USA: A Brief History

Black and white image of students walking on campus and old building image.


The University of South Alabama (USA) was founded in 1963 without a single building to call its own. Approaching 60 years and many buildings later, USA is a vibrant university that continues to serve as a catalyst for transformational change that impacts our state, the Gulf Coast region and the world.

USA’s story began in the early 1960s, when Mobile’s civic leaders saw the need to improve access to higher education in southwest Alabama. Realizing the region had outgrown the small extension program that operated out of a building downtown, they formulated plans for a four-year, degree-granting institution. On May 3, 1963, a bill creating a new, independent university successfully passed the Alabama Legislature, and USA was born.

Classes began in June 1964 at a new, $1 million building in west Mobile with an initial enrollment of 276. The extent of the pent-up demand for education became obvious when the first fall semester began. Enrollment leaped to 928 — and it continues to grow. Today, USA enrolls more than 13,500 students annually and has awarded more than 90,000 degrees. Its alumni are leaders in business, industry, healthcare, education and the arts.

The first campus building is now named the Frederick Palmer Whiddon Administration Building, after USA’s first president. Whiddon had a vision that established the University, and he remained at its helm until retiring in 1998. His successor, longtime faculty member and administrator V. Gordon Moulton, oversaw a new era of growth into the 21st Century. Dr. Tony G. Waldrop, selected in 2014 as the University’s third president, continued the USA tradition of visionary leadership focused on discovery, health and learning.

As new programs attracted more students, the University’s footprint and facilities expanded. Almost from the moment USA accepted its first students, leaders began ambitiously working toward establishing a medical school. The Whiddon College of Medicine charter class began in 1973, and USA’s focus on health education was later complemented by the College of Nursing and the Pat Capps Covey College of Allied Health Professions.

Today, USA provides a high-quality education in business, the liberal arts, education, engineering, computing, the sciences and healthcare. South’s 1,200-acre campus has been transformed over the past decade with new facilities and resources. It offers more than 100 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs through its 11 colleges and schools. On the east side of Mobile Bay, USA’s Baldwin County campuses provide Eastern Shore residents with convenient access to healthcare and educational programs.

USA is a comprehensive research institution where faculty have created an environment that supports curiosity and discovery. Its researchers are problem-solvers and pioneers in developing new technologies and promoting bold ideas to create targeted solutions for today’s complex world.

USA Health – through Children’s & Women’s Hospital, University Hospital, Mitchell Cancer Institute, Academic Physician practices, Health Care Authority practices and the Whiddon College of Medicine – provides care across our region and, along with the College of Nursing and Covey College of Allied Health Professions, is an extraordinary training ground for future physicians and healthcare professionals.

A charter member of the Sun Belt Conference, USA fields 17 Division I sports teams, and is routinely recognized for excellence in both athletics and academics. Today, USA is the proud home to Hancock Whitney Stadium, which hosts all Jaguars home football games and other events. The University of South Alabama continues upward and onward as the Flagship of the Gulf Coast.

