Alabama Legislature, and USA was born.

Classes began in June 1964 at a new, $1 million building in west Mobile. Initial enrollment totaled 276. The extent of the pent-up demand for education became obvious when the first fall semester began. Enrollment leaped to 928 — and it continues to grow. Today, USA enrolls more than 16,000 students annually and has awarded more than 80,000 degrees.

The first campus building is now named the Frederick Palmer Whiddon Administration Building, after USA’s first president. Whiddon helped establish the University and remained at its helm until retiring in 1998. His successor, longtime faculty member and administrator V. Gordon Moulton, oversaw a new era of growth into the 21st Century. Dr. Tony G. Waldrop, selected in 2014 as USA’s the University’s third president, continues the USA tradition of visionary leadership focused on discovery, health and learning.

As new programs attracted more students, the University’s footprint and facilities expanded. Almost from the moment USA accepted its first students, its leaders began ambitiously working toward establishing a medical school. The College of Medicine charter class began in 1973, and USA’s focus on health education was later complemented by the College of Nursing and the Pat Capps Covey College of Allied Health Professions.

Today, USA provides high-quality education in business, the liberal arts, education, engineering, computing, the sciences and health care. It offers 100 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees through its nine colleges and schools. The University campus includes USA Technology & Research Park, an incubator of economic development and technological innovation. On the east side of Mobile Bay, USA’s Baldwin County Campus provides eastern shore residents convenient access to educational programs.

The University of South Alabama encompasses a comprehensive health system composed of two hospitals — USA Medical Center and USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital — along with the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute and the USA Physicians Group. This combination of advanced health care services has improved the lives of countless residents throughout the entire region.

A charter member of the Sun Belt Conference, USA fields 17 Division I sports teams, including baseball, softball, basketball, soccer, volleyball and tennis. The Jaguars football program, established in 2009, played in its first bowl game, the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, in 2014.

