When the doors to the University of West Florida opened in the fall of 1967, it didn’t just mark the beginning of classes. It marked the beginning of a story—the UWF story. This timeline details the University’s history over the past five decades, characterized by vision, hope and strategic growth. Where we’ve been is only the beginning—our foundation for the future. Here’s to the next 50 years of creation, innovation and transformation.
Establishment of the University of West Florida
May: The Florida Legislature allocates funding to develop UWF, which became the sixth university in the State University System of Florida.
July: Dr. Harold Crosby assumes office as the first UWF president. Crosby oversees construction of the campus and a litany of firsts for the University including the undergraduate programs receiving accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the UWF Foundation being chartered, opening of the John C. Pace Library and establishment of the UWF Fort Walton Beach Center.
April: Groundbreaking for UWF takes place on April 16, 1965, on the 13 parcels of land that Escambia County purchased for $1.2 million.
May: President Crosby selects the chambered nautilus as the official emblem. This was selected alongside the poem, "The Chambered Nautilus" by Oliver Wendell Holmes.
June: President Crosby moves into Building 10, one of the first three completed buildings.
First Semester of Classes
September: UWF opens as an upper division school, with students enrolling in Fall 1967.
University Mascot Chosen
November: The student body selects the Argonauts, the crew of the ship Argo who sought to capture the golden fleece under the leadership of Jason in Greek mythology, as the mascot.
December: The men’s basketball team beats Valdosta State 76-75 in the first athletics event for a UWF team. UWF fields three men’s teams—basketball, golf and tennis—during the school year.
January: President Crosby dedicates the library to John C. Pace, a prominent supporter of higher education in Northwest Florida and first chairman of the State Board of Regents.
May: UWF students inaugurate the campus newspaper, The Voyager.
Inaugural Commencement Ceremony
June: The first commencement ceremony is held, with 58 students receiving degrees.
May: The Board of Trustees approves the first master’s programs in English, elementary education and history to begin in September that same year. The Board also approves courses leading to master’s degrees in professional education and aeronautical systems beginning in September.
Athletics NAIA Membership
August: After being admitted in April, the UWF athletic department begins its membership in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
December: Dr. James Robinson takes the helm as president and serves for nearly 14 years in that role. UWF expands significantly under his watch. The University starts admitting freshmen and sophomores and establishes the campus art gallery, Edward Ball Nature Trail, Small Business Development Center, aquatic center, WUWF-FM, computer center and baseball and softball teams.
Traditional Colleges Organization
July: The University organizes into a traditional structure by establishing three colleges: the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business and the College of Education. UWF previously operated with three resident colleges, Alpha, Gamma and Omega, designed for upper-level and graduate students.
Establishment of WUWF
January: WUWF Public Radio makes its inaugural broadcast. The station was established with a mission to create a more informed public—one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas, and cultures. Through innovative community partnerships, the station produces, acquires and distributes programming that meets the highest standards of public service in journalism and cultural expression.
Fort Walton Beach Expansion
August: UWF and Okaloosa Walton Community College, now Northwest Florida State College, open a joint-education facility at the former Oakland Heights Elementary School.
August: UWF establishes a lower division and freshmen enroll for the first time after authorization from the Florida Legislature.
July: The Department of Computer Science moves from the College of Business into a fourth college, the College of Science and Technology.
September: Dr. Morris Marx assumes the presidency and serves for 14 years before retiring in 2002. Marx oversees significant expansion, highlighted by the opening of the Fort Walton Beach location and ushering in education specialist program and facilities such as the Center for Fine and Performing Arts, College of Education Complex, student services building, psychology building, residence halls and on-campus apartments.
New Fort Walton Beach Location
August: UWF and Okaloosa Walton Community College, now Northwest Florida State College, build and open a new joint location where the two institutions administer their programs.
October: President Marx dedicates the newly opened Center for Fine & Performing Arts as the heart of artistic expression for UWF and a primary destination for arts and culture in Northwest Florida.
May: The UWF softball team wins the NAIA softball national championship, marking the first team national championship in UWF athletics history.
August: The University transitions from the NAIA to full membership in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II and the Gulf South Conference.
Library Renovation and Expansion
September: UWF unveils an expanded and renovated John C. Pace Library, featuring the addition of the eastside structure, which includes distinctive, curved first and second floors and a four-story stairwell.
Academic Realignment Continuation
August: The colleges reorganize into the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business and the College of Professional Studies.
First NCAA National Title
May: The men’s golf team wins the first NCAA Division II national championship in UWF athletics history.
UWF Historic Trust
July: Following a repeal by the Florida Legislature, the Historic Pensacola Preservation Board transfers its building and collections to UWF. West Florida Historic Preservation, Inc. is established as a direct support organization of the University. In 2013, the organization’s name changes to UWF Historic Trust to emphasize that the sites, structures, collections, programs and exhibits of the organization represent a public trust.
July: Dr. John Cavanaugh becomes president and serves for six years. Under his guidance, the Florida Legislature approves a four-year nursing program at UWF, the University establishes a degree in hospitality, recreation and resort management and graduate classes in historic preservation begin in Historic Pensacola Village. Also, UWF survives Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Dennis in 2005 and becomes a national model for disaster planning and preparedness.
Health, Leisure and Sports Facility
March: The new Health, Leisure and Sports Facility opens, which includes offices, classrooms and labs for use by recreation and academic departments, as well as a 10,000-square foot fitness center, racquetball courts, an indoor running track, multiple gyms and workout spaces and a 36-foot climbing wall.
July: Dr. Judith Bense takes office as the fifth UWF president and serves for eight years before retiring in 2016. Bense focuses on growth and visibility, while enhancing the student experience and creating partnerships to make UWF a first-choice University. She builds a network of community partners and identifies regional workforce needs, and UWF increases its enrollment and strengthens its academic programs during her tenure.
Science and Engineering Building
February: UWF opens a new science and engineering facility. The $30.6 million, state-funded building embodies the principles of Project Kaleidoscope, an advocate in the U.S. for building and sustaining strong undergraduate programs in science, technology, engineering and math fields.
August: Heritage Hall opens to offer housing that eases the transition from a traditional residence hall to living in an apartment. Programming in Heritage Hall is designed for students in their first year to senior year at UWF.
Student Wellness Center
December: The Student Wellness Center, totaling 16,144 square feet, opens and houses Counseling and Psychological Services, Student Health Services and Wellness Services.
College of Business Education Center
August: The College of Business opens a brand new facility, offering a state-of-the-art location for business students to gather, study and network on campus. The three-story, 44,380-square-foot College of Business Education Center provides modern, high-tech conveniences for engaging in interactive learning.
August: UWF opens its newest residence hall, Presidents Hall. The twin of Heritage Hall, Presidents Hall houses 250 residents in a suite-style building with both double and single rooms.
August: The former three-college structure transitions into four academic colleges: College of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities; College of Education and Professional Studies; College of Science, Engineering and Health; and the College of Business. Additionally, UWF launches University College to concentrate on professional readiness and transformative learning experiences.
College of Health
August: UWF announces formation of the College of Health, dividing the former College of Science, Engineering and Health into two separate colleges in order to position the University as a major player in the development of innovative solutions to substantial health care challenges.
December: UWF identifies the archaeological site of the Luna settlement in a developed neighborhood in Pensacola. The first multi-year European settlement in the United States existed from 1559-1561.
Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering
January: Hal Marcus donates $5 million to the College of Science and Engineering. The college is named the Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering, becoming the first named college at UWF.
Pensacola Museum of Art
June: UWF takes ownership of the Pensacola Museum of Art. This agreement complements art education at UWF as the University assumes responsibility for nurturing an endowment and maintaining the museum’s art collection—including several hundred pieces of 20th and 21st century art on paper, as well as three-dimensional works.
Inaugural Football Season
September: UWF football kicks off its inaugural season under Head Coach Pete Shinnick. Argos beat Ave Maria 45-0 in their opener and proceed to sell out each of their five home games at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
50th Anniversary Capital Campaign Public Phase
November: UWF publicly launches its 50th Anniversary Capital Campaign with a fundraising goal of $50 million. This marks the largest capital campaign in University history. The quiet phase of the campaign started in January 2011 and the campaign lasts through the end of 2017.
January: Dr. Martha Saunders assumes the presidency after previously serving in a variety of roles, including provost and executive vice president. President Saunders’ vision for UWF is for it to grow beyond its beginnings as a regional comprehensive university. She plans to build on the University’s strengths and its undergraduate traditions while creating programs that will attract the faculty and research funding needed to make the leap to the next level.
Usha Kundu, MD College of Health
February: Dr. Usha and Mahadeb Kundu donate a gift in excess of $5 million to name the UWF College of Health the Usha Kundu, MD College of Health, marking the second UWF named college.
January: The University creates the Division of Research and Strategic Innovation to advance the state’s economy and strengthens its workforce by nurturing and applying innovative ideas in funded research, scholarship, business development, strategic partnerships and outreach.
July: The University merges the Division of Student Affairs and Office of Enrollment Affairs to create a new Division of Enrollment and Student Affairs to focus on student recruitment, admissions, strategic graduation initiatives, student life programs and high-quality services that support student success. The new Division of Academic Engagement supports students as they make the journey to graduation and entry-level employment.