USA Timeline

▼   1960s
Date Event
May 3, 1963 USA founded by an act of the Alabama Legislature.
October 1963 First meeting of the USA Board of Trustees; Dr. Frederick P. Whiddon named president.
April 1964 The University moved from 154 St. Louis Street to its present location in west Mobile.
June 1964 First classes began; initial enrollment totaled 276 students.
October 1964 Gov. George C. Wallace dedicates the University of South Alabama campus.
April 1965 The jaguar was adopted as the University's mascot.
October 1965 Ground-breaking for Alpha Dorms, the University's first residence hall complex.
June 1967 Eighty-eight baccalaureate degrees were conferred at the first commencement.
December 1968 The University was admitted membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
May 1969 The University acquired the 327-acre Brookley Conference Center.
August 1969 A resolution of the Alabama Legislature supported establishment of a medical school under the auspices of the University of South Alabama.
▼   1970s
Date Event
November 1970 Mobile General Hospital was transferred to the University.
May 1971 Dr. Robert M. Bucher named first dean of the College of Medicine.
January 1973 The charter class of 25 students entered the College of Medicine.
April 1975 Mobile General Hospital was renamed University of South Alabama Medical Center.
October 1976 The University became a charter member of the Sun Belt Athletic Conference.
September 1978 The University's first Ph.D. program —in Basic Medical Sciences— was initiated.
▼   1980s
Date Event
January 1983 The USA Children's and Women's Hospital was established.
August 1984 The University of South Alabama Baldwin County branch was established.
August 1987 The former Providence Hospital was acquired by the University to house programs of the colleges of Allied Health Professions, Medicine, and Nursing.
▼   1990s
Date Event
June 1990 The University acquired Doctors Hospital and Knollwood Park Hospital.
October 1997 Dedication of the Frederick Palmer Whiddon Administration Building.
July 1998 Dr. Frederick Whiddon retires as USA's only president in its 35-year history.
July 1998 V. Gordon Moulton named University President.
November 1998 Dedication of the John W. Laidlaw Performing Arts Center.
May 1999 Naming of the Mitchell College of Business, recognizing endowments of faculty chairs and scholarships by the Mitchell family of Mobile.
▼   2000s
Date Event
October 2001 Dedication of the USA Children's Park, a 16-acre park at USA Children's and Women's Hospital displaying bronze sculptures celebrating children and families.
December 2001 Refurbishment of Alumni Hall completed following more than $40,000 in contributions from the Toulmin family and the USA Alumni Association.
May 2002 Establishment of the USA Cancer Research Institute, later re-named the Mitchell Cancer Institute.
June 2002 Creation of the University Research and Technology Park Corporation.
December 2002 The University awarded it 50,000th degree at Fall Commencement.
March 2003 Dedication of the 53,000-square-foot addition to the University Library.
October 2003 Dedication of the new 16-acre Intramural Athletics Complex and Field House.
December 2003 Dedication of the Mentor Graphics Corporation Building, the first building in the USA Technology and Research Park.
September 2004 Dedication of the Larry D. Striplin III Basketball Practice Facility.
December 2005 Completion of a second building in the USA Technology and Research Park.
February 2005 Implementation of a new $6.2 million campus transportation system, Jag Tran.
April 2005 Groundbreaking ceremony held for USA's cancer institute, which was later named the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute.
April 2005 Dedication of Stanky Field, following a $3.8 million renovation.
July 2005 USA and Infirmary Health System announce a strategic healthcare alliance to enhance healthcare in the region and provide innovative cancer treatment and research through the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute.
March 2006 Launching of the University's first comprehensive fund-raising campaign.
March 2006 The USA Cancer Research Institute is renamed the Mitchell Cancer Institute following a $22 million gift in support of the Institute from the Mitchell family of Mobile.
April 2006 Infirmary Health System assumes operation of former USA Knollwood Hospital as Infirmary West at Knollwood.
September 2006 Dedication of Meisler Hall, an $8 million student services building named in honor of the Meisler family of Mobile, who donated $2 million to endow the facility.
October 2006 Dedication of the $2.2 million Alfred and Lucile Delchamps Archaeology Building, which serves as a public museum of ancient artifacts and a teaching and research center as home of the USA Center for Archaeological Studies. The building was created in part through the generosity of the Delchamps family of Mobile.
November 2006 A joint pharmacy program between USA and Auburn University was established, with plans to admit the first class of students in fall 2007. Graduates of the pharmacy program in Mobile receive a degree from the Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy at the University of South Alabama.
March 2007 Dedication of the Joseph and Rebecca Mitchell Learning Resource Center at the Mitchell College of Business, a $2.5 million facility that significantly improves the learning environment for USA business students.
April 2007 The natural connections among Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health Professions were acknowledged through a new cooperative administrative structure under the guidance of the first Vice President for Health Sciences, Dr. Ron Franks.
April 2007 The University names its first vice president for health systems, Stan Hammack, who will oversee the clinical operations of USA’s health system, including its hospitals and physician practice.
April 2007 Began construction of the new $45 million Health Sciences Building, which will bring the colleges of Allied Health Professions and Nursing back to USA’s main campus.
May 2007 Hired first Vice President for Research, Dr. Russ Lea, symbolizing USA’s ever-expanding programs in research, outreach and scholarly activity.
August 2007 Opening of a privately funded student apartment complex, The Grove, which by fall 2008 housed 1,000 students.
September 2007 Celebrated the grand opening of the Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy at the University of South Alabama and welcomed its inaugural class of students.
November 2007 USA students presented a petition to President Moulton in support of football and marching band programs during half-time at a Jaguar Men’s Basketball game.
December 2007 USA Trustees approve NCAA-sanctioned football and marching band programs.
December 2007 The historic number of degrees awarded by the University topped 60,000.
February 2008 USA hired its first football coach, Joey Jones.
February 2008 Public groundbreaking held during Homecoming for USA Moulton Tower and Alumni Plaza.
March 2008 Plans for USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital expansion approved by USA Board of Trustees.
April 2008 Public groundbreaking ceremony held for new state-of-the-art, 116,000-square-foot Student Recreation Center.
July 2008 USA officially begins new marching band program with announcement of  band’s first director, Ward Miller.
August 2008 USA unveils new athletic and marching band logo.
November 2008 Dedication of the new USA Mitchell Cancer Institute building, which represents a total investment of more than $135 million, including $75 million in construction and equipment.