USA Timeline

May 3, 1963 USA founded by an act of the Alabama Legislature.
October 1963 First meeting of the USA Board of Trustees; Dr. Frederick P. Whiddon named president.
April 1964 The University moved from 154 St. Louis Street to its present location in west Mobile.
June 1964 First classes began; initial enrollment totaled 276 students.
October 1964 Gov. George C. Wallace dedicates the University of South Alabama campus.
April 1965 The jaguar was adopted as the University's mascot.
October 1965 Ground-breaking for Alpha Dorms, the University's first residence hall complex.
June 1967 Eighty-eight baccalaureate degrees were conferred at the first commencement.
December 1968 The University was admitted membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
May 1969 The University acquired the 327-acre Brookley Conference Center.
August 1969 A resolution of the Alabama Legislature supported establishment of a medical school under the auspices of the University of South Alabama.
November 1970 Mobile General Hospital was transferred to the University.
May 1971 Dr. Robert M. Bucher named first dean of the College of Medicine.
January 1973 The charter class of 25 students entered the College of Medicine.
April 1975 Mobile General Hospital was renamed University of South Alabama Medical Center.
October 1976 The University became a charter member of the Sun Belt Athletic Conference.
September 1978 The University's first Ph.D. program —in Basic Medical Sciences— was initiated.
January 1983 The USA Children's and Women's Hospital was established.
August 1984 The University of South Alabama Baldwin County branch was established.
August 1987 The former Providence Hospital was acquired by the University to house programs of the colleges of Allied Health Professions, Medicine, and Nursing.
June 1990 The University acquired Doctors Hospital and Knollwood Park Hospital.
October 1997 Dedication of the Frederick Palmer Whiddon Administration Building.
July 1998 Dr. Frederick Whiddon retires as USA's only president in its 35-year history.
July 1998 V. Gordon Moulton named University President.
November 1998 Dedication of the John W. Laidlaw Performing Arts Center.
May 1999 Naming of the Mitchell College of Business, recognizing endowments of faculty chairs and scholarships by the Mitchell family of Mobile.
October 2001 Dedication of the USA Children's Park, a 16-acre park at USA Children's and Women's Hospital displaying bronze sculptures celebrating children and families.
December 2001 Refurbishment of Alumni Hall completed following more than $40,000 in contributions from the Toulmin family and the USA Alumni Association.
May 2002 Establishment of the USA Cancer Research Institute, later re-named the Mitchell Cancer Institute.
June 2002 Creation of the University Research and Technology Park Corporation.
December 2002 The University awarded it 50,000th degree at Fall Commencement.
March 2003 Dedication of the 53,000-square-foot addition to the University Library.
October 2003 Dedication of the new 16-acre Intramural Athletics Complex and Field House.
December 2003 Dedication of the Mentor Graphics Corporation Building, the first building in the USA Technology and Research Park.
September 2004 Dedication of the Larry D. Striplin III Basketball Practice Facility.
December 2005 Completion of a second building in the USA Technology and Research Park.
February 2005 Implementation of a new $6.2 million campus transportation system, Jag Tran.
April 2005 Groundbreaking ceremony held for USA's cancer institute, which was later named the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute.
April 2005 Dedication of Stanky Field, following a $3.8 million renovation.
July 2005 USA and Infirmary Health System announce a strategic health care alliance to enhance health care in the region and provide innovative cancer treatment and research through the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute.
March 2006 Launching of the University's first comprehensive fund-raising campaign.
March 2006 The USA Cancer Research Institute is renamed the Mitchell Cancer Institute following a $22 million gift in support of the Institute from the Mitchell family of Mobile.
April 2006 Infirmary Health System assumes operation of former USA Knollwood Hospital as Infirmary West at Knollwood.
September 2006 Dedication of Meisler Hall, an $8 million student services building named in honor of the Meisler family of Mobile, who donated $2 million to endow the facility.
October 2006 Dedication of the $2.2 million Alfred and Lucile Delchamps Archaeology Building, which serves as a public museum of ancient artifacts and a teaching and research center as home of the USA Center for Archaeological Studies. The building was created in part through the generosity of the Delchamps family of Mobile.
November 2006 A joint pharmacy program between USA and Auburn University was established, with plans to admit the first class of students in fall 2007. Graduates of the pharmacy program in Mobile receive a degree from the Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy at the University of South Alabama.
March 2007 Dedication of the Joseph and Rebecca Mitchell Learning Resource Center at the Mitchell College of Business, a $2.5 million facility that significantly improves the learning environment for USA business students.
April 2007 The natural connections among Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health Professions were acknowledged through a new cooperative administrative structure under the guidance of the first Vice President for Health Sciences, Dr. Ron Franks.
April 2007 The University names its first vice president for health systems, Stan Hammack, who will oversee the clinical operations of USA’s health system, including its hospitals and physician practice.
April 2007 Began construction of the new $45 million Health Sciences Building, which will bring the colleges of Allied Health Professions and Nursing back to USA’s main campus.
May 2007 Hired first Vice President for Research, Dr. Russ Lea, symbolizing USA’s ever-expanding programs in research, outreach and scholarly activity.
August 2007 Opening of a privately funded student apartment complex, The Grove, which by fall 2008 housed 1,000 students.
September 2007 Celebrated the grand opening of the Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy at the University of South Alabama and welcomed its inaugural class of students.
November 2007 USA students presented a petition to President Moulton in support of football and marching band programs during half-time at a Jaguar Men’s Basketball game.
December 2007 USA Trustees approve NCAA-sanctioned football and marching band programs.
December 2007 The historic number of degrees awarded by the University topped 60,000.
February 2008 USA hired its first football coach, Joey Jones.
February 2008 Public groundbreaking held during Homecoming for USA Moulton Tower and Alumni Plaza.
March 2008 Plans for USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital expansion approved by USA Board of Trustees.
April 2008 Public groundbreaking ceremony held for new state-of-the-art, 116,000-square-foot Student Recreation Center.
July 2008 USA officially begins new marching band program with announcement of  band’s first director, Ward Miller.
August 2008 USA unveils new athletic and marching band logo.
November 2008 Dedication of the new USA Mitchell Cancer Institute building, which represents a total investment of more than $135 million, including $75 million in construction and equipment.
April 2009 Conclusion of the University's first comprehensive fund-raising campaign, which resulted in more than $93.5 million for USA programs, faculty, students and construction.
September 2009 Launched inaugural season of USA’s football and marching band programs.
September 2009 Dedication of the Health Sciences Building, new home of the colleges of Allied Health Professions and Nursing.
September 2009 Groundbreaking ceremony for Shelby Hall Engineering and Computing Sciences Building.
November 2009 Dedication of the Football Field House and practice fields.
January 2010 Dedication of Veterans Memorial Plaza, which is dedicated to the students, alumni, faculty and staff who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
July 2010 Completion of the new USA Jaguar Marching Band drill tower and pavilion.
September 2010 First classes held in the new glass arts building, a 5,000-square-foot facility in the Visual Arts complex.
September 2010 Dedication of the new state-of-the-art, 116,000-square-foot Student Recreation Center.
October 2010 Dedication of Moulton Tower and Alumni Plaza.
November 2010 Groundbreaking on USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital expansion.
November 2010 Opening of a new 20,000-square-foot dining hall near residence halls.
August 2011 Opening of Stokes Hall, a 330-bed residence hall that includes the
University’s first Faculty in Residence and incorporates the concept of
“Learning Communities."
September 9, 2012 Dedication of Shelby Hall, home of College of Engineering and School of Computing.
May 3, 2013 50th Anniversary of USA’s founding.
April 2, 2014 Dr. Tony G. Waldrop takes office as USA’s third president.
August 2014 Total enrollment surpasses 16,000 for the first time in University history; total fall enrollment is 16,055.
December 2014 The J.L. Bedsole Foundation pledges $1 million to establish the J.L. Bedsole Foundation Endowed Scholarship Fund.
December 2014 The Jaguar football team plays in its first post-season game, the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl.