- History of the University of North Alabama
A comprehensive regional university today, the
University of North Alabamatraces its beginnings to the first half of the 19th century, when the Methodist Episcopal Church sought to bring learning and culture to an obscure mountain in a sparsely populated state known as Alabama.
From these humble beginnings, the university progressed from a poorly funded church-supported school, to a cash-strapped
normal school, to a teachers collegeand, finally, to the state university it has become.
The University of North Alabama first opened its doors as LaGrange College on
January 11, 1830, in a mountain hamlet a few miles south of Leighton in northeast Franklin County, Alabama. LaGrange means "The Place" in French. Twenty-one local college trustees were listed in Acts of Alabama, Eleventh Annual Session.
, is now the University of North Alabama.
LaGrange College arose from the idea offered at a
November 28, 1826meeting of the Tennessee Conferenceof the Methodist Episcopal Churchto establish a college which would not be “religious or theological." By January 1829, the selection of Lawrence Hill on LaGrange Mountain was made for the site of the school.
A year later, LaGrange College opened to students of all denominations in two three-story brick buildings. (This was slightly more than a year before the
University of Alabamawould open in Tuscaloosa.) Eight days after the opening of LaGrange College, the Alabama Legislatureissued a charter for the institution, making it the first state-chartered institution to begin operation in Alabama. Other colleges were in operation, but not chartered by the state.
Robert Painewas the first president. The North Carolinanative was also the professor of moral science and belles lettresand taught geographyand mineralogy. He was assisted by two other professors. The first board of trustees had a total of 50 members, including two Native Americans, a Choctawpolitician and a Cherokeeleader. In 1830, Turner Saunders, a native of Virginia, was the first President of the Board of Trustees. Saunders' mansion c1826 still stands in Lawrence County. Among the many distant trustees was John Coffee of Florence, friend of Andrew Jackson. Among the local trustees was Henry Stuart Foote of Tuscumbia, who would move to Mississippi and defeat Jefferson Davis in the 1850 Governor's race. J.D. Malone, of Limestone County, was the first graduate in 1833.
1850, a grammarschool was added to LaGrange College. (Today, UNA has the only university-owned and operated elementary laboratory school - Kilby Professional Laboratory School- in Alabama.)
Among LaGrange's alumni were several generals, Alabama governors
Edward A. O'Nealand David P. Lewis, Alabama Supreme Courtjustice William M. Byrdand U.S. Senator Jeremiah Clemens, who wrote the first American Civil Warnovel and the first western novel. [http://www2.una.edu/universityrelations/facts.htm Jarnigan, Bill. "Facts and Figures about UNA," Office of University Relations, University of North Alabama] ]
Florence Wesleyan University
to relocate to Florence. Those who accompanied the school across the Tennessee River to Florence fully expected that the institutional name, LaGrange College, would be carried over, too. However, Alabama Legislature referred to grant a charter to the new institution under its old name, so the school was re-incorporated as Wesleyan University. Steen, Robert S., "The 175-Year March from the 19th into the 21st," UNA Magazine, Summer, 2005]
Robert M. Guillot replaced outgoing President E.B. Norton on April 1, 1972, vowing to transform the small institution into a highly regarded regional university. What followed was one of the most significant periods of growth in the institution’s history. Enrollment grew from slightly more than 3,000 to more than 5,000 in fewer than five years.
Guillot also developed a Greek system on campus, confident that fraternities and sororities would enhance the academic and social environment and entice more students to remain on campus during weekends. Steen, Robert S., "The 175-Year March from the 19th into the 21st," UNA Magazine, Summer, 2005]
On August 15,
1974, the university underwent another change of name to the University of North Alabama, symbolizing its coming of age as a comprehensive, regional university. The following year, the graduate curriculum once again was expanded with the introduction of the master’s degree program in business administration.
Guillot also directed a substantial expansion of the university’s physical plant, including the construction of the Education and Nursing Building (now Stevens Hall), additions to Collier Library,
Flowers Hall, and the Student Union Building (later renamed Guillot University Center), and renovation of Braly Municipal Stadium. Steen, Robert S., "The 175-Year March from the 19th into the 21st," UNA Magazine, Summer, 2005]
Following a reorganization in
1991, the university's administrative structure consists of four divisions: Academic Affairs, Business Affairs, Student Affairs and Advancement, each headed by a vice president. In 1993, the Board of Trustees, anticipating continued and steady enrollment growth, adopted a new master facilities plan to ensure that UNA ultimately will be equipped to accommodate 10,000 students.
Dr. Robert L. Potts, who succeeded Guillot following his retirement in
1989, undertook a series of measures to compensate for shortfalls in state funding, including the reactivation of the UNA Foundation as the university’s charitable arm. Two other measures included the reorganization of the alumni relations department and provision for an annual giving program.
Curriculum expansion continued with the establishment of new graduate programs in English and criminal justice. The university’s nationally renowned commercial music program was enhanced with the development of an Entertainment Development Center. UNA also emerged as an early leader of distance learning.
International student enrollment also underwent explosive growth. By
2004, international enrollment increasing to nearly 300 students representing 35 countries. Steen, Robert S., "The 175-Year March from the 19th into the 21st," UNA Magazine, Summer, 2005]
Dr. William G. Cale Jr., became president of the University of North Alabama on January 15, 2005, four days after the university marked the 175th anniversary of its founding as LaGrange College. A
Philadelphianative, Cale came to UNA from Pennsylvania State University-Altoona, where he served as chief executive officer and dean. Previously, he was the executive vice president for Academic Affairs at Lamar Universityin Beaumont, Texas. [http://www2.una.edu/universityrelations/November2004.htm "UNA President-Elect Dr. William Cale Visits Campus Again," Office of University Relations, University of North Alabama, November 19, 2004] ]
* [http://www.una.edu/ Official website]
* [http://recall-lagrange.00me.com/ LaGrange College]
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