UI fêtes itself on its birthday

The+Old+Capitol+on+the+night+of+Thursday%2C+Feb.+23%2C+2017.+The+University+of+Iowa+was+founded+in+1847+and+took+control+of+the+Old+Capitol+building+in+1857+after+the+state+legislature+moved+the+state+capitol+to+Des+Moines.+%28The+Daily+Iowan%2FJoseph+Cress%29
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UI fêtes itself on its birthday

The Old Capitol on the night of Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. The University of Iowa was founded in 1847 and took control of the Old Capitol building in 1857 after the state legislature moved the state capitol to Des Moines. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)

The Old Capitol on the night of Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. The University of Iowa was founded in 1847 and took control of the Old Capitol building in 1857 after the state legislature moved the state capitol to Des Moines. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)

The Old Capitol on the night of Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. The University of Iowa was founded in 1847 and took control of the Old Capitol building in 1857 after the state legislature moved the state capitol to Des Moines. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)

The Old Capitol on the night of Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. The University of Iowa was founded in 1847 and took control of the Old Capitol building in 1857 after the state legislature moved the state capitol to Des Moines. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)

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Celebrating its 170th anniversary today, the UI has had a rich history.

By Isabella Senno

[email protected]

Today, the University of Iowa turns 170 years old.

The institution has experienced a rich history. Over the decades, it has both been shaped by students and has contributed to them. As the oldest public university in Iowa, the UI has been a part of national movements and local moments, building a strong reputation for innovation and students’ success. 

“This milestone is an opportunity to reflect on the University of Iowa’s remarkable legacy and also look forward to what we’ll be able to accomplish working together,” said UI President Bruce Harreld in an email to The Daily Iowan.

Mary Bennett, the Special Collections coordinator for the State Historical Society of Iowa, said the UI was founded in February 1847, a mere two months after the state was admitted into the Union. It has experienced exponential growth over the years, she said, building on the framework provided by early settlers of European ancestry who prioritized education.

“The University of Iowa is a wonderful way for us to see how enlightened the early pioneers and settlers of Iowa were, because they though the intellectual development of the state was very important,” Bennett said. “Those Iowans who came here to settle were intellectual people who valued public education, and they wanted to create an opportunity for this state to grow and prosper, and one way to do that was to educate the young people.”

University Archivist David McCartney said that since its inception, the UI has been open to all students regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or economic status. This could be due respectively to the shortage of teachers in the early years of the state, so both male and female applicants were needed and also to Iowa’s admission as a free-soil state.

“There has never been any language to the contrary in the university’s admissions policies. It has led as an example of providing higher education to those who are qualified,” McCartney said. “It has benefited the university; we’ve gained from all perspectives of those who have enrolled here. Historically, it has been ahead of most institutions in terms of its own admission policy and in terms of accommodating students of other backgrounds.”

UI Dean of Students Lyn Redington said the “exciting” past Iowa has had shows promise for the future.

“One thing I saw on a T-shirt and I really liked was ‘Iowa, for me, stands for Inspire Others With Action,’” she said. “That’s what I see the University of Iowa doing; it’s the action of doing research and teaching in the classroom, of teaching outside of the classroom, it is the opportunity for students to come here and learn who they are, who they want to be, and then how they will get there.”

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