The University of South Alabama was founded in 1963 without a single building to call its own. More than 50 years and quite a few buildings later, the university is a vibrant institution that continues to serve as a catalyst for transformational change in the city, the state, and the Gulf Coast region.
The University of South Alabama’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 the University of South Alabama was born.
Classes began in June 1964 at a new, $1 million building in west Mobile. Initial enrollment totaled 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, the university enrolls more than 14,000 students annually and has awarded more than 90,000 degrees.
The first campus building is now named the Frederick Palmer Whiddon Administration Building, after the university’s first president. Whiddon helped establish the university and 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, continues the University of South Alabama 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 the university accepted its first students, its leaders began ambitiously working toward establishing a medical school. The College of Medicine charter class began in 1973, and the focus on health education was later complemented by the College of Nursing and the Pat Capps Covey College of Allied Health Professions.
Today, the university provides a high-quality education in business, the liberal arts, education, engineering, computing, the sciences, and healthcare. It offers more than 100 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs through its ten colleges and schools. The university campus also includes the University of South Alabama Technology & Research Park, an incubator of economic development and technological innovation. On the east side of Mobile Bay, the university’s Baldwin County Campus provides eastern shore residents convenient access to educational programs.
The University of South Alabama encompasses a comprehensive health system composed of two hospitals — USA University Hospital and USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital — along with the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute and the USA Physicians Group. This combination of advanced healthcare services has improved the lives of countless residents throughout the entire region.
A charter member of the Sun Belt Conference, the University of South Alabama fields 17 Division I sports, including baseball, softball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, and tennis. The Jaguars football program, established in 2009, played in its first bowl game, the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, in 2014.