The University of Minnesota is a Big Ten university, centrally located in the Twin Cities.  It’s a large, research based school, with an enrollment of 65,000 students, and also holds the world’s largest collection of Sherlock Holmes items.  But no school starts out that large. It's surprising to think that the first class had only two students.

University Of Minnesota LogoCredit:


The university started out as a preparatory school in 1851, before the State of Minnesota existed. It closed during the Civil War, but reopened in 1867 thanks to the support of John Sargent Pillsbury.  It was due to Pillsbury’s influence that the school was awarded money from the Morrill Land-Grant Act and the University of Minnesota was official started.

William Watts Folwell was sworn in December 1869 as the school’s first president, and in 1873 the first two students graduated with B.As.  Later, in 1888, the first doctorate degree was awarded.

The university continued to grow, becoming the state’s primary research university. Eventually, even though the campus had spread to stretch on either side of the river to be in St. Paul and Minneapolis, it needed more place to go.

Satellite Campuses

The Duluth campus was founded in 1947.  The school had existed in some form since 1895; first the Normal School at Duluth, and then the Duluth State Teachers College before it joined the University of Minnesota.  The campus helped accommodate GI’s going to school after World War II, and today remains a mid-sized campus offering bachelor, graduate, and PhD programs.  US News and World Report has consistently been ranking the campus as one of the top Midwestern regional universities.

The Morris campus followed in 1960, and also exists on the site of older schools, including an American Indian boarding school. The University of Minnesota had a presence in Morris since 1910, where it ran the West Central School of Agriculture as a boarding school. However, come the late 1950s the University wondered if there was a future for high school agriculture programs. The answer was no; the campus was eased into a university institution with a focus on the liberal arts, allowing the last high school class to graduate in 1963. That doesn’t mean the campus doesn’t remember it’s roots – it is a leader of green initiatives and strives to be carbon neutral.

Crookston opened in 1966 as the University of Minnesota Technical Institute (U of M ‘Tech’), building on the school’s past as a early agriculture high school from 1905 to 1963.  Previous institutions had also included teaching in home economics and home nursing, as well as business in relation to agriculture. It changed names in 1988 to become the University of Minnesota, Crookston and offered programs increased there after till present day, focusing on technology in relationship work environments.

Crookston Campus in 1933Credit:

Rochester is the newest campus, having opened officially in 2006.  In the early 1990s, the university worked with local colleges in the area to form the University Center Rochester. As it grew, the campus was recognized as a branch of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus and received full designation from the University of Minnesota as a whole in 2006. This campus is still growing, but as of 2011 is working with the Mayo School Of Health Sciences to increase its offer of health related programs.