The Morrill Act, also known as the Land Grant Act, was signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1862. This act, named after its sponsor, Vermont congressman Justin Smith Morrill, gave each state thirty-thousand acres of public land for each Senator and Representative it had in congress. These numbers were based on the census of 1860.
The land was then to be sold and the money from the sale of the land was to be put in an endowment fund, which would provide support for the colleges in each of the states. When Nebraska became a state in 1967, one of the first acts of the new state legislature was to charter a land-grant institution for its people. The University of Nebraska was to become that institution with affordable education for all the people of Nebraska regardless of race.[soliloquy id=”3571″]The University of Nebraska (NU) was founded in 1869 with a campus laid out on four city blocks and the construction of its first building, University Hall. As the university’s mission grew, so did its size. In 1873, a farm campus was established east of Lincoln, which was regarded by students to be a great distance from the main city campus. By 1904, the farm campus went beyond its own boundaries to establish an experimental station at North Platte. NU made its first operational tie with the city of Omaha when that city’s Medical College merged with the university in 1902.
In 1909, the university was admitted as the eighteenth member of the Association of American Universities as its student population rose to nearly four thousand. When the university began to outgrow its original four-block city campus, a student activity center, known as the Temple Building was built. Matching funds given by petroleum magnate John D. Rockefeller, a friend of Chancellor E. Benjamin Andrews, were used to complete the building. The donation created an uproar among Nebraska populists such as William Jennings Bryan, who considered Rockefeller’s oil money to be tainted.
A number of buildings from those early days survive today as reminders of this era, including Brace Laboratory, Richards Hall, and the first law college building.[soliloquy id=”3574″]During World War I, development of the farm campus began which included a number of large, buff-brick buildings arranged around a central mall. Despite this classical arrangement, the campus retained the feel of the countryside, with its barns, livestock and test fields.
The city campus continued rapid development during the 1920s. This period brought such monumental structures as Social Sciences Hall, now home to the College of Business Administration, and Morrill Hall, also known as the University of Nebraska State Museum and named after the sponsor of the Morrill Act. The period also saw the rise of athletic excellence at the University of Nebraska with the construction of two large-scale sports complexes — Memorial Stadium and the Nebraska Coliseum.
The student union, several large classroom halls, and Love Memorial Library, whose stacks served as a barracks during World War II, were built during the 1940s war years. By 2014, theUniversity Libraries housed more than 2.5 million books located in the main library and in branch libraries on both campuses.[soliloquy id=”3578″]In the late 1950s, NU’s enrollment climbed from eight thousand students in 1959 to nearly twenty thousand just ten years later. To meet the demand for student housing and classroom space, multi-floored buildings dwarfed the earlier structures on campus. The massive growth in the 1960s transformed the university into the institution it is today. The farm campus outgrew its name and became East Campus. Even today, it has retained much of the natural beauty and open spaces that are its heritage. It has diversified its mission, serving as home to the colleges of Law and Dentistry, the Barkley Memorial Center for Hearing and Speech Disorders, the Division of Continuing Studies and the Nebraska Educational Television Network, as well as part of the College of Education and Human Sciences.
One hundred years after the University of Nebraska was chartered, the university was redefined as an “umbrella” organization made up of three campuses; the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. In 1991, Kearney State College was added to the NU system, becoming known as the University of Nebraska-Kearney.
Another building boom started in the 1990s with large-scale facilities as the Beadle Center for Biomaterials Research, the Kauffman Center residential learning community, a new building for Teachers College, and major expansions of Memorial Stadium and the Nebraska Union being undertaken. In the new millennium, several notable new buildings have opened, including the International Quilt Study Center and the Ken Morrison Life Sciences Research Center on East Campus, as well as new apartment-style residence halls on City Campus.