On this day in 1881, the small agricultural school that would later become the state of Connecticut’s flagship university held its first classes in a former orphanage building located in Mansfield. The Storrs Agricultural School, consisting of just three faculty members and thirteen students when it first opened, offered young men the opportunity to gain advanced knowledge and first-hand experience in agricultural careers.
Initially named after brothers and former New York businessmen Charles and Augustus Storrs, who donated both land and funding, the agricultural school was designated Connecticut’s exclusive land-grant institution in 1893, the same year it first officially welcomed young women into its student ranks. With a new line of federal funding secured, the agricultural school began a slow but steady pace of expansion, both physically and academically. In 1939, years after it began awarding Bachelor and Masters degrees in science, the school was formally incorporated as the University of Connecticut. The University first opened its School of Law in 1943, only a few years before the G.I. Bill flooded the institution with young World War II veterans, leading to a construction boom that built many of the brick buildings that define the Storrs campus today.
Today, the University of Connecticut offers both undergraduate and graduate coursework to over 26,000 students annually at five campuses, in addition to the UConn School of Law in Hartford and UConn Medical School in Farmington. The university’s mascot, selected and named through student contests in 1934, is Jonathan the Husky, named after Connecticut’s patriotic Revolutionary War-era governor Jonathan Trumbull. The main campus at Storrs has grown from a former orphanage building to over 4,000 sprawling acres of dormitories, libraries, classroom space, laboratories, barns, pastures, and athletic fields where scores of UConn Huskies play in Division I college athletic programs. A world-class research university was born from humble beginnings on this day in Connecticut history.
“About Us: History,” University of Connecticut
Bruce M. Stave, “UConn and the Evolution of a Public University,” connecticuthistory.org