The Florida Legislature authorizes establishment of
Florida’s fifth public university in the southeastern
section of the state.
Raton banker Thomas F. Fleming Jr. immediately begins
working to secure a vacated U.S. Army airbase in his
small Palm Beach County town as the site of the new
Boca Raton Town Clerk William H. Lamb sends a letter
to the State Board of Control affirming that “the
Town is vitally interested in the location of the proposed
new State University” and is willing to deed 1,250
acres of the airbase to the state “for University
Civil Aeronautics Administration, heavily lobbied by
Fleming through his friends U.S. Senator George Smathers
and U.S. Congressman Paul Rogers, supports this action.
The Board of Control unanimously endorses Tom Fleming’s
proposal to establish the new university in Boca Raton,
disappointing proponents of sites in other locations,
including Broward County and the Florida Panhandle.
The Florida Board of Education approves building the
university in Boca Raton, but the Panhandle-controlled
State Legislature refuses to provide the necessary funding.
Board of Control mandates that the community must raise
at least $100,000 to cover start-up expenses.
The Florida Legislature passes an act dated July 15,
1961, authorizing establishment of the new university.
Opening is set for September 1964.
Bryant, newly elected Governor of Florida, calls for
$25 million in bonds to build the new university at
Boca Raton and improve the physical facilities at the
state’s other four public universities. The bond
issue survives a court challenge and is approved.
Brumbaugh Report, prepared by a Board of Control committee
chaired by Dr. J.A. Brumbaugh, is issued. It calls for
innovative thinking in the planning of the new university,
which it says could pioneer a new model of higher education
nationally. The report envisions an institution that
would take full advantage of rapidly developing television
and computer technology while serving juniors, seniors
and graduate students exclusively, in partnership with
Tom Fleming organizes the fund-raising Endowment Corporation
for a University in Boca Raton under the rallying cry
“Boca U. in ’62, Open the Door in ’64.”
This grassroots group raises $300,000 to pay architects’
fees, salaries and other expenses associated with launching
the new university. Fleming himself makes the first
donation, pledging one percent of three years’
worth of the pre-tax earnings of the First Bank and
Trust Company of Boca Raton, which he heads.
bonds proposed by Governor Bryant are sold, providing
$5.3 million to construct “Boca U.”
Board of Control selects Florida Atlantic University
as the name of the new university. Rejected names include
Bryant State University (to honor Governor Bryant),
Sunshine State University and A-OK University (a reference
to a catch-phrase used by U.S. astronauts, who were
then based at Cape Canaveral, Florida, about 150 miles
north of Boca Raton).
the same meeting, the Board of Control names Dr. Kenneth
Rast Williams the first president of FAU, taking him
from Dade County Junior College (now Miami-Dade Community
College), where he was also founding president.
Williams and a handful of administrative staff move
into the Army airbase’s old fire station to begin
Bryant officiates the University’s groundbreaking
ceremony on December 8, 1962. The event is attended
by about 2,000 people.
Florida Atlantic University opens on September 14, 1964
– six days behind schedule because of Hurricane
Cleo, which leaves $100,000 in flood and wind damage
in its wake. The first university in the nation to offer
only upper-division and graduate work, FAU welcomes
an initial student body of 867, well below the expected
2,000-plus. Degree programs are offered through five
colleges: the College of Business, the College of Education,
the College of Humanities, the College of Science and
the College of Social Science. Original buildings include
the Library, the Learning Resources Building, the Sanson
Science Building and General Classrooms South.
President Lyndon Baines Johnson dedicates the University
on October 25, 1964. During the Sunday afternoon dedication
ceremony, attended by about 15,000 people, he accepts
the first honorary doctorate awarded by FAU.
Williams is formally inaugurated as the University’s
first president on November 12, 1964. At the same ceremony,
Tom Fleming receives the University’s first Distinguished
Service Award for the central role he played in getting
FAU established, and Governor Bryant receives the second
honorary doctorate presented by the University.
first theatrical presentation, a readers’ theatre
production of Franz Schneider’s Last Letters from
Stalingrad, is staged at Marymount College’s Founders
The first FAU commencement ceremony is held on April
24, 1965, at the First Presbyterian Church of Boca Raton.
Thirty students receive degrees.
introduces the nation’s first degree program in
and Modoc Halls, the University’s first two student
residence halls, open. All six of the original residence
halls have names that honor Native American tribes.
Mica, a future U.S. congressman, becomes the first president
of FAU’s student body.
The Humanities Building, which includes the 504-seat
University Theatre, opens.
and Naskapi student residence halls open.
Administration Building opens.
The name of the Endowment Corporation for a University
in Boca Raton is changed to the Florida Atlantic University
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools elects
FAU to regular membership and grants full accreditation
to all of the University’s programs.
Lucy Henderson endows the Alexander D. Henderson University
School, a K-12 laboratory school affiliated with the
College of Education. Her gift honors the memory of
her late husband.
wins its first athletic championship when the water
ski club team takes first place in the 21st Southern
Annual Water Ski Tournament at Cypress Gardens.
Sekoni and Seminole student residence halls open.
Alexander D. Henderson University School opens.
initiates the Faculty Scholars program, which allows
academically gifted high school graduates to enroll
at the University and complete bachelor’s degree
programs in two or three years. Twenty-two students
are in the first Faculty Scholars cohort.
The Board of Regents (successor body to the Board of
Control) approves an intercollegiate athletics program
at FAU. The teams become known as the Owls.
University holds its first Honors Convocation, presenting
the first Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award to
political science professor Dr. Douglas Gatlin.
speakers address students during an outdoor rally on
War Moratorium Day as opposition to the war in Vietnam
grows among college students nationwide.
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