History and Facts

UA History Highlights

A Common Question

The most common question about the University of Alaska is, "Why was the university originally located in Fairbanks rather than in Anchorage, Juneau, or some other more southern Alaskan city?"

Anchorage, in 1915, was mainly developed to serve as the headquarters for the Alaska Railroad construction, and the town itself was only a few months old. Placing a university in Anchorage was the last thing the residents were thinking about.

The university began as a land grant college under the same federal laws as other colleges. The main focus for the university was agriculture; hence the University of Alaska began as the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines. Juneau had little interest in having an agricultural college due to its southeastern climate and geography not being favorable for farming.

College to University

By 1935,  the college trustees, administration, and alumni optimistically pressed for a change of name. The legislature approved the request, and the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines became the University of Alaska on July 1 of that year. The Board of Trustees was renamed the Board of Regents.

Bunnell Named President

Governor Strong had appointed a Board of Trustees for the Alaska College. The Board had to select a president for the new college. They selected the Honorable Charles E. Bunnell. The choice was made on August 11, 1921, and he assumed his duties on December 7. On opening day, September 18, 1922, six faculty members, in addition to President Bunnell and his secretary, were on hand to greet the six students who enrolled. Late arrivals brought the total to 12 for the first semester.

The Future

The University of Alaska continues to construct new buildings and renovate old buildings to accommodate the  growing number of students enrolling to the various programs at the three main universities and their community colleges.

There were some arguments against the college in 1915 but now in the 21st century, the University of Alaska system has grown to include international research institutes, NCAA Division I & II athletic teams, and  multiple colleges offering hundreds of degree programs, and thousands of enrolled students across Alaska and online. UA's accomplished alumni have gone on to do great things for the State of Alaska and beyond.