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UMSL History

A timeline and more about UMSL History

UMSL History Guide

This guide is a resource for exploring resources about the history of UMSL. Below is a timeline of curated UMSL moments in history linking to more materials. There are a number of books available at the UMSL Library about the history of UMSL.

Bellerive Country Club - 1957

Bellerive Country Club  

UMSL’s story actually starts in 1957 with Normandy School District officials purchasing the Bellerive Country Club for use as a school. Originally called the Normandy Residence Center (and ran in 1960 as a community college for the school district) it was purchased by the University of Missouri in 1963 and officially became UMSL. The country club served many functions: from administration building to classrooms, including being the first library as well!

UMSL Officially Established - 1963

UMSL Officially Established

In 1963 UMSL was officially created during a dedication ceremony headed by UM President Elmer Ellis – this is where it all starts! Previously called the Normandy Residence Center, this marked the beginning of what us Tritons now call campus. From it’s humble beginnings, UMSL graduated it’s first class in 1967 and has continued to grow and become a great university and staple educator for employment in the St. Louis region.

Benton Hall - 1966

Benton Hall

Part of five interconnected buildings in the Science Complex, Benton Hall was the first of these buildings and finished construction in 1966. Built overlooking Bugg Lake – so named after the university’s first chancellor James Luckin Bugg Jr. – Benton can be a great place to see wildlife outside of geese on campus. The UMSL Women’s Center was once housed in Benton and was a hub for a variety of women’s liberation movements across the campus in the 70’s and 80’s.

Thomas Jefferson Library - 1968

Thomas Jefferson Library

The Thomas Jefferson Library was one of the first of three new buildings constructed on the campus. It opened in 1968 under the leadership of its first Library Director, Susan Freegard. The Library was designed to house more than 240,000 volumes and allow seating for 1,000 students within its 5 stories. The area outside of the original "TJ Library" entrance also sported a swimming pool and basketball court, which have since been removed along with the old country club administration building.

Marillac College - 1976

Marillac College

Sitting on what is now known as South Campus, it was once a four year liberal arts school run by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent DePaul. As enrollments declined, the Daughters of Charity began subdividing properties and UMSL purchased Marillac Campus from them in 1976 for $5 million. In 1998 UMSL also acquired several other buildings, including Marillac Provincial House.

School of Nursing - 1981

College of Nursing 

Founded in 1981 and originally known as the “School of Nursing at UMSL”. The Daughters of Charity used to educate members of the community in nursing - assisting to eliminate education barriers and produce highly trained and skilled nurses. This mission endures today and the College of Nursing is constantly innovating to meet challenges for now and the future. 

Ward E. Barnes Educations Library -1988

Ward E. Barnes Library 

Named after an UMSL founder, this library is actually now closed and merged with the Thomas Jefferson Library in 2014. However, the first three decades of it’s life it went by three different names. Prior to it’s renaming in 1988 – the Barnes Library had also been known as the Elizabeth Seton Library and the Education Library. 

Millennium Student Center - 2000

Millennium Student Center

The Millennium student center – named after the year it opened – brought a new look to North Campus in a big way. Aside from event spaces and student life community, it’s unique architecture added a bridge leading to the quad. UMSL student radio “The U” as well as the student senate help bring the MSC to life and truly pushed the millennium on campus forward during Y2K.

Oak Hall - 2006

Oak Hall 

Described as “The Suite Life”, Oak Hall gives students the option to live in a dormitory setting while attending school. Opening in 2006 it offers community living and matches students with others who share similar interests. Built on South Campus (former site of Marillac College) it’s also situated close to the Pierre Laclede Honors College. 

From Riverpups to Tritons - 2007

From Rivermen to Tritons 

In nineteen sixty-five students voted on campus between three mascot names: The Knights, The Rivermen, and the Geminites. Officially becoming the Rivermen in nineteen sixty-six, many around campus disagreed with the gender specificity tied to this name. Finally in 2007 the UMSL Identity Project approved the changing of UMSL’s mascot to the “Tritons” and Louie the newt was born. 

College of Optometry - 2016

College of Optometry

In nineteen sixty-seven Jerry Franzel started work as part of a team through the Missouri Optometric Association to establish an optometry school in Missouri. 13 years, several state senators, and determination culminated in the passing of House Bill 1691 – which established necessary financial support for the endeavor. The college was officially opened on June 1st, 1980 and more recently the Patient Care Center opened in 2016.