April 2009 Conclusion of the University's first comprehensive fund-raising campaign, which resulted in more than $93.5 million for USA programs, faculty, students and construction.
September 2009 Launched inaugural season of USA’s football and marching band programs.
September 2009 Dedication of the Health Sciences Building, new home of the colleges of Allied Health Professions and Nursing.
September 2009 Groundbreaking ceremony for Shelby Hall Engineering and Computing Sciences Building.
November 2009 Dedication of the Football Field House and practice fields.
▼   2010s
Date Event
January 2010 Dedication of Veterans Memorial Plaza, which is dedicated to the students, alumni, faculty and staff who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
July 2010 Completion of the new USA Jaguar Marching Band drill tower and pavilion.
September 2010 First classes held in the new glass arts building, a 5,000-square-foot facility in the Visual Arts complex.
September 2010 Dedication of the new state-of-the-art, 116,000-square-foot Student Recreation Center.
October 2010 Dedication of Moulton Tower and Alumni Plaza.
November 2010 Groundbreaking on USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital expansion.
November 2010 Opening of a new 20,000-square-foot dining hall near residence halls.
August 2011 Opening of Stokes Hall, a 330-bed residence hall that includes the
University’s first Faculty in Residence and incorporates the concept of
“Learning Communities."
September 9, 2012 Dedication of Shelby Hall, home of College of Engineering and School of Computing.
May 3, 2013 50th Anniversary of USA’s founding.
April 2, 2014 Dr. Tony G. Waldrop takes office as USA’s third president.
August 2014 Total enrollment surpasses 16,000 for the first time in University history; total fall enrollment is 16,055.
December 2014 The J.L. Bedsole Foundation pledges $1 million to establish the J.L. Bedsole Foundation Endowed Scholarship Fund.
December 2014 The Jaguar football team plays in its first post-season game, the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl.
May 2015 Two spring commencement ceremonies are held to accommodate USA’s growing enrollment.
June 2015 Fanny and Bert Meisler create a $1 million endowment to enhance Jewish Studies.
June 2015 New doctoral program in computing announced; USA now offers 100 degree programs.
August 2015 The University's first Convocation welcomes freshmen and new students.
August 2015 Record enrollment of 16,462 students.
October 2015 Launch of the Upward & Onward $150 million fundraising campaign.
January 2016 Pathway USA degree completion program with area community colleges announced.
March 2016 First university-wide branding campaign launched with “We Are South” tagline.
April 2016 USA Mitchell Cancer Institute breaks ground on new clinic in Fairhope.
July 2016 Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library relocates to Marx Library on main campus.
September 2016 Fall enrollment, ACT scores set new records.
October 2016 USA and Spring Hill College announce cross-registration enrollment options for students.
February 2017 Global USA created to oversee international outreach and engagement.
March 2017 College of Education renamed to College of Education and Professional Studies.
April 2017 Upward & Onward campaign reaches $100 million milestone.
June 2017 Jaguar athletics wins third straight Sun Belt all-sports trophy.
July 2017 Mitchell Cancer Institute opens Kilborn Clinic in Fairhope.
February 2018 USA University Libraries celebrate 50 years
March 2018 Meisler family gifts $5 million for new Trauma Center
May 2018 Jaguar athletics wins Sun Belt Conference all-sports trophy for fourth straight year
July 2018 USA Health launches emergency air service partnership
August 2018 USA Medical Center renamed USA Health University Hospital
September 2018 Mapp family gifts $1 million to Children's & Women's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
October 2018 Pathway USA expands to Pensacola State College
October 2018 Mobile County commits $2.5 million to new football stadium
January 2019 University and bank officials announce the naming of Hancock Whitney Stadium;  construction to be complete by 2020.
March 2019 University approved to offer Ph.D. in business administration.
April 2019 College of Engineering celebrates 50 years.
June 2019 USA Health University Hospital earns The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for accreditation.
July 2019 South awarded $3.8 million from NASA and Department of Energy for ionic liquids research.
September 2019 College of Medicine awarded a $4.4 million federal grant to improve the health of underserved areas and increase the number of primary care physicians.
November 2019 Women’s soccer wins sixth conference tournament title in seven years.
December 2019 University receives more than $87 million in external and contract funding in 2019, a 43-percent increase from 2018.
▼   2020s
Date Event
January 2020 The MacQueen Alumni Center opens across from Moulton Tower and Alumni Plaza.
March 2020 South switches to remote learning due to COVID-19 pandemic.
June 2020 USA announces Start South dual enrollment program for high school students.
July 2020 USA Health announces plans for what would later be named the Mapp Family Campus in Baldwin County.
September 2020 The Jags football team plays its first home game in Hancock Whitney Stadium.
October 2020 USA Health breaks ground on a freestanding emergency clinic at Old Shell and Hillcrest roads.
November 2020 The University announces completion of its $150 million Upward & Onward campaign, exceeding its goal by $10.9 million by raising $160.9 million. More than 23,000 individuals, businesses and foundations donated to the campaign.
December 2020 Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and Bert Meisler take part in ribbon-cutting ceremony for the $20 million Fanny Meisler Level 1 Trauma Center at University Hospital.
January 2021 $20 million Fanny Meisler Trauma Center at USA Hospital opens. The 27,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility is the region’s only level-1 trauma center. Bert Meisler donates $5 million for the project.
February 2021 Dr. Tony Waldrop announces his retirement after serving as the University’s president for seven years.
March 2021 South launches the School of Marine & Environmental Sciences.
September 2021 Drs. John & Sally Steadman pledge a $3.8 million gift to the College of Engineering.
October 2021 The University hosts the South Alabama Band Championship at Hancock Whitney Stadium. More than 20 high schools and 2,300 student musicians from across the region participate in the inaugural event.
November 2021 The USA Board of Trustees announce Jo Bonner as University president. He becomes just the 4th president in the University’s 58-year history.
March 2022 USA Health opens a free-standing Emergency Department in West Mobile.
May 2022 Dr. Andrea (Andi) Kent named USA Executive Vice President & Provost.
June 2022 : USA Board of Trustees approves a resolution naming the Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine, honoring the University’s first president; a new Whiddon College of Medicine building will be constructed.
September 2022 South inaugurates Josiah R. Bonner as University’s 4th President.
October 2022 The Multicultural Leadership Center celebrates its grand opening.
November 2022 USA Health opens the Mapp Family Campus Medical Office Building in Baldwin County.
December 2022

