The University of Arizona was founded in 1885. Construction for the first building on the University of Arizona, Old Main, began in 1887. Four years later, the university opened its doors to 32 students and 6 teachers. Classes were conducted in Old Main, the only building at the time. At Arizona’s inception there were no high schools in the Tucson area so the University held preparatory classes as well as college courses.
The school’s first football game was played in 1899 against Tempe Normal School, which is today known as Arizona State University, or ASU. The two continue to be rivals. The U of A became the Wildcats under the tenure of football Coach McKale, otherwise known as The McKale Era. A journalist for the Los Angeles Times described the 1914 Football team as possessing “the fight of wildcats.”
Perhaps one of the most memorable events in school history was the St. Patrick’s Day Strike in 1904. Nearly half of the students marched to downtown Arizona to protest then-President Babcock’s failure to recognize it as a holiday. The school’s motto, “Bear down” originated in 1926, from one of the most popular players on the football team, “Button” Salmon. Right before his death, then-Athletic Director McKale asked Salmon if he had a message for the team. His response was, “Tell them… tell them to bear down.”
The campus can be divided into quadrants: north, south, east, and west. The north part is sectioned off from the south part by the Mall, which extends from Old Main to Campbell Avenue. East and west are divided by Highland Avenue and the Student Memorial Center.
Much of UA’s main campus is a designated arboretum, housing a collection of plants that can withstand the arid Southwest desert climate. Plants flower depending on seasonal factors such as soil temperature, rainfall, or whether or not pollinators are present.
Architecturally, UA has a diverse mix of buildings, from a variety of influences. In the early twentieth century American envisioned itself as the new Greece or Rome so many universities emulated the ancient architectural style. Perhaps the most obvious manifestation of the latter at is the columns, as displayed at Herring Hall. Many buildings including the school’s first, Old Main, are made of red brick. Many of the more recently built structures are modern, usually with glass facades, such as the addition to the Meinel Optical Sciences building. The contrast between the old and new architectural styles at UA makes for a unique architectural experience.
U of A is located in Tucson, Arizona, the largest city in southern Arizona and the second largest in the state. Commonly known as “the Old Pueblo”, Tucson is just 60 miles north of the Mexican border. Students take advantage of their proximity to our neighbor down south, and often visit for Greek events, vacations, or just a weekend getaway. The UA is located in midtown Tucson.
The main strip near campus is University Boulevard, home to retail shops, restaurants and bars. Students frequent University but overall tend to have an unfavorable view of UA’s surrounding area. For nightlife students either stay on or near campus, at houses, or travel to Mexico.
At the start of each new year, freshmen repaint the “A” on Sentinel Peak in the Tucson Mountains, a tradition known as A-Day. The event is meant to teach the new Wildcats important traditions such as the history behind the Arizona fight song, “Bear Down, Arizona.”
When it’s time to leave, seniors take part in another tradition somewhat unique to UA: tossing tortillas in the air at graduation. Campus officials worry about the safety of students and commencement attendees. Some call the tradition of throwing tortillas as racist or discriminatory against Hispanic Americans. Students are divided on the latter issue but most agree that flying flower is much less dangerous than the traditional tossing of the caps.
One of Arizona’s oldest and most cherished school traditions is Homecoming. A theme is chosen, usually relating to particularly large events that happened on campus that previous year. The Mortar Board and Bobcats senior honoraries choose king and queen finalists and the winners are determined by votes made by students online. Homecoming is also when student representatives from the freshman and sophomores classes burn the “A” by outlining it. From a birds-eye point of view, the red burning “A” is a sight to be seen.
Annika Sorenstam (1992) a professional female golfer who has won 72 official LPGA tournaments, including 10 majors and 18 other international tournaments.
Bob Dole (1951) former U.S. Senator and one-time presidential hopeful.
Linda McCartney (1962) photographer and former wife of Paul McCartney.
Dr. Andrea Gerasimos Michalitsianos (1969) NASA astronomer and astrophysicist. Member of the team that worked on and built the Hubble Space Telescope.
