In 1956, times were good and optimism was in
the air. With the Baby Boom, for the first time in history, parents of an entire
generation demanded access to sound education for all children. Economic prosperity
fueled a suburban transformation that included new commercial, social, and educational
systems. Dr. Jonas Salk pioneered a vaccine to eradicate polio. With this and
other advances in medical science, research aimed at the cure and prevention
of disease became a federal priority.
As the Cold War settled in, the nation’s scientific and technological
resources were challenged by the nuclear arms race, then the Space Race. At
home, the young civil rights movement was challenging racial injustice. And
in Florida, such developments as air conditioning and excellent highways converted
Florida from a sparsely populated state to a boom state. Florida’s population
swelled, and fields, groves, pastures, and wetlands gave way to urban development.
In these circumstances, out of a sandy airfield
north of Tampa rose the University of South Florida, the first public university
established specifically to address the needs of Florida’s rapidly emerging
urban regions. State Rep. Sam Gibbons championed USF’s creation. John
S. Allen, the first president, helped Gov. Leroy Collins break ground in September
1957. On September 26, 1960, nearly 2,000 students began classes in five buildings.
USF was on its way. The university chose two words to guide its path: “Truth”
1960, classes were meeting in the first five buildings, with 1,993 students