Historical Timeline

Year Event
1848 Trustee John Wilder establishes the University of Rochester endowment with a $10,000 gift.
1850 The University of Rochester reaches its first fundraising goal – $130,000 in subscriptions to meet the NYS Regents’ requirement for granting a charter. Classes begin on November 5 in the former US Hotel, on what is now West Main Street.
1853 Martin Brewer Anderson is appointed the University’s first President. He will serve a herculean 35 years as a teacher, mentor, administrator, fundraiser and lobbyist.
1861 The campus moves to University Avenue (where the Memorial Art Gallery is still located). The first building is Anderson Hall, which stands to this day.
1871 Theodore Thanbyah, a native of Rangoon, Burma, is the University’s first Asian graduate.
1876 Sibley Hall, named in honor of donor Hiram Sibley, is dedicated and houses the University’s library and scientific museum.
1881 Lewis Henry Morgan dies; he leaves his fortune to the University for the establishment of a College for Women, but his estate will not be settled until 1909.
1889 David Jayne Hill is appointed the University’s second President and serves as an important change agent in positioning the curriculum to move into the 20th century.
1891 Charles Augustus Thompson becomes the first African-American graduate of the University.
1900 Rush Rhees is appointed as the University’s third President. During his presidency, the University of Rochester is transformed from a small regional college into an authentic national university. Following a campaign led by renowned suffragist Susan B. Anthony and others, female students are enrolled at the University on the same basis as male students.
1906 The Eastman Laboratory Building opens; George Eastman states that he does not plan to give the University any additional funds. By the time of his death in 1932, his gifts will total more than $50 million.
1911 The Carnegie Building, used by the engineering courses, opens; its construction is funded by Andrew Carnegie.
1912 The University’s trustees agree to raise $1 million, $250,000 of which will be dedicated to the newly established College for Women. George Eastman donates $500,000 (the largest single gift to the University at the time). The campaign successfully concludes in 1913, having exceeded its fundraising goal by $60,000.
1913 The Memorial Art Gallery is founded; the building is the gift of Emily Sibley Watson.
1921 The Eastman School of Music opens to students.
1922 The Eastman Theatre, designed by McKim, Mead and White, opens for performances “for the enrichment of community life.”
1924 The $10 million campaign, with the theme “A Greater University for a Greater Rochester,” begins and is successfully completed in ten days. More than 13,500 people contribute to the effort, which will provide funds for the expansion of the University.
1925 The first class of students enters the School of Medicine and Dentistry. The first University of Rochester PhD is awarded to Warren Sperry in biochemistry.
1926 Strong Memorial Hospital treats its first patient.
1927 Ground is broken for the new River Campus, beside the Genesee River M. Elizabeth Marsh is the first woman awarded a doctorate degree by the University, in physiology of nutrition.
1929 The Institute of Optics is founded and is the first program of its kind in the United States.
1930 The College for Men moves to the new River Campus.
1931 The class of 1931 is the first to graduate from the new River Campus. Joseph C. Wilson is among the graduates.
1934 Cutler Union, the gift of trustee James G. Cutler, opens on the Prince Street Campus. It is the first student union at an American women’s college. It is now part of the Memorial Art Gallery complex.
1935 Alan Valentine is appointed the University’s fourth President.
1937 The Sibley Music Library opens on Swan Street.
1942 The Navy V-12 program is announced. The purpose of the program is to give prospective Naval officers the benefits of a college education and to counteract the huge enrollment declines caused by World War II. The University participates, resulting in the largest class sizes in its history.
1948 “R” wing – a new building for psychiatry at the Medical Center – is dedicated, the gift of Helen Rivas.
1950 The University celebrates its centennial.
1951 Cornelis de Kiewiet is appointed the University’s fifth President.
1952 Ansel Adams is hired to photograph the University. His photographs will be used in the $10.7 million fundraising campaign to add facilities for the merging of the colleges for men and women. Frederick Fennell ’37, ’39 (MM) creates the renowned Eastman Wind Ensemble.
1955 The separate colleges for men and women merge into the College of Arts, Sciences & Engineering.
1958 The graduate schools of Business (now Simon), Education (now Warner) and Engineering (now the Hajim School) are founded.
1959 Joseph Wilson ’31, president of Haloid Xerox, becomes Chair of the Board of Trustees during the same week that the Xerox 914 photocopier is announced.
1962 W. Allen Wallis is appointed the University’s sixth President.
1968 A $38 million campaign is successfully completed; it will add much needed buildings for sciences and engineering, an expansion of the library, professorships and scholarships.
1970 Robert Sproull is appointed the University’s seventh President. The Laboratory for Laser Energetics is founded.
1971 Former Board Chair and Xerox CEO Joseph Wilson dies suddenly, and the University closes for two days in his honor. The gifts of Wilson and his family to the University – for facilities, scholarships and professorships – exceed $40 million.
1973 The University breaks ground on Wilson Commons, designed by famed architect I.M. Pei.
1974 Charles Force Hutchison, class of 1898, bequeaths $25 million to the University, after a lifetime of generosity and service. Hutchison Hall, opened in 1972, is the largest academic building on the River Campus.
1980 Launched in the mid-1970s, “The Campaign for Rochester” concludes, having surpassed its initial fundraising goal of $102 million to achieve a total of $108 million in gifts to the University.
1985 Dennis O’Brien is appointed the University’s eighth President.
1986 The University commissions a study to determine if the name of the institution should be changed, either to “Eastman University” or “Rochester University.” After much opposition from students and alumni, the name “University of Rochester” is retained.
1991 The five-year, $375 million “Campaign for the 90’s” is launched.
1994 Thomas Jackson is appointed the University’s ninth President. He launches the “Renaissance Plan” to create a more selective admissions process and overhaul the undergraduate curriculum.
1996 The Campaign for the 90’s concludes; more than 78,000 donors help surpass the initial fundraising goal by $46 million.
1998 The endowment surpasses $1 billion.
2005 Joel Seligman is appointed the University’s tenth President. He launches the Meliora Challenge.
2008 The University announces a $500 million strategic plan geared toward expansion of the Medical Center.
2014 The endowment surpasses $2 billion, and the University launches the One Rochester faculty and staff giving campaign. The Brooks Crossing, Riverview Apartment and College Town complexes open.
2015 The Meliora Challenge achieves its $1.2 billion goal. The Golisano Children’s Hospital, the largest project in University history, is dedicated. President Seligman announces his vision for 2020 – the University of Rochester as a top research university, with national leadership in data science, neuromedicine, and clinical and translational research.