The University of New Orleans (originally called Louisiana State University in New Orleans) was established by Act 60 of the 1956 Louisiana Legislature in the wake of a citizens’ movement to bring tax-supported higher education to the metropolitan area.
An ideal campus site was acquired when the United States Navy abandoned its air station on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain in late 1957. A quick renovation of barracks, service clubs, and other existing facilities made it possible to begin classes in September 1958, a year ahead of the original schedule. This marked the opening of the first racially integrated public university in the South. A total of 1,460 students, all freshmen and double the number originally anticipated, arrived for this occasion.
By September 1961, when the new school had become a full four-year institution, enrollment exceeded 3,000, and the faculty had grown from the original 63 to 150 members. A Junior Division had been established for the academic administration of freshmen, and senior academic divisions had been established in liberal arts, in sciences, and in business administration. Dr. Homer L. Hitt, the first employee and the chief administrative officer, had been promoted from Dean of LSUNO to Vice President of LSU in Charge of LSUNO.
Two new permanent buildings, the Liberal Arts Building and the Sciences Building, and a central utilities plant were completed and in operation by the time of the first commencement in the spring of 1962. The initial class of graduating seniors numbered 115.
In the summer of 1962 the Vice President in Charge was designated Chancellor. This signaled the end of LSUNO’s status as a branch of the Baton Rouge campus.
In September, 1969, when the enrollment exceeded 10,000, LSUNO became the second-largest university in Louisiana. By this time it had developed into a large academic complex embracing several colleges, schools, and institutes, offering graduate work in many different fields and awarding both the master’s and doctoral degrees. In February, 1974, the LSU Board of Supervisors approved a name change, and LSUNO became the University of New Orleans. The new name more accurately defined the institution as the metropolitan campus of the LSU System.
By the fall of 1983, UNO had an enrollment exceeding 16,000 and had five senior colleges: Liberal Arts, Sciences, Education, Business Administration, and Engineering, in addition to its Junior Division and Graduate School. It also had a School of Urban and Regional Studies; a School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration; a School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering; and various centers, institutes and divisions for specialized research.
UNO suffered damage across campus during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but quickly resumed classes 42 days after the storm passed – a unique feat among area institutions during the fall of 2005. While enrollment dropped significantly, the university was able to streamline operations and refocus efforts on key programs that are nationally noted or ranked while still providing the best possible education for the people of New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures hit us hard, but the story of UNO is about overcoming odds and building success at every turn. Since the storm, we have done just that.
The University of New Orleans has grown to become a major research university. Categorized as an SREB Four-Year 2 institution, as a Carnegie Doctoral/Research University-Intensive, and as a COC/SACS Level VI institution, our students now enjoy a broad range of academic programs, nearly one-quarter of which are at the master’s or doctoral level. In addition, extracurricular activities, including NCAA intercollegiate athletics, an extensive program of intramural sports, and frequent exhibits and programs in music, drama, ballet, and the fine arts round out the student experience.
Culturally, socially, economically, and intellectually, the University of New Orleans is one of the major assets of the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana. The University has conferred over 70,000 degrees since the first graduating class of 118 in 1962. UNO has distinguished itself since 1958 and will continue to do so in the future.
1957-1980 Homer L. Hitt
1980-1983 Leon Richelle
1983-1987 Cooper Mackin
1987-2003 Gregory O’Brien
2003-2010 Timothy Ryan
2010-present Joe King (Acting)