March 16, 1970
Benjamin Graves was named the first president of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, taking office amid a period of dramatic growth for the institution. The university, now recognized as a top research and technology hub, began in 1950 as a two-year transitional program called University Center. Expansion followed along with the rise of the nearby Marshall Flight Center, and by the late 1960s it was clear the university, part of the University of Alabama System, should have an independent president. Graves, who was president of Millsaps College in Mississippi, was named to the new position and began an eight-year tenure. He presided over construction of the university’s first athletic facility and campus housing. UAH also launched a nursing program as well as doctoral programs in engineering and physics. The school saw its number of graduates per year grow from 159 in 1969 to 589 in 1979.
Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.
Rocket engineer Wernher von Braun, second from left, and Gov. John Patterson, far right, participate in the groundbreaking of the research institute at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, Alabama Department of Archives and History)
The Shelby Center for Science and Technology at the University of Alabama in Huntsville is a state-of-the-art building housing the school’s mathematical and biological sciences departments. The 200,000-square-foot, $60 million facility, which is named for U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, opened in October 2007. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of the University of Alabama in Huntsville)
The nursing program at the University of Alabama in Huntsville was founded during the tenure of the institution’s first president, Benjamin Graves, during the 1970s. In addition to bachelor’s and master’s level training, the program recently began offering a Doctor of Nursing Practice, a joint degree program with the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Alabama. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, photograph by Kevin L. Bardon)
For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.