University history and milestones

On Feb. 8, 1886 — almost 30 years before Arizona was granted statehood — the Territorial Normal School, Arizona’s first higher education institution, opened its doors to 33 students in a four-classroom building in Tempe.

From humble beginnings, and through a series of name changes that led to a 1958 vote of the people and a 2-to-1 margin of victory for the advancement of Arizona State College to Arizona State University, ASU’s century-plus trajectory has led to its being recognized as the “most innovative” university in the country by U.S. News & World Report — three years in a row.

The history of Arizona State University is rich, bold and vibrant. The timeline below reflects an honored tradition of excellence and inclusion while also celebrating the growth and development forged to meet – and make – the future.

1885-1950: Becoming a university1951-2001: 50 years of innovation2002-Present: New American University
  • Territorial Normal
    1885
    Territorial Normal School established

    ASU’s predecessor is created in 1885 by the Thirteenth Territorial Legislature to train teachers and teach agriculture and mechanical arts. Today, Arizona State University offers high-quality, nationally and internationally recognized programs on five metro Phoenix campuses, the Colleges at Lake Havasu and at learning centers across the state.

  • Old Main
    1898
    Old Main dedicated, brings electricity to Tempe

    Constructed before Arizona achieved statehood, Old Main is dedicated on Feb. 4, and is the first building in the township of Tempe to be wired for electricity. Today, Old Main is headquarters for the ASU Alumni Association — home to a half-million ASU graduates who have positively impacted our global community.

  • Teddy Roosevelt Rough Riders
    1911
    Roughriders, one and all

    President Theodore Roosevelt speaks at Tempe Normal School: “It is a pleasure to see such buildings, and it is an omen of good augury for the future of the state to realize that a premium is being put upon the best type of educational work. Moreover, I have a special feeling for this institution, for seven of the men of my regiment came from it.”

  • Commerce
    1934
    ASU establishes Department of Commerce

    The Commerce Department at Arizona State Teachers College launches as a commercial employment service to assist students and grads in landing professional careers in teaching and business. Today, ASU is a top-10 university in the U.S. for graduate employment and a “top-tier” recruitment institution for more than 50 of the country’s leading corporations.

  • First Grad Degree
    1937
    First graduate degree offered

    Arizona State Teachers College offers its first graduate degree, a master’s in education. Today, ASU's nationally ranked Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College is a leader in teacher education, excelling at both teacher preparation and academic research while creating knowledge, mobilizing people and taking action to improve education.

  • Name change 1945
    1945
    Arizona State Teachers College becomes Arizona State College

    ASC earns authorization to grant bachelor’s degrees. Today, ASU offers more than 350 undergraduate degrees and 400-plus graduate degrees across 17 colleges and schools and ASU Online.

  • Student Placement
    1951
    Business school launches Bureau of Business Services

    The Arizona State College BBS offers students an at-the-time rare venue for real-world, hands-on experience. Today, more than 53 percent of ASU students complete at least one internship before graduating.

  • ASU Vote
    1958
    The people’s choice — Arizona State University

    A measure placed on the ballot by citizen initiative recognizes the longstanding efforts to advance the fast-growing college. The measure — Prop 200 — is passed by the state’s voters by a 2-to-1 margin and results in the college’s new moniker: Arizona State University.

  • Engineering
    1958
    School of Engineering is created

    The School of Engineering is launched and the first engineering class graduates. Today, the nationally recognized Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering is home to leading world-class research centers, including two National Science Foundation-funded Engineering Research Centers.

  • Meteor Studies
    1961
    Center for Meteorite Studies founded at ASU

    ASU purchases the Nininger Meteorite Collection, keeping it in the U.S., and launches the Center for Meteorite Studies. Today, the collection is the largest of its kind in the world.

  • PBS Station KAET-8
    1961
    PBS station KAET-8 launches from ASU

    KAET-TV launches at ASU, offering educational programming directed at students attending the university. Today, with studios located at the ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, more than 80 percent of Arizonans receive the Emmy Award-winning KAET signal, among the most-viewed public television outlets per capita in the country.

  • ASU West
    1984
    ASU West campus established

    ASU West campus is established by Arizona Legislature as the university’s second campus. Located on the western edge of Phoenix, bordering the city of Glendale, today the West campus is home to the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, offers more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degrees across six colleges, and is designated a “Phoenix Point of Pride.”

  • Rose Bowl
    1987
    Sun Devils 22, Michigan 15

    The 7th-ranked football Sun Devils beat the Michigan Wolverines in the 1987 Rose Bowl, the first of two ASU appearances in “The Granddaddy of Them All.” Today, Sun Devil Athletics boasts 26 NCAA varsity sports, third-most in the Pac-12 Conference.

  • Barrett Opening
    1988
    America’s first residential honors college

    University Honors College at ASU is the first of its kind in the U.S. In 2005, Reader’s Digest ranks Barrett, The Honors College as No. 1 in the U.S. In 2014, The New York Times recognizes it as “the gold standard” among the country’s honors programs.

