The University was founded under the auspices of the General Education Bill, enacted by the Tennessee General Assembly in 1909.
Known originally as West Tennessee State Normal School, the institution opened its doors September 10, 1912, with Dr. Seymour A. Mynders as president. A number of minor name changes occurred between 1912 and 1941, with the "West Tennessee State" name remaining at the forefront of each.
In 1941, the name of the university changed, becoming Memphis State College. In 1950, graduate studies were initiated, and in 1954, the school switched from a quarter to a semester system. In 1957, Memphis State College became Memphis State University. In 1959, the university admitted its first black students, and the first doctoral programs began in 1966.
The 1990s were characterized by another name change and another building boom. In 1994, MSU became the University of Memphis, and the Ned R. McWherter Library was completed. Moving into the 21st century, the Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management and the FedEx Institute of Technology have made their mark on the University landscape.
Today, the University of Memphis is one of Tennessee's three comprehensive doctoral-extensive institutions of higher learning. Situated in a park-like setting in east Memphis, it is the flagship university of the Tennessee Board of Regents system. The university awards more than 3,000 degrees annually.
With an enrollment of approximately 21,000 students, the University of Memphis has 25 Chairs of Excellence and five state-approved Centers of Excellence.
The university maintains the Journalism and Public Relations department, Center for Earthquake Research and Information (CERI), Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, Loewenberg School of Nursing, FedEx Institute of Technology and the Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology. Its mathematics department has more Erdos number 1 mathematicians than any other research institution in the world.
A faculty of approximately 900 professors serves about 15,000 undergraduate and 5,000 graduate students.
The Daily Helmsman, the university's independent daily newspaper, in operation since 1925, remains a prominent student organization on campus. In addition, many other student organizations and academic departments, such as the University of Memphis Institute for Egyptian Art and Archaeology, the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law Moot Court Board, the University of Memphis Advertising Federation and the University of Memphis chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America, play an active and involved role in the community, both nationally and internationally.
The University of Memphis attracts most of its undergraduate students from Memphis and West Tennessee, though many current undergraduate and graduate students have come from public and private schools across the southeastern United States as well as from other nations.
Over its history, the University of Memphis has graduated many famous alumni, including Fred D. Thompson, actor and former United States senator, Benjamin Hooks, civil rights leader and former executive director of the NAACP, the historian of the American South Joe Gray Taylor, Anfernee Hardaway, NBA and former University of Memphis basketball player, and DeAngelo Williams, former All-American college football running back.
Among its most famous faculty members are Shelby Foote (dec.), visiting professor of History, Richard Bausch, Dr. Lorelei Corcoran, Professor of Egyptology, Dr. Peter J. Brand, Professor of Egyptology, Rick Bragg, Pulitzer Prize winner and professor of Journalism, Bill Brody, nationally-published author and professor of Journalism and Public Relations, Béla Bollobás, Jabie Hardin Chair Professor of Mathematics, and Donald Franceschetti, Professor of Physics.
The Division of Professional and Continuing Education at the University of Memphis (http://umce.memphis.edu) provides non-credit instruction to people from all walks of life. Originally established in the 1970s, the non-credit programs include face-to-face short courses, customized training for businesses, and online courses.
The University of Memphis today comprises ten different colleges and schools:
The University of Memphis is host to several centers of advanced research:
On September 10, 1912, West Tennessee Normal School opened in Memphis; its first president was Seymour A. Mynders. After Mynders' death in 1913, John Willard Brister was chosen to take his place. After Brister's resignation in 1918, Andrew A. Kincannon became president. In 1924, Brister returned to his post as president of the school.
The name changed in 1925 to West Tennessee State Teachers College. In 1931, the campus' first newspaper, The Tiger Rag, was established. In 1939, Richard C. Jones became president of WTSTC. In 1941, the school was changed to Memphis State College, when the college expanded its liberal arts curriculum. In 1943, Dr. Jennings B. Sanders succeeded Jones as president. Three years later, the first alumnus to become president, J. Millard (Jack) Smith, was appointed. In 1951 MSC awarded its first B.A. degrees. In 1957 the school received full University status, and changed its name accordingly.
1959 marked the university's admitting its first group of black students, five years after Brown v. Board of Education. Among the restrictions faced by black students at the time were that they had to leave campus by noon each day and that they were not allowed to eat in the cafeteria. Dr. Cecil C. Humphreys became president of MSU, succeeding Smith, in 1960.
In 1966, the school began awarding doctoral degrees. Humphreys resigned as MSU president to become the first chancellor of the newly formed State University and Community College System, later renamed the Tennessee Board of Regents. John Richardson was appointed interim president.
In 1973, Dr. Billy Mac Jones became president. Also that year, the Memphis State Tiger men's basketball team reached the finals of the NCAA tournament, only to fall at the hands of a UCLA team led by future NBA star Bill Walton in the championship game in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1980, Dr. Thomas Carpenter became president of MSU; he was succeeded by Dr. V. Lane Rawlins in 1991. On July 1, 1994, after years of research and surveys, Memphis State University changed its name again, to the University of Memphis - a name change inspired by Ms. Christina Trinh, wife of former president Carpenter.
