History of Auburn University

Auburn University continuously changes to accommodate today's needs, while still respecting the traditions and spirit of Auburn. As we grow and change, Auburn will always continue its tradition of excellence.

Auburn University was established in 1856 as the East Alabama Male College, 20 years after the city of Auburn's founding. After December of 1859, it was maintained by the Methodist Episcopal Church South. The citizens of Auburn, the college faculty and the Methodist Church were all advocates of the new college. In 1859, Auburn's patrons erected and equipped a four-story building at the cost of $1,100 and opened its doors on October 1 to 80 students, six faculty members and a preparatory enrollment of 100. Five students were graduated after the first year.

The Reverend William J. Sasnett was the first president of the institution. Closed by the Civil War in 1861, the economically troubled institution reopened in 1866 with Dr. James Ferguson Dowdell, a Methodist minister and former Alabama congressman as president, and struggled for the next six years.

In 1872, the institution's economic problems were resolved when, under the Morrill Act, Auburn became the first land-grant college in the South and was renamed the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama. Dr. Issac Taylor Tichenor, a former Confederate chaplain and noted Baptist minister, was the first president of the newly reorganized college. During the next several years, the school experienced changes that are still prevalent on campus. Fraternities were formed in 1878 under Dr. William Leroy Broun, and became officially recognized by the school in 1883. In 1892, Auburn admitted its first women and organized its first football team. The organization that was to become the Auburn Alumni Association was formed soon after, in 1893. 1899 the name again was changed, to the Alabama Polytechnic Institute.

Dr. Broun, educated in the classics and sciences, believed that both disciplines were important in education, and geared Auburn toward becoming a "well-rounded" university. Auburn's official title was changed to Alabama Polytechnic Institute largely because of Dr. Broun's beliefs in placing a scientific emphasis on the liberal arts tradition. Expansion continued, and in 1960 the name of the school was changed to Auburn University, a title more in keeping with its location, and expressing the varied academic programs and larger curriculum of a major university.

The main campus had an enrollment during fall of 2008 of 24,530. Auburn University offers degrees in 13 schools and colleges at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels.

Auburn University at Montgomery was established as a separately administered branch campus in 1967. The institution has developed rapidly, especially since moving to a 500-acre campus east of Montgomery in 1971. Current enrollment at AUM is about 5,000.