About the College

History of the College

In 1853

East Florida Seminary opened its doors in Ocala. The University of Florida marks this as its founding date. Many of the courses offered today can be traced to the original courses offered then, including English, history, zoology and Latin.

In 1905

The Buckman Act creates a new University of Florida. A chemistry student was awarded the University’s first master's degree.

In 1910

James Nesbitt Anderson
James Nesbitt Anderson

In 1912

Anderson Hall in 1925

Language Hall (above) was constructed to house history, mathematics and the languages. It was later renamed Anderson Hall, in honor of Dean James Nesbitt Anderson. Today, Anderson Hall is home to the religion and political science departments.

In 1934

Townes R. Leigh was named dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He earned a BS from Iuka Normal School in 1901, an AB from Lebanon University in 1902 and a PhD from the University of Chicago in 1915. A pharmacist as well as a chemist, Leigh became head of the University of Florida Chemistry Department in 1920, and was the creator of the College of Pharmacy, serving as Dean from 1923 to 1933. He also became acting Vice President of the University in 1934, then Vice President from 1946 to 48. Leigh died in 1949.

Leigh Hall, constructed in his honor, was opened in 1927 as the home for the Department of Chemistry and the College of Pharmacy, which moved to its own building in the early 1960's.

In 1934

Chemistry student John Morrow earned the first PhD awarded at the University of Florida. His dissertation was entitled “The Dielectric Constant of Benzene.”

In 1935

UF President Tigert

UF President Tigert created General College out of concern that UF students were not getting a strong liberal arts education. Many universities across the nation formed general colleges in the 1930s to strengthen students' core education and to provide better counseling services to undergraduates. The attrition rate was very high at the time—1/3 of first and second year UF students dropped out of college before their junior year. Through increased student counseling, General College helped to alleviate this problem. First and second year students at UF enrolled in General College and earned an associate of arts degree before entering the academic college of their choosing to complete their bachelor’s degree. In 1945, the college was renamed University College and the curriculum was changed to provide specific courses for those students who intended to enroll in one of the upper-division colleges and a general program of study for those students who sought only the associate of arts degree.

In 1937

Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest and most respected undergraduate honors organization in the US, founded a chapter at UF with the mission of fostering and recognizing excellence in the liberal arts and sciences.

In 1938

Marjorie Kinnan RawlingsMarjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings taught a creative writing course at UF for the Department of English. Her book, The Yearling, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1939 .

In 1947

Dorothy Rethlingshafer became the first woman to join the faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences when she was hired by the Department of Psychology. At the time of her arrival, she had published many more articles than any other professor in the department. She was a key player in the development of the doctoral program and taught testing, development, learning and motivation courses. She was promoted to full professor at the time of her retirement in June 1970 and died a few weeks later.

In 1948

Ralph Emerson Page was named dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He was born in Middlebury, Indiana in 1903. He earned his AB from Bluffton College in Ohio in 1926 and attended Syracuse University 1927-1930, where he earned an MA and PhD. He taught at Syracuse University and served as professor and chair of the political science department at Bucknell University before coming to UF in 1948. He retired from the university in 1971.

In 1962

UF admitted its first group of African American students. Seven were admitted.

In 1964

UF opened the first African Studies program in the south and the eleventh in the nation.

In 1968

Marshall Nirenberg
Marshall Nirenberg

Alumnus Marshall Nirenberg (Zoology, BS, 48; MS 52) won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his work on deciphering the genetic code.

In 1968

Harry Hall Sisler was named dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He was born in 1917 in Ohio and earned a BS from Ohio State University in 1936. He earned his MS and PhD from the University of Illinois in 1937 and 1939. He taught chemistry at the University of Kansas and Ohio State University before becoming professor and chair of the UF chemistry department in 1956. He also served as dean of the Graduate School and vice president of the university. Sisler retired in 1985 but continued to be an active part of the UF chemistry community until his death in December 2006.


The UF African American Studies Program was founded and offered its first course.

In 1970

Mathematics Professor John ThompsonJohn Thompson

In 1972

Calvin Anthony VanderWerf was named dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Born in 1917 in Wisconsin, he earned a BA from Hope College in 1937 and a PhD from Ohio State University in 1941. He served as professor and chair of the chemistry department at the University of Kansas before returning to his alma mater, Hope College, in 1963 to serve in the role of president. He came to UF as the dean of Arts and Sciences in 1972.

In 1973

In 1976

Ruth McQuown
Ruth McQuown

Having served as an assistant dean since 1971, Ruth McQuown became the first female associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. McQuown, a political science professor and local political activist, died in August 1984. Room 219 in Dauer Hall — one of the nicest conference facilities on campus —was named in her honor in April 1993.

In 1977

In 1978

Charles F. Sidman
Charles F. Sidman

In 1982

In 1983

Charlotte Mather
Charlotte Mather

Political science student Charlotte Mather became the first woman elected student body president at UF. Joan Warren, also a political science student, was the first woman to run for the job, back in 1969.


In 1988

Charles F. Sidman
Willard W. Harrison

Willard W. Harrison (left) was hired as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He came to UF from the University of Virginia, where he served as chair of the chemistry department and associate provost. Harrison earned a BA in 1958 and MA in 1960, both in chemistry, from Southern Illinois University. In 1964, he earned a PhD in analytical chemistry from the University of Illinois. He served as dean of CLAS for almost 12 years before stepping down in July 2000 to devote more time to his chemistry research and teaching. He is currently on staff at UF as a professor of chemistry.

In 1996

The William and Grace Dial Center for Written and Oral Communication was created to prepare UF students to effectively use the conventions governing speaking and writing in their chosen disciplines. Kellie Robert serves as its director.

In 1997

Kenneth and Janet Keene
Kenneth and Janet Keene

Kenneth (Mathematics, 47) and Janet Keene donated a generous gift which allowed the college to start restoration of Anderson and Flint Halls. Under the direction of Rowe Architects, the buildings underwent renovations from 1999-2001 and are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


In 2000

Newman Nahas
Newman Nahas

Newman Nahas (English, 00) was named a Rhodes Scholar. Nahas earned his JD from Harvard Law School and practices litigation in New York.


In 2001

Neil Sullivan
Neil Sullivan

After serving as interim dean for the 2000-2001 academic year, Neil Sullivan was named dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Sullivan came to UF in 1982 from the Centre d’Etudes Nuclearies in Saclay, France, where he worked as a physicist. He earned a BS in 1964 and an MS in 1965, both from Otago University in his homeland New Zealand. In 1972, he earned a PhD from Harvard University. Sullivan served as chair of UF’s physics department for four terms and as an associate dean of CLAS before officially taking over the reins as dean in June 2001.

In 2003

As the University of Florida celebrated its 150th anniversary, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences had many new initiatives on the horizon, including the construction of the world’s largest optical telescope on the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain (below) and the continued development of the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere.

World’s largest optical telescope

In 2004

Kay Chicone Ustler (right) is a1961 UF sociology graduate, andher son Craig Ustler (left) earnedhis bachelor's degree ineconomics from CLAS in 1961.
Kay Chicone Ustler and her son Craig Ustler

Renovations began on the Women's Gym, which was renamed Kathryn Chicone Ustler Hall upon completion.

Ustler's donation transformed the building into a 14,700 square-foot, three-level facility that houses classrooms, seminar rooms, and faculty and administrative offices for the Center for Women's Studies and Gender Research. It is the first UF academic building named solely after a woman.

In 2005

Robert Grubbs
Robert Grubbs

In 2006

In 2007

In 2008

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