Joan Ganz Cooney (1951) creator of Sesame Street and founder of the Children’s Television Workshop aka Sesame Workshop.
Terry J. Lundgren (1974) CEO, Chairman of the Board, President and Director at Macy’s, Inc.
Mike Bibby (1998) professional basketball player for the Atlanta Hawks.
From basketball to softball to wheelchair athletics, the University of Arizona is definitely a sports school. Men’s basketball season is a feverishly exciting time on campus and most social activities center around games. Since Coach Lute Olson’s tenure as coach in 1983, the Wildcats have been one of the most successful Division I teams in the NCAA. They’ve been to the Final Four 4 times since then and in 1997 defeated the University of Kentucky to win the NCAA National Championship.
Women’s softball is also among the leading teams in the nation, having won eight NCAA Women’s College World Series titles. Their most recent championship was won in 2007 against the University of Tennessee. Top high school softball players from all over the country are recruited to join the UA softball program.
Arizona football games are a main attraction at UA and fans are ever-loyal to the ‘Cats, regardless of their season record. Many students tailgate all day then head to Arizona Stadium to watch the game. Under the leadership of Mike Stoops, UA is a member of the Pac-10 League.
The true blue fans become official members of the Zona Zoo, the student cheering organization at UA. Members have special benefits such as priority for athletic tickets including postseason games, free admission to the men’s basketball Pepsi Red/Blue game and receive the Zona Zoo Gazette, an online newsletter.
It’s not just varsity sports that get the spotlight at UA. Wheelchair Athletics are popular among UA’s Disability Resource Students. Sports teams include Men’s and Women’s Basketball, Quad Rugby, Tennis, Track & Road Racing, Weight Training & Conditioning and Goalball.
Thanks to the constant sunshine, UA students enjoy participating in intramurals. Intramurals such as basketball, ultimate Frisbee and softball are available in the spring. Some popular fall intramurals include volleyball, kickball and soccer.
UA is the first public research university to lead a space mission to Mars. The Phoenix Mars Mission successfully landed the Phoenix Lander on the red planet on May 25, 2008. The exploration is part of NASA’s “Scout Program.”
The current school colors are cardinal red and blue but before 1900, they were sage green and silver. Many think that change was made to represent the nation’s colors but in reality, the school was able to get a significant discount on red and blue jerseys.
UA’s history began over citizen frustration at Arizona’s “Thieving Thirteen” legislature. The cities Tucson and Phoenix both wanted the legislature to award them the mental institution. When Phoenix got it, citizens became angry because of Phoenix received $100,000 for the mental institution while Tucson only got $25,000 to start the university.
Even though they’re the two furthest from campus, UA’s two most coveted dorms are Coronado and Arizona Sonora. Students say they’re big, fun and good for networking. Coronado houses 800 students on eight floors. The rooms are “suite-style” with a connecting bathroom and shower per every four students. All suites as well as the west and east wings are single-gender. Some center wings are co-ed. Arizona Sonora, or AZSO, is a double-tower high-rise building with nine stories. The two towers are connected by one big lobby. All floors are single-gender and bathrooms are communal.
Another popular choice for residence halls is Villa del Puente Hall, or VDP, on Highland Avenue. Students like it because of its proximity to the Student Rec Center, Highland Market, and Campus Health. There are about 300 co-ed residents that occupy the two buildings. VDP Residents like to hang out in the recreation room on the third floor, which has a pool table, TV, kitchen, and washer and dryer.
For a truly southwest, open-air living experience, students say Colonia de la Paz Hall is it. La Paz has multiple courtyards, open hallways and a red brick, palm-tree lined exterior. Many student rooms have courtyard views. There is a pre-business wing for Eller College of Management students as well as a pre-education wing for students in the College of Education.
Other, smaller dorms are Graham-Greelee, Babcock Inn, Yavapai, Coconino, Manzanita-Mohave, or Manzy Mo, Gila and Yuma, among others. Freshman housing is not guaranteed; housing is based on a first-come, first-serve basis. Students recommend applying for on-campus housing early, as spots fill up quickly.