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Student Life

For almost a century the University of Memphis has been a catalyst for progress in the city of Memphis, the state of Tennessee and the surrounding Mid-South region. From its inception as a normal school dedicated to the education of public school teachers, to its role today as an educator of technologically-savvy graduates who face a complex world, the University of Memphis has always fulfilled its current mission while looking forward to and planning for its future.

Exceptional students from Tennessee, from every other state in the nation and from almost 100 countries around the world choose to attend the University of Memphis. They come here on the recommendation of their major professors at European universities; they come here to study subjects that are offered nowhere else; they come to study alongside men and women who are recognized and respected throughout the academic and scientific communities as foremost in their fields.

Ever forward-looking, the University of Memphis is poised to enter one of its most historic and productive periods. From the faculty and staff we have in place to our alumni and benefactors, our "people assets" have never been more willing, able and generous in their efforts to build an academic environment that makes a life-long impact on the young minds at the U of M.

The University of Memphis was founded under the auspices of the General Education Bill, enacted by the Tennessee Legislature in 1909. Known originally as West Tennessee State Normal School, the institution opened its doors Sept. 10, 1912, with Dr. Seymour A. Mynders as president.

Students in the first classes selected blue and gray as the school colors and the tiger as the mascot. Tradition holds that the colors, those of the opposing armies during the Civil War, were chosen in commemoration of the reuniting of the country after that divisive conflict.

Over the next decade, The Desoto yearbook was created, the first library was opened in the Administration Building, the first dining hall was built and the first men's dorm was built; today that dorm, Scates Hall, houses the College of Arts and Sciences' Dean's offices.

Student Life
In 1925 the name of the college changed to West Tennessee State Teachers College. Three years later, the Brister Library was built, named after two-term president John W. Brister. In 1931 the students created a campus newspaper, The Tiger Rag; and in 1935 the school's agriculture department was discontinued.

The college changed names again in 1941, becoming Memphis State College, and in 1946, J. Millard "Jack" Smith became president - the first alumnus to hold the position. In 1950 graduate studies were initiated, and in 1954 the school switched from a quarter to a semester system.

In 1957 the state legislature designated Memphis State full university status. In 1959 the university admitted its first African American students, and the first doctoral programs began in 1966. The 1970s, under President Cecil C. Humphreys, saw new buildings constructed across the campus, including a University Center and a 12-story library. In 1983 MSU became the first public university in Tennessee to gain accreditation of its entire curriculum.

Student Life
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 beautiful park-like setting in the state's largest city, it is the flagship of the Tennessee Board of Regents system. It awards more than 3,000 degrees annually.

With an enrollment of almost 23,000 students, The University of Memphis has 26 Chairs of Excellence, more than any other Tennessee university, and five state-approved Centers of Excellence.

Facts at a Glance

Dr. Shirley C. Raines

1912 as West Tennessee State Normal School

Campus Size
1,160 acres and 202 buildings at eight sites

Operating Budget
$439 million

Local Economic Impact
$1.43 billion

Enrollment (for Fall 2011)
Total 22,725
Undergraduate 17,966
Graduate 4,340
Law School 419
Full-time 68%
Part-time 32%
Men 38%
Women 62%

The University of Memphis is fully accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Approximately 2,500 employees including 930 full-time faculty

Notable Alumni

Martin S. Belz (1972) President of Belz Enterprises
Isaac Bruce (1997) NFL Football Player
Dixie Carter (1963) Actress
Kellye Cash (1987) Miss America 1987
Robert N. Clement (1968) Former U.S. Congressman
Steve Cohen (1973) U.S. Congressman
Eric Jerome Dickey (1983) Best-Selling Author
Bernice Donald (1974) Judge, Federal District Court
William B. Dunavant Jr. (1954) Chairman of Dunavant Enterprises
John Dye (1996) Actor
Larry Finch (1973) Former Memphis Basketball Head Coach
Anfernee Hardaway (1993) NBA Basketball Player
Dr. W.W. Herenton (1966) Mayor, City of Memphis
Barbara Walker Hummel (1947) Miss America 1947
Craig Leake (1969) Television Producer
R. Brad Martin (1976) Chairman of the Board/CEO, SAKS Inc.
Wink Martindale (1957) Television Personality
Elliot Perry (1991) Former NBA Basketball Player
William Sanderson (1968) Actor
Lynda Mead Shea (1968) Miss America 1960
Charles C. Thompson (1964) Author and TV Producer
Fred Thompson (1964) Actor and 2008 Presidential Candidate
Pat Kerr Tigrett (1963) International Fashion Designer
Tamika Whitmore (1999) WNBA (2006 All-Star)
Lorenzen Wright (1996) NBA Basketball Player
Dan Uggla (2001) MLB (2006 All-Star)

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