  • Phil Mickelson
    1990
    Unprecedented in golf

    The ASU men’s and women’s golf teams win their respective NCAA championships. Led by Phil Mickelson and Missy Farr, respectively, the teams’ same-year title achievement is unprecedented in college golf still today.

  • Research 1
    1994
    ASU gains Research I status

    The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching classifies ASU as a Research I institution. Says ASU President Lattie Coor: “No university in the country has come further, faster than ASU.” Today, ASU is recognized by the National Science Foundation as the fastest-growing research university in the U.S., ahead of Harvard, Yale, Duke and others.

  • Poly 90's
    1996
    ASU Polytechnic campus established

    Founded as ASU East, the Polytechnic campus today offers degree programs in interdisciplinary sciences, engineering, management, technology and education, and is home to ASU’s aviation programs, including a state-of-the-art flight simulator.

  • Lucy Skeleton
    1997
    Institute of Human Origins comes to ASU

    Recognized as an international leader in the field of paleoanthropology, the Institute of Human Origins moves to ASU, led by “Lucy” discoverer Donald Johanson. Today, the institute is one of the preeminent research organizations in the world, devoted to the science of human origins.

  • Michael Crow
    2002
    New American University launched

    Michael M. Crow becomes the university’s 16th president and unveils his vision for a “New American University.” Since 2002, ASU has established more than a dozen new transdisciplinary schools and launched large-scale research initiatives and innovative programs in the humanities and social sciences. During Crow’s tenure, ASU has nearly quadrupled research expenditures and completed an unprecedented infrastructure expansion.

  • Mayo Clinic
    2002
    Partnership with Mayo Clinic established

    ASU and Mayo Clinic partner in the advancement of medical research and education to improve health care delivery. Among the first initiatives: the ASU College of Nursing and Health Innovation-Mayo Clinic Campus program, allowing cohorts of senior nursing students to complete clinical training on the Mayo campus, instructed by Mayo Clinic nursing faculty.

  • Biodesign
    2003
    Biodesign Institute a U.S. first

    The ASU Biodesign Institute launches as the country’s first interdisciplinary research institute entirely devoted to the principles of bio-inspired innovation. It is Arizona’s single-largest research infrastructure investment in the biosciences. Today, Biodesign Institute scientists have disclosed more than 500 inventions, resulting in more than 200 U.S. and international patent filings, 45 patents issued and a dozen startup ventures.

  • Debate George Bush
    2004
    ASU hosts ‘Super Bowl of Politics’

    Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium is the site of the final presidential debate before the 2004 election, featuring nominees John Kerry and George W. Bush. Today, ASU Gammage, an architectural landmark designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is one of the largest university-based presenters of performing arts in the world.

  • Solar
    2004
    ASU implements solar power

    An installation atop the Tyler Street Parking Structure on the Tempe campus marks the launch of solar energy generation at ASU. Today, solar energy at the university avoids more than 23,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide output, roughly the same as the annual emissions of 4,800 passenger vehicles.

  • Downtown Phoenix
    2005
    ASU-Phoenix partner on Downtown Phoenix campus

    ASU and the City of Phoenix announce a transformative partnership for the development of the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus, which is approved by a 2-to-1 margin by the city’s voters. Opened for classes in 2006, today the campus offers degree programs across seven colleges and schools and is home to the Beus Center for Law and Society.

  • Sustainability
    2006
    ASU School of Sustainability is first in U.S.

    The nation’s first comprehensive degree-granting school of sustainability is established at ASU. Today, as part of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, the school offers 11 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees, certificate and minor programs, and has graduated nearly 1,000 sustainability master learners.

  • SkySong
    2008
    SkySong Innovation Center opens

    After two years of construction, a unique hub for innovation and technology opens — the ASU SkySong Scottsdale Innovation Center. Today, SkySong is a 42-acre, mixed-use development with more than 1.2 million square feet of space, a 21st-century center for innovation, commercialization, entrepreneurship and business development.

  • Obama Commencement
    2009
    “ASU commitment is real success” — President Obama

    In what may have been the largest U.S. graduation in history, sitting U.S. President Barack Obama delivers the May ASU commencement address. “The commitment at an institution like ASU, which is diverse and gives opportunity to all, that’s the hallmark of real success,” he tells a crowd of more than 70,000. ASU announces the Obama Scholars program, an expansion of the university’s key student financial aid program. Today, more than $200 million has been invested in the program and nearly 2,500 Arizonans have graduated as Obama Scholars.

  • Mars Rover
    2012
    ‘Curiosity’ rover lands on Mars with ASU-developed instruments

    “Curiosity,” a car-sized, six-wheeled robot, touches down at Gale Crater on Mars. Professors, researchers and students from ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, as well as university alumni, are involved with several of the Rover’s instruments.

  • Havasu
    2012
    ASU Colleges at Lake Havasu City opens

    ASU creates its Colleges at Lake Havasu City to bring the university’s innovative approach to higher education to a location unserved by the state university system. Today, students at Havasu choose from more than 20 four-year undergraduate degree programs in high-demand career fields.