Jaguar football team completes its first 10-win season and 3rd bowl invitation.

May 2023

The University begins a year-long celebration of its 60 th Anniversary. USA’s Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine and the College of Nursing both celebrate 50 th anniversaries in 2023.

May 2023

Longtime USA supporter Abraham “Abe” Mitchell pledges $20 million for a new performing arts building.

June 2023

Pole vaulter Kyle Rademeyer claims a national championship at the 2023 Track & Field Championships in Austin, Texas. The junior cleared a height of 18-feet-8.25 inches to win the title.

August 2023

South’s first-year enrollment increases by 19 percent, making the Class of 2027 one of the largest in the University’s history.

September 2023

The USA Foundation donates more than a quarter mile of property on Dauphin Island’s Aloe Bay. It will be used as a “living laboratory” for marine science education and research.

September 2023

The University announces that fundraising has begun for a new 24,000 square-foot home for the Jaguar Marching Band. The proposed facility is expected to cost $10 million and will feature a lighted outdoor practice field as well as a rehearsal studio, dressing rooms and a music library.

October 2023

Providence Hospital joins USA Health. The 349-bed facility, along with eight clinics and six family practices is renamed USA Providence and brings more than 1,700 physicians, associates and providers into the USA Health family.

October 2023

The Jaguar women’s soccer team defeats Arkansas State 3-1 completing an undefeated regular season for the first time in program history. The Jags’ finished the regular season 8-0-2.

December 2023

The University holds a groundbreaking ceremony for a new $200 million Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine building. The 250,000 square-foot facility will allow the University to expand class size from 80 to more than 100 students.

December 2023

The Jaguar football team wins its first bowl game in program history by routing Eastern Michigan University 59-10 in the 68 Ventures Bowl held at Hancock Whitney Stadium.