1955

The Florida Legislature authorizes establishment of Florida’s fifth public university in the southeastern section of the state.

Boca 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 university.


1956

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 purposes only.”

The Civil Aeronautics Administration, heavily lobbied by Fleming through his friends U.S. Senator George Smathers and U.S. Congressman Paul Rogers, supports this action.


1957

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.


1960

The Florida Board of Education approves building the university in Boca Raton, but the Panhandle-controlled State Legislature refuses to provide the necessary funding.

The Board of Control mandates that the community must raise at least $100,000 to cover start-up expenses.


1961

The Florida Legislature passes an act dated July 15, 1961, authorizing establishment of the new university. Opening is set for September 1964.

Farris 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.

The 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 community colleges.


1962

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.

The bonds proposed by Governor Bryant are sold, providing $5.3 million to construct “Boca U.”

The 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).

At 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.

Dr. Williams and a handful of administrative staff move into the Army airbase’s old fire station to begin their work.

Governor Bryant officiates the University’s groundbreaking ceremony on December 8, 1962. The event is attended by about 2,000 people.


1964

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.

U.S. 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.

Dr. 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.

FAU’s first theatrical presentation, a readers’ theatre production of Franz Schneider’s Last Letters from Stalingrad, is staged at Marymount College’s Founders Hall Auditorium.


1965

The first FAU commencement ceremony is held on April 24, 1965, at the First Presbyterian Church of Boca Raton. Thirty students receive degrees.

FAU introduces the nation’s first degree program in ocean engineering.

Algonquin 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.

The cafeteria opens.

Dan Mica, a future U.S. congressman, becomes the first president of FAU’s student body.


1966

The Humanities Building, which includes the 504-seat University Theatre, opens.

Mohave and Naskapi student residence halls open.

The Administration Building opens.


1967

The name of the Endowment Corporation for a University in Boca Raton is changed to the Florida Atlantic University Foundation, Inc.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools elects FAU to regular membership and grants full accreditation to all of the University’s programs.

Mrs. 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.

FAU 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.


1968

Sekoni and Seminole student residence halls open.

The Alexander D. Henderson University School opens.

FAU 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.


1969

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.

The University holds its first Honors Convocation, presenting the first Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award to political science professor Dr. Douglas Gatlin.

Faculty 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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