Dr. Rawlins served for slightly over a decade; Dr. Ralph Faudree filled in as interim president for one year after Rawlins' retirement. In 2002, U of M installed its first female president, Dr. Shirley C. Raines, 62, who serves to this day.
The University of Memphis campus is located approximately east of downtown in the University District neighborhood of midtown Memphis. It has an area of , although this figure does not include the law school due to be relocated in the former United States federal courthouse in downtown Memphis in 2009. The historical core of campus encompasses approximately 30 acres. The University of Memphis is located geographically at . Click here to see a campus map.
Proponents of a more pedestrian-friendly campus have significantly increased the amount of green space and the number of walkways over the past several years, while maintaining a focus on the original and historic architecture of the campus.
Surrounding the University's main campus are several historic Southern neighborhoods to the north and east, as well as the University District neighborhood and the Highland Strip to the west. Many University of Memphis college students also reside in homes to the south of the main campus.
Despite gradual expansion of the campus to the west and south, the campus is fairly compact and retains a park-like, tree-lined setting. The farthest distance on campus takes about 25 minutes to walk. According to the most recent master plan, the University is projecting to expand and redevelop additional areas one block west of the main campus' current western boundary of Patterson Road, making Highland Avenue as the "de facto" entrance to the University.
The center of the main campus comprises buildings that made up the original campus. The first college buildings, including Scates Hall, Manning Hall, and the Administration Building, were erected in the early 1900s. This section stretches from Deloach Avenue south to the end of the main campus at Walker Avenue, with most buildings surrounding the Alumni Mall and Student Plaza. The majority of the buildings of the arts and humanities departments, as well as those of the Physics and Astronomy departments of the College of Arts and Science, are located in the original areas of campus.
Flanking the original area of campus to the east are the areas of major research for the life sciences and Engineering departments, including J.R. Smith Hall, the Life Sciences building and the Herff College of Engineering complex, as well as the Education department, residing in E.C. Ball Hall. The Ned R. McWherter Library, a state-of-the art library facility and one of the premier research libraries of the Mid-South United States, takes up the eastern part of the campus adjacent to Dunavant Plaza and Emeriti Grove.
The northwestern area of the main campus includes the Fogelman College of Business and Economics, the Fogelman Executive Center (a major conference center for regional executives visiting the University), and the FedEx Institute of Technology, a major research contributor in the areas of Supply Chain Management, nanotechnology, robotics and intelligent systems. Originally, in the north end of the campus, Norriswood Avenue was the northern boundary and was an actual street that ran through the campus. The campus expanded into this area in the late 1960s & early 1970s.
The western edge and southwest corner include Johnson Hall (comprising the Geography and Geology departments), Patterson Hall (housing the English department), Wilder Tower, Greek Row and the bulk of the University of Memphis residence halls. As the University presses ahead with its planned expansion, many more facilities, pedestrian access and green space will also be created with the renovation and development of the currently-residential block east of Patterson Street in the University District neighborhood.
Future plans include a regulation indoor soccer stadium and track facility, capable of hosting large-scale NCAA Division I track-and-field meets.
Recent professional athletes from the University of Memphis include: DeAngelo Williams (Carolina Panthers), Dan Uggla (second baseman, Florida Marlins), Stephen Gostkowski (kicker, New England Patriots), Isaac Bruce (St. Louis Rams), Rodney Carney (forward, Philadelphia 76ers), Shawne Williams (forward, Indiana Pacers), Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway (Miami Heat), Lorenzen Wright (forward/center, Atlanta Hawks), Sean Banks, former NBA players Keith Lee, Dajuan Wagner, Elliot Perry and Cedric Henderson, Danny Wimprine (quarterback, New Orleans VooDoo, Calgary Stampeders), Larry Finch (former Memphis Tams player), Antonio Burks (guard, KK Crvena Zvezda), Darius Washington Jr. (guard, San Antonio Spurs) and Earl Barron, (center, Miami Heat).
On August 21, 2008, it was announced that Anfernee Hardaway had donated one million dollars to the Athletic Department to construct a Sports Hall of Fame.
The school is most well known for having the most consistently high-ranked college basketball team in Conference USA. The Tigers reached the Elite Eight three years in a row (2006-2008) and those same years won the conference championship, going undefeated in conference play in 2007 and 2008. Their record for those three seasons is 106-9. In 2007, the team was ranked number 1 in ESPN's and CBSsportsline.com's Summer Polls and, for the first time in 25 years, earned a Number One ranking Jan. 21, 2008 in the AP Poll. The Tigers returned all five starters and added heralded freshman recruits Derrick Rose and Jeff Robinson to the mix for the 2007-08 season. They defeated UT Arlington in the first round, Mississippi State in the second round, and Michigan State in the Sweet Sixteen round of the 2008 NCAA tournament to advance to the Elite Eight. On March 30, 2008, they beat the Texas Longhorns 85-67 in Houston to claim the South Regional Championship, and on April 5, 2008, they beat UCLA in their first Final Four appearance since 1985 earning a spot to play in the National Championship on April 7, 2008, against the University of Kansas. In the championship game, Memphis surrendered a nine point lead in the final two minutes, eventually losing in overtime 75-68. Memphis is still a top team and should remain a threat in Conference USA.
