A history of leadership

The University of Iowa was founded on February 25th, 1847 – just 59 days after Iowa was admitted to the Union – making it the first and oldest university in the state. Since its founding, the University of Iowa has established itself as a place where leaders and progressive thinkers hone their skills and prepare to make their marks on the world.

The University of Iowa has a long and distinguished history of ‘firsts’: It was the first public university in the U.S. to admit women and men on an equal basis, the first to admit students regardless of race, the first permanent college of education, and the first to confer the Master of Fine Arts degree.

Since 1936, the UI has been the home of the renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is a pioneer in such diverse fields as educational development, speech pathology, and space exploration.

Here are some more of the UI’s historic “firsts”:

  • 1847: Iowa legislators create the State University of Iowa, the state’s first public institution of higher education to provide teacher training for Iowa’s growing population. Since its founding, the University of Iowa has admitted women as well as men, the first public university in the U.S. to do so. Beginning in 1860, women were admitted on an equal basis with men. Since its founding, the University has also accepted qualified students regardless of race.
  • 1858: Five of the University’s first six degrees conferred are granted to teacher education graduates.
  • 1868: The first college of law west of the Mississippi River was founded at the University of Iowa.
  • 1870: Founded at Iowa, the nation’s first coeducational medical school opened its doors for classes.
  • 1872: The first permanent college-level department of education in the United States was founded at the University of Iowa. In 1907, it became the School of Education, and, in 1913, the College of Education.
  • 1882: The first school of dentistry west of the Mississippi River held its first classes.
  • 1909: The American Association of Universities, a select group of research institutions that today numbers 54, elects The University of Iowa to membership.
  • 1920s: Tests and testing procedures developed at the University of Iowa for elementary and high school students statewide pioneered the field of educational testing. Tests are now processed electronically using software envisioned by E. F. Lindquist, developer of the tests. University faculty and staff helped develop the Measurement Research Center (sold to Westinghouse Learning Corporation in 1968), the Iowa Measurement Research Foundation, the American College Testing program, and the Iowa Testing Program, which includes the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and the Iowa Tests of Educational Development.
  • 1922: The University of Iowa began to accept creative work in lieu of theses for graduate degrees in the fine and performing arts. Later, in 1940, the University awarded the first Master of Fine Arts degrees in the U.S.
  • 1929: E. F. Lindquist, educational leader, scholar, inventor, and teacher, creates the Iowa Academic Meet, the impetus for the development of the world-renowned Iowa Testing Programs.
  • 1932: The world’s first educational television station began broadcasting from a basement room in the Engineering Building. For seven years, W9XK transmitted the video signal of programs on a regular basis, with the audio portion of the broadcasts provided by University radio station WSUI. Station officials received letters from viewers as far as 500 miles away. The broadcasts were discontinued prior to the outbreak of World War II.
  • 1935: Iowa Testing Programs authors the first Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (renamed Iowa Assessments).
  • 1936: The Department of English began to offer two-year seminars in fiction and poetry writing. The Iowa Writers’ Workshop would become one of the world’s most distinguished creative writing programs, with such faculty and alumni as Kurt Vonnegut, John Cheever, Raymond Carver, Flannery O’Connor, John Irving, and Joy Williams.
  • 1939: The University of Iowa established the nation’s first blood bank to use preservative agents for long-term storage.
  • 1942: Iowa Testing Programs authors the first Iowa Tests of Educational Development.
  • 1955: E.F. Lindquist revolutionizes test scoring by inventing the first optical scanner, allowing tests to be accurately scored by high-speed equipment rather than by hand.
  • 1958: America’s entry into the space race was propelled by the launching of the Explorer satellites, whose data-gathering equipment was designed and constructed by an Iowa research team headed by James A. Van Allen, a professor of physics. The two magnetic radiation belts that surround the Earth, discovered during the Explorer missions, were later named for Van Allen.
  • 1959: Iowa Testing Programs spins off America’s most widely accepted college entrance exam to American College Testing Program, Inc., now known as ACT.
  • 1968: Iowa Testing Programs spins off its test scoring operation and equipment to what is now Pearson Education, the largest test scoring and processing corporation in the world.
  • 1979: With instruments similar to those he used on Explorer 1 to discover the Van Allen radiation belts, James A. Van Allen discovers Saturn’s radiation belts during the Pioneer 11 mission. In the same year, physics Professor Donald A. Gurnett establishes the presence of lightning and other radio emissions from Jupiter, and physics Professor Louis A. Frank and associates take the first global photographs of the earth’s northern lights.
  • 1981: William R. Panje in the Otolaryngology Department invents the neolarynx or “voice button,” enabling people to speak after removal of the larynx.
  • 1986: UI-built instruments aboard Voyager 2 fly through the atmosphere of Uranus, giving science its first close encounter with the mysterious planet. Voyager 2 will continue sending information to Earth until 2015.
  • 1988: The Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development established as Iowa’s first center for gifted education. The Belin-Blank Center becomes the most comprehensive center of its kind, now housed in the Blank Honors Center.
  • 1992: The UI Libraries Information Arcade offers the first fully-integrated electronic classroom in the country.
  • 2006: The first center of its kind in a Big Ten college of education, the Iowa Center for Assistive Technology Education and Research (ICATER), provides hands-on assistive technology research. The School Counseling program establishes the nation’s first emphasis in gifted education. The Belin-Blank Center establishes the Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration, an international clearinghouse for the study of curricular acceleration for academically talented children.
  • 2007: UI REACH (Realizing Educational And Career Hopes) is the first program of its type at a major public university that educates young adults with cognitive and learning disabilities to reach their full potential through a two-year, campus-based, non-degree program. Students acquire skills necessary to become independent, productive adults living and working in the community. The program also trains future generations of educators to work with this population.

The University of Iowa has a long history of leadership and academic excellence. Enroll in one of our 100% online degree programs to join that tradition and make your own mark on the world.

Request Information