History of the University of Minnesota

Founded in 1851 as the state’s land-grant institution, the University of Minnesota is one of the state’s greatest assets and one of the most comprehensive public universities in the United States, ranking among the most prestigious. The University of Minnesota has a strong tradition of education and public service, and is the state’s primary research university, with faculty of national and international reputation. Through its strategic positioning plan, the University is making strides to become one of the top three public research universities in the world within a decade. At all its locations—Twin Cities, Duluth, Morris, Crookston, and Rochester—the University is moving in a new direction to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The University offers myriad educational opportunities for its 60,000 students in more than 370 fields of study.


The University of Minnesota, founded in the belief that all people are enriched by understanding, is dedicated to the advancement of learning and the search for truth; to the sharing of this knowledge through education for a diverse community; and to the application of this knowledge to benefit the people of the state, the nation, and the world. The University's mission, carried out on multiple campuses and throughout the state, is threefold:

Research and Discovery

Generate and preserve knowledge, understanding, and creativity by conducting high-quality research, scholarship, and artistic activity that benefit students, scholars, and communities across the state, the nation, and the world.

Teaching and Learning

Share that knowledge, understanding, and creativity by providing a broad range of educational programs in a strong and diverse community of learners and teachers, and prepare graduate, professional, and undergraduate students, as well as non-degree-seeking students interested in continuing education and lifelong learning, for active roles in a multiracial and multicultural world.

Outreach and Public Service

Extend, apply, and exchange knowledge between the University and society by applying scholarly expertise to community problems, by helping organizations and individuals respond to their changing environments, and by making the knowledge and resources created and preserved at the University accessible to the citizens of the state, the nation, and the world.

In all of its activities, the University strives to sustain an open exchange of ideas in an environment that embodies the values of academic freedom, responsibility, integrity, and cooperation; that provides an atmosphere of mutual respect, free from racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and intolerance; that assists individuals, institutions, and communities in responding to a continuously changing world; that is conscious of and responsive to the needs of the many communities it is committed to serving; that creates and supports partnerships within the University, with other educational systems and institutions, and with communities to achieve common goals; and that inspires, sets high expectations for, and empowers individuals within its community.


The University of Minnesota was founded as a preparatory school in 1851, seven years before the territory of Minnesota became a state. Financial problems forced the school to close during the Civil War, but with the help of Minneapolis entrepreneur John Sargent Pillsbury, it reopened in1867. Known as the father of the University, Pillsbury, who was a University regent, state senator, and governor, used his influence to establish the school as the official recipient of public support from the Morrill Land-Grant Act, designating it as Minnesota's land-grant university.

William Watts Folwell was inaugurated as the first president of the University on December 22, 1869. In 1873, two students received the first bachelor of arts degrees. In 1888, the first doctor of philosophy degree was awarded. The Duluth campus joined the University in 1947; the Morris campus opened in 1960; the Crookston campus in 1966; and the Rochester campus in 2006.


The University of Minnesota, Rochester (UMR), formally established in 2006, is the newest campus in the University of Minnesota system and serves the academic and professional needs of southeastern Minnesota. UMR provides graduate and undergraduate degrees and focuses on the areas of health sciences and biotechnology, preparing students for a broad spectrum of certification programs, professional schools, and graduate programs leading to health profession careers, as well as entry-level science and laboratory positions in industry, government agencies, and universities. It also offers programs in business, education, public health, and social work.

Twin Cities

The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (UMTC), is among the largest public research universities in the country, offering undergraduate, graduate, and professional students a multitude of opportunities for study and research. Located at the heart of one of the nation’s most vibrant, diverse metropolitan communities, students on campuses in Minneapolis and St. Paul benefit from extensive partnerships with world-renowned health centers, international corporations, government agencies, and arts, nonprofit, and public service organizations.


The University of Minnesota, Crookston (UMC), proudly carries on a tradition of a century of educational service to northwestern Minnesota. UMC equips all students and faculty with laptop computers and offers individual attention in a technology-rich environment. Integral to the University's statewide land-grant mission, UMC provides applied, career-oriented learning programs and connects its teaching, research, and outreach to local, county, and regional economic development agencies in support of the rural economy.


The University of Minnesota, Duluth (UMD), consistently ranks among the top Midwestern, regional universities in U.S. News and World Report's "America's Best Colleges" issue. Overlooking Lake Superior, UMD provides an alternative to both large research and small liberal arts environments and attracts students looking for a personalized learning experience on a medium-sized campus of a major university. A firm liberal arts foundation anchors a variety of traditional degree programs, as well as professional and graduate studies that draw on UMD’s many research institutes and labs.


The University of Minnesota, Morris (UMM) makes its home on a 121-year-old campus on the western edge of the state and is one of the top public liberal arts colleges in the nation. The small, close-knit campus emphasizes faculty/student collaboration in research, study abroad, and service learning. Deeply rooted in the tall grass prairies of Minnesota, the campus also has advanced sustainable, environmentally friendly initiatives that have grown to levels of national leadership and touch nearly all aspects of campus life.

Other University locations

The University conducts agricultural, biological, and forestry research at several locations throughout the state and shares that research and education with the people of Minnesota through programs offered at 16 regional extension offices. The University’s wide variety of public service programs—like dental, medical, and veterinary clinics, and K–12 educational outreach—help more than a million people annually.

University of Minnesota Locations

Regional extension offices

Andover, Brainerd, Cloquet, Crookston, Farmington, Fergus Falls, Grand Rapids, Hutchinson, Mankato, Marshall, Moorhead, Morris, Rochester, Roseau, St. Cloud, Worthington

Research and outreach centers

Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve

Cloquet Forestry Center

County Extension Offices

Hormel Institute, Austin

Horticultural Research Center, Excelsior

Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories

Large Lakes Observatory, Duluth

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chanhassen

North Central Research and Outreach Center, Grand Rapids

Northwest Research and Outreach Center, Crookston

Sand Plain Research Farm, Becker

Soudan Underground Research

Southern Research and Outreach Center, Waseca

Southwest Research and Outreach Center, Lamberton

UMore Park

West Central Research and Outreach Center, Morris