On October 7, 1968, students, faculty and administrators piled into an unfinished building to begin the first day of classes. The students registered at folding tables and everyone shared space while filling out paperwork, registering for classes and getting ready for the semester.

That day, President Charles Millican spoke to community leaders and more than 2,000 local residents at the opening ceremony, giving out medallions to the charter faculty. Students registered and attended classes in the same building and everyone made their way around remaining construction sites as the land that had once been a cow pasture continued its transformation.

Clearly, UCF has grown much since those early days. UCF now has internationally recognized programs, high-achieving students and faculty members who are performing new research and making strides in all areas, from literature to hospitality to lasers. But the best part is watching students grow into successful contributors—in their fields and in society.

How we got started

Everything began when, on June 10, 1963, the Florida Legislature approved the plan to open a university in Central Florida, an institution that would serve as a knowledge center for Kennedy Space Center. Frank Adamucci, a New Jersey contractor, made the original land deal, offering to donate half of his land if the other half were purchased. Mostly cow pastures, the land was full of rattlesnakes, but the founders didn’t see that. They envisioned a better-educated workforce, valuable research and an intellectual and cultural hub for Central Florida. Eighty-nine Central Florida citizens joined the initial effort. Drawing on personal funds, they guaranteed a $1 million bank loan to purchase the land, a deal that foreshadowed our emphasis on partnerships.

And the university was on its way.

Dr. Charles Millican remembers his initial journey to the campus after being selected as the president and before any construction had begun. He came, searched, stopped at the store for a packet of peanut butter crackers and went home without being able to locate the site. It wasn’t until later that he saw the land. As he recalls, it wasn’t much at the time.

Upon taking office, President Millican encouraged everyone on campus to “reach for the stars.” Dr. Millican set the tone for so much of what we have accomplished since. He established the ambitious attitude that exists to this day.

But there were some interesting stops along the way.

Throughout the following years, President Millican worked through a lean budget and the changing face of the region, with its shifting needs. The students elected a mascot, the university played its first basketball game, the alma mater was penned and even U.S. President Richard Nixon visited the university. Slowly, but surely, more funds flowed into the university—and so did faculty, students and praise for the university’s mission.

The university’s second president, Dr. Trevor Colbourn, foresaw a school that offered a comprehensive arts and sciences program. And so, another thread of UCF’s history began on December 6, 1978, when Florida Technological University officially became the University of Central Florida, ushering in a new era and a more expansive identity. President Colbourn also believed that every outstanding university had a great athletic department, and under his administration, the varsity football program was launched in 1979.