The program gained national prominence when it reached the 1973 NCAA Division I basketball championship game, led by Tiger stars Larry Finch, Larry Kenon, Ronnie Robinson, Bill Cook and others, eventually losing to John Wooden's UCLA Bruins.
The Tigers continued an era of excellence throughout the 1980s and went to the Final Four in 1985 losing to Villanova, the ultimate winner of the tournament. Success continued in the 1990s, and into the present under current head coach John Calipari. The 2008 season took the Tigers to the Final Four where Memphis loss the championship game to the Kansas Jayhawks in overtime. Perennial rivals include the University of Houston, the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Louisville, and their cross-state rivals, the University of Tennessee. The world record holder for the highest slam dunk (12 feet from floor to rim) is a former University of Memphis basketball forward, and current Harlem Globetrotter Michael Wilson. At home, the Tigers play on Beale Street in the state-of-the-art FedExForum.
The publication is part of a tradition which began in 1931 as The Tiger Rag, a protest newspaper. Since that time, the newspaper has been continuously published by University of Memphis students. Even during World War II when paper and other resources were scarce, the newspaper published as a newsletter posted on bulletin boards around campus.
The name of the newspaper was changed to The Helmsman in 1972, and became The Daily Helmsman in 1981, when the newspaper began publishing four days a week.
The Helmsman has won many honors over the years for reporting, photography and design, including awards given by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, Columbia University and the Southeastern Journalism Conference. Helmsman alumni have gone on to jobs at many prestigious news organizations, such as The New York Times, Rolling Stone magazine, and Southern Living magazine, among others.
The University of Memphis has accumulated numerous traditions over its long history as the flagship public research university within the Tennessee Board of Regents system.
The University of Memphis' official school colors of blue and gray were selected by students in the first classes in the early 1900s. Tradition holds that the colors, those of the opposing armies during the American Civil War, were chosen in commemoration of the reuniting of the country after that divisive conflict. The student body thought that by picking the colors of the North and the South, the school would show a togetherness and unity among all students.
The Mighty Sound of the South Band is the U of M's band. The band performs at Memphis Tigers football games as a marching band and at Tigers basketball games as a pep band. As one of the oldest institutions at the University, the Band partakes in many of the game day traditions. The MSS performs more than any other student ensemble on campus, and for approximately 350,000 fans each fall. The MSS is featured at nearly every campus-wide event, ranging from Freshman Convocation to the Homecoming Parade and Pep Rally. The band has been featured on the nationally syndicated "Mike & Mandy" Radio Show, and is a star attraction at the Bandmaster's Championship, a high school marching band contest administered by The University of Memphis Band Alumni Chapter. Members of the MSS represent all academic disciplines across campus, and historically has been open to all students via audition.
For over 30 years, the sideline mascot for The University of Memphis has been the Bengal Tiger. TOM II, the current Tiger mascot, attends all Tiger Football home games, and he can also be found at many other University events throughout the year as a powerful and majestic symbol of Tigers Athletics. TOM II travels in style in a custom-designed, climate-controlled trailer, always with police escort. TOM II has spent his life housed and cared for in private facilities provided and maintained by the Highland Hundred Tiger Guard, an alumni booster organization. With a price tag of over $300,000, raised entirely by the Tiger Guard, the habitat was widely regarded as the finest private facility in the nation, surpassing that of many zoos. In this comfortable home, TOM II matured into a magnificent animal weighing more than 500 pounds. As one of only two Universities in America with a live Tiger mascot, The University of Memphis is unique in its Tiger Tradition. Memphis sometimes brings a real tiger to the games.
When the University of Memphis first fielded a football team in the fall of 1912, no one had selected a nickname for the squad. Early references to the football team tabbed them only as the Blue and Gray Warriors.
After the final game of the 1914 season, there was a student parade. During this event, several University students shouted, "We fight like Tigers!" The nickname was born. As time passed, the nickname "Tigers" was increasingly used, particularly in campus publications, but did not catch on with the newspapers downtown. They continued to use "the Blue and Gray" when referring to the University.
Under Coach Lester Barnard in 1922, Memphis's football team gave a ring of truth to that old student yell about Tigers. The team adopted a motto - "Every Man a Tiger" - and went on to score 174 points while allowing its opponents just 29 points. The Tiger nickname continued on with students and alumni, eventually being adopted as the official nickname for the University of Memphis in 1939.
Notable among a number of songs commonly played and sung at various events such as commencement and convocation, and athletic games are: “Go! Tigers! Go!” the University of Memphis Tigers’ fight song.