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History of UMBC

This guide contains information about the available resources for conducting research on the history of UMBC's origins, people, departments, and traditions.


The questions listed below are often requested by campus researchers. If you have a question or fact that you would like to see included here, please e-mail Lindsey Loeper ( or send in your question using the submission box on the left.

How old is UMBC?

This can be a tricky question and depends on what information you're looking for specifically.

  • The Maryland State Legislature passed a bill establishing the new campus in 1963 which became law in 1964.
  • The first day of classes at UMBC was September 19, 1966.
  • The campus was dedicated on October 30, 1966.

UMBC celebrates the anniversaries starting in 1966. The 50th anniversary celebrations will be held in Fall 2016.

How many Presidents have served at UMBC?

Five people have served in the position that we currently call President. There has also been one interim Chancellor.

  • Chancellor Albin O. Kuhn, 1965-1971
  • Chancellor Calvin E. Lee, 1971-1976
  • Interim Chancellor Louis Kaplan (Interim Chancellor), 1976-1977
  • Chancellor John Dorsey, 1977-1986
  • President Michael Hooker, 1986-1992
  • President Freeman Hrabowski, III, 1992-present

Prior to 1988 the President was actually called the Chancellor, for example Chancellor Kuhn. The head of the University System of Maryland is now called the Chancellor but was previously called the President of the University of Maryland System.

What was here before the UMBC campus?

Excerpt from UMBC News, September 19, 1966 [available online]:

"126-Year History of UMBC Site Recalled," by Martin Schlesinger. "In 1840 the State of Maryland acquired a large tract of land from the Stabler Estate. An Orphans' Home, "The Baltimore Trade School", was established that same year. A few years later a large building was constructed near the southern end of Walker Avenue. This building provided both dormitories and kitchen facilities for the 50 members of the school. The remaining area was farmed by this institutions, thereby making the farm more independent and providing more activities for the orphans. This trade school was used until World War II. By 1845 about 300 acres in the Catonsville area belonged to the State of Maryland... The property was later added to the Spring Grove State Hospital. This institution continued operation of the farm on the land until the later 1960s."

The Stabler family papers are available in Special Collections and are open to the public. A finding aid is available.

Why is our mascot the Chesapeake Bay Retriever?

As the UMBC campus has grown, several choices have been decided by a student vote or contest. The name of the student newspaper, originally The Retriever, and the waterways theme of our residence hall names are two examples. The choice of our mascot is another. Student Tom Berlin submitted the winning entry in Fall 1966. An article about the choice, the history of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and a photograph of Berlin with a "Chessie" is in the November 14, 1966 issue of The Retriever (vol. 1, no. 5) [available online].

Tom Berlin also suggested the name for UMBC student newspaper, The Retriever. The first four issues used the title UMBC News.

The first live mascot was donated to UMBC in 1967 by Claude Callegary, father of UMBC student Pete Callegary. The puppy was born on January 12, 1967 and attended the first campus event in May 1967 at a men's lacrosse game. Additional information is available in the May 15, 1967 issue of The Retriever (vol. 1, no. 5) [available online].

Where can I find current information about UMBC?

UMBC is a growing and evolving institution with new traditions, events, and programs being created every year. This guide focuses on the history of the campus and the resources that document that history. For current information about UMBC, a good place to start is the About UMBC webpage:

[This question was sent using the "Submit a Question" form at the top of this page. If you have a question that you would like included, submit it to the Library using this form!]


WHEREAS, Baltimore County is blessed with a number of science-based industries which are currently engaged in highly specialized research and development work and a graduate branch of the University would undoubtedly be of great assistance to these industries and would attract new industry into the metropolitan region.”  (Maryland Senate Bill 73, Approved April 30, 1963)

 “Each of you brings individual background, talents and education to our new campus. Collectively, you are a different student body from any previously assembled. In working with the faculty and staff of UMBC, make the most of this opportunity to help create a center of learning in which those who give their best in the laboratory and on the playing field develop a brilliance that is the mark of their efforts and the UMBC environment.” – Albin O. Kuhn, 1966

“Most importantly, [UMBC Acting Vice Chancellor Robert K.] Webb said UMBC must provide ‘programs to catch up with the quality of the faculty we’ve got.’ He said UMBC’s role in the Baltimore area was a distinctive one. ‘It’s the only publicly supported university in the genuine sense of the term.’ ”  – The Retriever  August 29, 1978

“The knowledge discovered and created in universities will be the fuel rods powering the economy of the 21st century.” – Michael Hooker, 1986

“We will continue to strengthen our arts and sciences programs, for the benefi­t of all our students. We will be a national leader in educating students in science and engineering, including minorities and women. And we will continue to focus on issues of diversity.”  – Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, 1993. Installation address as President of UMBC.

“UMBC: An Honors University in Maryland seeks to become the best public research university of our size by combining the traditions of the liberal arts academy, the creative intensity of the research university, and the social responsibility of the public university. We will be known for integrating research, teaching and learning, and civic engagement so that each advances the others for the benefi­t of society.”Framing the Future: A Strategic Framework for 2016 (2003)

“You know, there is a level of greatness we’ve achieved at UMBC that people rarely appreciate, and it has to do with the spirit of this community. It’s a spirit in students, faculty, staff‑ and alumni that focuses on serving.... People at UMBC may have di‑fferent points of view and disagree, but there is a belief in the importance of the common good. A belief in the importance of what makes us a great university and a great community.” - Freeman A. Hrabowski, III UMBC Magazine, Winter 2013