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History

Born of a Revolutionary Spirit

What began as one land-grant college in Western Massachusetts has become a world-class university system comprised of four undergraduate/graduate campuses, a medical school and the state's only public law school, with roots in every corner of the state and unparalleled impact across the Commonwealth.

UMass was first established in 1863 as the Massachusetts Agricultural College, located in Amherst, under the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act. In 1932, the Massachusetts Agricultural College became Massachusetts State College, and in 1947, Mass State became the University of Massachusetts.

The university became a multi-campus system when UMass Medical School in Worcester was established in 1962 and UMass Boston soon followed in 1964.

Then, in 1989, a forward-thinking UMass Board of Trustees formed the Commission on the Future of the University to examine and make recommendations on the future role of UMass in the Commonwealth.

In March of 1989, the Commission published its findings, now known as The Saxon Report, which concluded that the future prosperity of Massachusetts was dependent upon a world-class public research university and called for the formation of a five-campus UMass system.

In 1991, based on the Saxon Report’s recommendations, the University of Lowell became UMass Lowell and Southeastern Massachusetts University became UMass Dartmouth, forming the present-day five-campus UMass system.

In 2010, UMass Law School was formed as the successor to Southern New England School of Law, becoming the state’s only public law school, and in 2016, UMass Law received full accreditation from the American Bar Association.

From its humble roots as one small land-grant college serving 56 students to a regional powerhouse educating nearly 75,000 students each year, UMass has become a highly respected public research university system renowned for the quality of its academic programs, the scope and excellence of its research, and the strength of its public service mission.

As Massachusetts has reinvented itself from a center of textiles and manufacturing to a knowledge and tech-based economy, UMass has evolved and adapted to serve the state’s burgeoning needs. All five campuses have become statewide economic engines and talent pipelines, collectively generating more than $6 billion in annual economic impact and conducting nearly $700 million in groundbreaking research each year in areas critical to the Massachusetts economy.

By every measure — from student demand, to research impact, to third-party validations — UMass has reached the upper echelon of public universities in the United States, one that has remained true to its mission to increase access to knowledge and improve the lives of the people of the Commonwealth, the nation and the world.

Through the talent we develop, the research we conduct and the service we perform, UMass has become a key thread in the social, cultural and economic fabric that makes Massachusetts the greatest state in the nation, with a top innovation ecosystem, the best K-12 schools, and the most educated workforce.” Marty Meehan President, University of Massachusetts

UMass Timeline

1862  President Abraham Lincoln signs the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act into law

1863  Massachusetts Agricultural College is founded in Amherst

1867  Massachusetts Agricultural College opens with 4 faculty and 56 students

1892  The first female students are accepted to Massachusetts Agricultural College, graduate degrees are authorized

1931  Massachusetts Agricultural College becomes Massachusetts State College

1947  Mass State becomes the University of Massachusetts

1962  UMass Medical School is established

1964  UMass Boston is established

1974  UMass Boston moves to Boston Harbor

1989  The Saxon Commission calls for a five-campus UMass system with one president and one Board of Trustees

1991  The University of Lowell and Southeastern Massachusetts University in Dartmouth join the UMass system as UMass Lowell and UMass Dartmouth

1991  Governor William Weld signs the Saxon Commission recommendations into law

2001  UMassOnline is established

2016  UMass Law is fully accredited by the American Bar Association