East Alabama Male College (1856-72)
Accounts since the 19th century show that, regardless of the official name, the state’s land-grant university has always been know as “Auburn,” a name taken by the Lee County community from the Oliver Goldsmith poem, “The Deserted Village.” The poem includes the line, “Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain.”
Auburn University was established in 1856 as the East Alabama Male College, 20 years after the city of Auburn’s founding. After December of 1859, it was maintained by the Methodist Episcopal Church South. The citizens of Auburn, the college faculty and the Methodist Church were all advocates of the new college. In 1859, Auburn’s patrons erected and equipped a four-story building at the cost of $1,100 and opened its doors on October 1 to 80 students, six faculty members and a preparatory enrollment of 100. Five students were graduated after the first year.
In 1872, the institution’s economic problems were resolved when, under the Morrill Act, Auburn became the first land-grant college in the South and was renamed the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama. Dr. Issac Taylor Tichenor, a former Confederate chaplain and noted Baptist minister, was the first president of the newly reorganized college. During the next several years, the school experienced changes that are still prevalent on campus. Fraternities were formed in 1878 under Dr. William Leroy Broun, and became officially recognized by the school in 1883. In 1892, Auburn admitted its first women and organized its first football team. The organization that was to become the Auburn Alumni Association was formed soon after, in 1893. In 1899 the name again was changed, to the Alabama Polytechnic Institute.
Dr. Broun, educated in the classics and sciences, believed that both disciplines were important in education, and geared Auburn toward becoming a “well-rounded” university. Auburn’s official title was changed to Alabama Polytechnic Institute largely because of Dr. Broun’s beliefs in placing a scientific emphasis on the liberal arts tradition. Expansion continued, and in 1960 the name of the school was changed to Auburn University, a title more in keeping with its location, and expressing the varied academic programs and larger curriculum of a major university.
Over the past 151 years, Auburn University has grown to be one of the top universities in the country. It remains in the educational forefront with its traditional blend of arts and applied science, and changing with the needs of today while living with a respect for the traditions and spirit that are Auburn.
Auburn University’s Vision
Auburn University | Auburn, Alabama 36849 | Phone: (334) 844-4000 | E-mail:
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