  • Thunderbird
    2014
    Thunderbird becomes part of ASU Knowledge Enterprise

    The internationally recognized Thunderbird School of Global Management becomes ASU’s fifth metro Phoenix campus, combining the strength of a global business-education powerhouse with the resources of the country’s most innovative university.

  • New faculty for the Arizona State University School for the Future of Innovation in Society poses for a portrait at the Doubletree Resort in Tempe, Arizona.
    2014
    School for Future of Innovation in Society launches

    Founded by Michael M. Crow at Columbia University in 1999 and moved to ASU in 2004, the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes is the predecessor to ASU’s newest school, the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, which launches in 2014.

  • Arntzen
    2014
    Professor advances lifesaving Ebola drug

    ASU Regents Professor Charles Arntzen’s research helps advance the production and delivery of a promising treatment for the Ebola virus. For his innovative work — using specially modified tobacco plants that are harvested, ground up into a green liquid, purified and turned into tiny doses of the drug ZMapp — Arntzen is the No. 1 honoree among Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People in Business.”

  • NASA
    2015
    NASA picks ASU for moon mission

    CubeSat, a spacecraft the size of a shoebox, is chosen by NASA to orbit the moon and create a map of water-ice on its surface. CubeSat will be designed, built and operated at ASU, and the project is the third major space mission involvement for which NASA selected ASU in 2015.

  • Starbucks employee
    2015
    ASU partners with Starbucks, edX for unique degree offerings

    Groundbreaking ASU partnerships with Starbucks and edX create unique entry points to an undergraduate degree. ASU unites with edX to create the Global Freshman Academy, a collaboration offering first-year college-level courses for academic credit on the edX platform, dramatically increasing access to higher education for students around the world. With Starbucks, the partnership creates the College Achievement Plan, offering 100-percent tuition coverage for every eligible U.S. Starbucks employee, providing access to and opportunity at a world-class, discovery-oriented university.

  • Fulbright
    2016
    ASU faculty, students dominate Fulbright awards

    ASU faculty earn the top spot among all U.S. universities, as 10 are awarded coveted Fulbright fellowships. ASU students rank No. 5 in the country for Fulbright scholarships, ahead of Columbia, Princeton, USC, Johns-Hopkins and others.

  • Grad employability
    2016
    A top university for graduate employability

    ASU earns top-10 recognition as a leading U.S. university for graduate employability, according to Global University Employability Survey 2016. ASU is designated as a “top-tier” recruiting university among the country’s top 50 corporations, joining peer institutions like MIT, UC Berkeley, Notre Dame, Purdue and others.

  • Mosquito
    2016
    ASU researchers unveil low-cost test for Zika virus

    Hoping to foil Zika’s rapid advance, ASU researchers collaborate with the Wyss Institute in Boston to develop a $1-per-test diagnostic that can be administered anywhere in the world. The platform holds the potential to diagnose a broad range of infectious disease.

  • History Nobel Laureates
    2016
    Two Nobels join ASU faculty

    ASU adds a pair of Nobel laureates to its world-class faculty. Frank Wilczek and Sidney Altman are the fourth and fifth winners of the prestigious international award to become ASU faculty members, joining Leland Hartwell and Edward Prescott and the late Elinor Ostrom.

  • Campaign 2020
    2017
    Campaign ASU 2020

    To accelerate the ASU mission and raise support for the university’s educational priorities, Campaign ASU 2020 is a comprehensive universitywide effort designed to fuel the innovation and solutions that will shape our future.

  • ASU is number 1 in the U.S. for innovation for 2016, 2017 and 2018
    2017
    Most innovative in U.S. — three years in a row

    For three years in a row, ASU tops the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings as the country’s “Most Innovative” university, based on a survey of top educators. College presidents, provosts and admissions deans point to ASU as making the most innovative improvements to curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology or facilities. ASU places ahead of No. 2 Stanford and No. 3 MIT.

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Territorial Normal
1885
Territorial Normal School established
ASU’s predecessor is created in 1885 by the Thirteenth Territorial Legislature to train teachers and teach agriculture and mechanical arts. Today, Arizona State University offers high-quality, nationally and internationally recognized programs on five metro Phoenix campuses, the Colleges at Lake Havasu and at learning centers across the state.
Old Main
1898
Old Main dedicated, brings electricity to Tempe
Constructed before Arizona achieved statehood, Old Main is dedicated on Feb. 4, and is the first building in the township of Tempe to be wired for electricity. Today, Old Main is headquarters for the ASU Alumni Association — home to a half-million ASU graduates who have positively impacted our global community.
Teddy Roosevelt Rough Riders
1911
Roughriders, one and all
President Theodore Roosevelt speaks at Tempe Normal School: “It is a pleasure to see such buildings, and it is an omen of good augury for the future of the state to realize that a premium is being put upon the best type of educational work. Moreover, I have a special feeling for this institution, for seven of the men of my regiment came from it.”
Commerce
1934
ASU establishes Department of Commerce
The Commerce Department at Arizona State Teachers College launches as a commercial employment service to assist students and grads in landing professional careers in teaching and business. Today, ASU is a top-10 university in the U.S. for graduate employment and a “top-tier” recruitment institution for more than 50 of the country’s leading corporations.