Trouble viewing the video in your browser? Click here to view video message on YouTube.


The University of Missouri was founded in Columbia in 1839 as the first publicly supported institution of higher education to be established in the Louisiana Purchase territory. The university had a single campus until 1870, when the School of Mines and Metallurgy (now Missouri University of Science and Technology) was established in Rolla. In the same year, the university assumed land-grant responsibilities of providing higher education opportunities for all citizens. In 1963, the university again expanded to better serve Missouri by founding a new campus in St. Louis (the University of Missouri-St. Louis) and through acquiring the University of Kansas City (now the University of Missouri-Kansas City), creating the present four-campus University of Missouri System.

Today, the University of Missouri is one of the nation’s largest higher education institutions, with more than 73,000 students on four campuses, a health care enterprise, and an extension program with activities in every county of the state.

Significant Dates

  • 1839 - University established in Columbia.
  • 1843 - First commencement. There were only two graduates, but the ceremony lasted three hours.
  • 1862 - The Civil War and other difficulties forced the University to close for most of the year.
  • 1867 - The state provided the first appropriation of $10,000, to build a home for the president, repair war damages and establish a normal school.
  • 1868 - Women admitted for the first time.
  • 1870 - The university was accorded land-grant status under the Morrill Act of 1862, prompting the legislature to authorize a school of agriculture and mechanical arts in Columbia and a school of mines and metallurgy in Rolla.
  • 1888 - The university established the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station under the authority of the Hatch Act. Experiments were begun on Sanborn Field in Columbia, where they continue today.
  • 1890 - The university played its first intercollegiate football game. The opponent was Washington University.
  • 1892 - Academic Hall, the first and main building on the Columbia campus, was destroyed by fire. The building's famous columns remain on Francis Quadrangle.
  • 1908 - The world's first school of journalism was founded on the Columbia campus.
  • 1910 - The university established its extension division.
  • 1911 - Correspondence study was offered for the first time.
  • 1917 - The nation's first soil erosion experiment was carried out in Columbia. The project became the basis for the U.S. Soil Conservation Service's national erosion reduction program.
  • 1950 - The university admitted its first black students.
  • 1952 - The legislature appropriated funds to build a major medical center on the Columbia campus.
  • 1963 - The university becomes a four-campus system, acquiring the University of Kansas City (UM-Kansas City) and creating a campus in St. Louis (UM-St. Louis).
  • 1966 - The university's research reactor, a world-class facility, was completed.
  • 1970 - The School of Optometry at UM-St. Louis was opened. It is the only optometry school in Missouri.
  • 1971 - UM-Kansas City established a school of medicine with a unique six-year program, and, the UMKC dentistry school became the first to offer a three-year degree program.
  • 1986 - Contracts were signed to begin the development of university research parks in Kansas City and St. Charles County.

For a detailed history of the university, please refer to:

The University of Missouri, 1839-1939, by Jonas Viles, E.W. Stephens Co.

A History of the University of Missouri, by Frank Stephens, University of Missouri Press, 1939.

The University of Missouri, An Illustrated History, by James and Vera Olson, University of Missouri Press, 1988.

Reviewed 2018-04-23.