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UNF History

50 years and counting …

Having recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, the University of North Florida enters the next chapter of its remarkable history under the leadership of President Moez Limayem. Student success has been the top priority since the very beginning, and every day, we see the impact UNF students and alumni are having here in Florida and around the world. There are so many highlights from the past five decades at UNF, and below are just a few of those special moments. You may also click here to learn more about UNF's past presidents.



The Florida Legislature authorized the establishment of a state university in Jacksonville.


Carpenter headshot
  • Thomas G. Carpenter is named UNF’s first president.
  • The Board of Regents selects a 1,000-acre campus site midway between downtown Jacksonville and the beaches.


  • The UNF Foundation is established.
  • Ground is officially broken for the University of North Florida, with Florida Governor Reubin Askew in attendance.


  • On Monday, Oct. 2, UNF opens its doors for classes to 2,027 upper division and master’s level students.
  • The campus consists of four major buildings and three colleges: Arts and Sciences, Education and Business Administration.


  • Thirty-five students receive degrees at UNF’s first graduation.
  • The UNF Nature Trails open, quickly becoming a treasured local amenity.


UNF graduates its charter class of 685 students.


The University establishes the UNF Alumni Association.


  • Classes begin in the UNF Downtown Center, open from 1978 to 1987 in the Galleria building, now the location of MOCA Jacksonville. Enrollment peaks at the Center in 1981 with 2,247 students.
  • Fire destroys UNF’s original Boathouse.


The Osprey becomes UNF’s official mascot by write-in vote, beating out the armadillo, seagull, manatee and shark in a campuswide election.


UNF renames its new library opened in 1980, the Thomas G. Carpenter Library.


McCray headshot

Curtis L. McCray becomes UNF’s second president.


UNF begins intercollegiate athletics with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes or NAIA.


UNF admits freshmen and sophomores for the first time.


Osprey Village, UNF’s first on-campus housing, opens with space for 435 students.


  • University establishes the College of Health.
  • With a campus vote, UNF names its mascot Ozzie the Osprey.


herbert headshot

Adam W. Herbert becomes UNF’s third president.


UNF accepts degree candidates for its first doctoral program, the Doctor of Education.


  • UNF joins NCAA Division II, competing in the Sunshine State Conference.
  • The UNF Arena opens with seating for 5,800.


  • UNF unveils the landmark Osprey Fountain outside the Arena at spring graduation.
  • Enrollment tops 10,000 during fall registration.


Ospreys move to the Peach Belt Athletic Conference.


UNF President Adam W. Herbert leaves UNF to become chancellor of Florida’s State University System.


Hopkins headshot

  • Anne H. Hopkins takes office as UNF’s first female president and fourth overall.
  • The University Center opens as a state-of-the-art conference and meeting facility.


Gov. Jeb Bush appoints members of the first UNF Board of Trustees.


The College of Business Administration becomes the Coggin College of Business in honor of Luther and Blanche Coggin, following a generous gift to the college.


delaney  headshot

  • Former Jacksonville Mayor John A. Delaney becomes UNF’s fifth president.
  • Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu teaches a spring course at UNF.


UNF joins ASUN conference and transitions to Division I play.


The College of Health officially becomes Brooks College of Health named for Brooks Health System, following a generous gift to the college.


  • MOCA Jacksonville becomes a cultural institute of UNF, connecting the University to one of the largest contemporary art collections in the Southeast.
  • UNF becomes eligible for Division I postseason play after the reclassification is complete.


  • The 75,000 square foot state-of-the-art Student Wellness Complex opens.
  • OneJax, an interfaith organization working since 1970 to create an inclusive community where difference is celebrated, becomes an institute of the University.


  • For the first time in UNF’s history, the men’s basketball team advances to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
  • UNF creates the Hicks Honors College, through the generosity of Ann and David Hicks.


UNF adds the William C. Webb Coastal Research Station, a 1,050-acre plot of pristine wetlands donated by the Widan Investment Corporation used by students and faculty for exploration and research.


President Szymanski

David M. Szymanski becomes UNF’s sixth president.


The UNF Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation opens to serve as a hub for creativity, business development and learning.


  • With the Spring 2021 graduation, the number of UNF alumni surpasses 100,000.
  • Through the generosity of Crowley Maritime, the Crowley Center for Transportation and Logistics is created at UNF.
  • UNF received 190 acres of land valued at $21.5 million from the Duval County Research and Development Authority.


limayem headshot

Dr. Moez Limayem is named the seventh president of the University of North Florida.