35 years and soaring
From snack-sniffing bears to campus-wide wi-fi
Take a trip down memory lane to 1972. Bell-bottoms and polyester shirts are all the rage, as are mood rings, suede-fringed vests, platform shoes and pork-chop sideburns.
Also in 1972, the U.S. median household income is $9,697, and the average cost of a new home is $30,500. A first-class stamp costs eight cents, while a gallon of gas goes for 36 cents. The recently invented handheld calculator sells for $395.
Nixon is president, the Watergate scandal begins, and the Vietnam War is in full swing.
In the music world, Pink Floyd debuts their “Dark Side of the Moon” album, and Top-40 hits include “American Pie” and “Heart of Gold.”
“M*A*S*H,” “All in the Family,” “Sanford and Son” and “Hawaii-Five-O” dominate America’s television sets.
1972 also brings an end to more than three years of lunar landings with the Apollo 17 mission.
It’s also a year for many firsts. The CAT scan is developed, the first e-mail program is invented and Atari introduces Pong, the first video game.
A lot is happening in Jacksonville in 1972 as well with the re-election of Hans Tanzler as mayor. Elvis is also very much alive, decked out in his trademark white jumpsuit to perform in Jacksonville.
And Northeast Florida is abuzz with the formation of a new upperlevel state university in Jacksonville. After three years of planning, recruiting and hiring 117 faculty and more than 150 staff who work around the clock to prepare for opening day, the University of North Florida opens for classes at 7:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 2.
The campus is situated in the middle of a dense forest of palmettos, scrub oaks and pine trees, with recently paved streets replacing dirt roads navigable only by fourwheelers. Pinebark pathways connect the University’s two parking lots to its four major buildings - a classroom building, a laboratory building, an administration building and a library stocked with 100,000 cataloged volumes.
Vending machines are placed between Buildings 3 and 4 the night before classes begin, but the next day they’re inoperable because bears apparently had come in overnight from the woods and tore off all the machines’ knobs while trying to get at the sweet-smelling snacks.
On the way from the parking lot to teach her first-ever criminology class, UNF’s Dr. Christine Rasche accidentally loses her keys and is drenched by a downpour of rain. Fortunately, one of her students is a surfer who comes to class in his bathing suit (with surfboard in tow), and he volunteers to go out into the pouring rain to retrieve the professor’s keys.
But the wild animals and heavy rains don’t stop UNF’s eager students from beginning classes at their brand-new University. In all, 2,027 juniors, seniors and graduate students attend classes the first semester, enrolled in arts and sciences, education and business administration courses.
The average age of students is 31, primarily because many have delayed their education to raise families or enter the workforce. Most are grateful to finally have an opportunity to attend a local state university and are serious about learning. And the faculty, averaging 29 years old, are also excited to be at UNF, to be an integral part of establishing the University and providing a quality education to tomorrow’s leaders.
Now, fast-forward 35 years to present day
UNF has come a long way. Naturally, the campus has grown over the years. UNF’s 1,300-acre site has transformed from a handful of buildings into a sprawling campus including 28 major buildings and five residence halls. And according to a recent study, UNF has an annual economic impact of nearly $1 billion on the region.
The Carpenter Library received a major facelift in 2005, with a 79,000-square-foot addition and remodeling of the existing building. The library now houses more than 800,000 volumes and 59,000 electronic books and journals, close to 1.5 million microform units, and scads of other reference items, including audio units, videos, subscriptions, maps and government documents. As is the majority of campus now, the entire building is equipped with wireless Internet access — and to the delight of coffee-lovers campuswide — there’s even a Starbucks on the ground floor.
Last fall, UNF opened the new Social Sciences Building, the first “green” building on campus and one of the first facilities in Jacksonville registered by LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). In an effort to do its part to preserve the environment, UNF is committed to ensuring that all new construction from this point on consists of eco-friendly buildings that reduce energy use and cause less environmental damage.
With the acquisition of UNF Hall (the old AOL Building) this spring, the campus has expanded eastward beyond Kernan Boulevard. UNF also expects to break ground this year on an $86 million student residence hall on the eastern ridge of campus, a $50 million Student Union and a $27 million College of Education and Human Services Building and has already broken ground on an $11 million addition to the Brooks College of Health Building.
The newly opened North-South Road connects the outer portions of campus to the main core of campus. The campus is now so expansive that new shuttle busses traverse UNF’s roadways to provide transportation from one point to another.
But enough about the physical aspects of the University. At UNF, students are the first priority, and far more important than bricks and mortar is the quality of education its students continue to receive – and the individualized attention UNF has been known to provide students since Day 1. UNF now has more than 16,000 students enrolled in 53 undergraduate programs, 26 graduate programs, and three doctoral programs, two of which just began this fall. UNF has also begun to garner national attention for its four flagship programs: community nursing, international business, transportation and logistics, and coastal biology.
Despite its growth, UNF remains committed to keeping class sizes small, offering students one-on-one attention and an opportunity to participate in lifechanging experiences, such as internships, study-abroad and other off-campus programs and dynamic research projects.
“We take great satisfaction in knowing that we have maintained a reputation for excellence,” UNF President John Delaney said. “We’re not just bigger. We’re better. And increasingly we are recognized for that by publications like The Princeton Review.” In 2006, the Princeton Review identified UNF as one of the nation’s best educational values among public universities.
Nobody knows better how UNF has changed over the years than the faculty and staff who were on campus to welcome students that rainy day in October of ’72. Although they’re retiring and leaving UNF one by one, the University is lucky to have retained more than a dozen founding members still working to inspire students each day.
“I cannot remember a time in the whole 35 years that we have not had construction on campus. Growth has been a constant,” said Dr. Dale Clifford, chair of the History Department. “The newest buildings – Social Sciences in particular – are much better ecologically and aesthetically than the early buildings which had to go up fast and at relatively low cost.”
Dr. Ray Bowman, chemistry professor and director of the UNF Environmental Center, believes that UNF’s best students today are among the best the University has ever had. “UNF is attracting more of the very best students who could attend older institutions with more established reputations,” he said. “The students we graduate who attend post-baccalaureate programs report that they are as wellprepared for their post-baccalaureate studies as students who graduated from some of the most prestigious universities in the U.S.”
Perhaps history professor Dr. Dan Schafer sums it up the best. “I don’t think students have changed over the years,” he said. “Of course, hairstyles and clothing trends changed – and changed back – and technology has altered habits and possibilities in amazing ways, but the courteous and kind nature of most UNF students, and the strong desire to learn, is as characteristic now as it was in 1972.