The University of Iowa was founded on February 25, 1847, just 59 days after Iowa achieved statehood. The original campus included the state capitol building and the ten acres of land surrounding it. In 1857 the state government moved the capital of Iowa to Des Moines and the capitol building became the first permanent home of the University, which has continued to grow since the mid-19th century.
The University of Iowa is a school of many firsts. It was Iowa’s first institution of higher learning. In 1855, it became the first public university in the country to admit men and women on an equal basis and later, the first to accept creative work in theater, writing, music, and visual arts as theses for advanced degrees. UI established the first law school and the first educational radio station west of the Mississippi, broadcast the world’s first educational television programs, and was one of the first institutions in America to grant a law degree to a woman (in 1873) and to an African-American (in 1879). It was also a pioneer in the field of standardized testing.
The University of Iowa is located on a 1,900-acre campus in the heart of Iowa City in southeast Iowa. The university is composed of 11 colleges, the largest of which is the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Its campus is bisected into east and west sections by the Iowa River. There are 129 major university buildings on campus, as well as ten university-operated residence halls housing 5,578 students.
The center of academic life on campus is the Pentacrest, which consists of five major campus buildings: the Old Capitol, Schaeffer Hall, MacLean Hall, Macbride Hall, and Jessup Hall. Macbride Hall is also home to the university’s museum of natural history, while the Old Capitol houses a museum of Iowa state history.
The University of Iowa’s library system is based around the Main Library, located on the east campus, plus 12 smaller branch libraries scattered throughout. The Main Library holds three million volumes and accommodates almost 2,000 students. The library system as a whole holds more than four million bound volumes and is Iowa’s largest, with more than 200,000 rare books and 500 historical manuscripts in its collection.
The University of Iowa is situated in the heart of historic Iowa City. With nearly 64,000 permanent residents, Iowa City is the sixth-largest city in the state. Year after year, Iowa City is named one of the best college towns in the country due to its rich culture and close ties with the university. In addition, in 2007 "Outdoor" magazine named Iowa City the “Best Outdoor Town,” and in 2006 "Kiplinger’s" rated Iowa City #10 on its list of the “Top 50 Places to Live.” Furthermore, Iowa City is tied for the top spot among cities with the highest percentage of adults who hold a bachelor's degree or higher.
Iowa City boasts a wide variety of cultural offerings. With an abundance of outdoor concerts, countless bars and restaurants, and a pedestrian mall filled with specialty stores and art boutiques, it’s no wonder downtown Iowa City is constantly filled with people walking around and enjoying the scenery.
Iowa City is consistently recognized as a literary hub, particularly because the University of Iowa plays host to the world-renowned Writers’ Workshop, where Iowa literary greats such as John Irving, Flannery O'Connor, and T.C. Boyle have all spent time. This literary heritage is also showcased on the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk, which consists of bronze relief panels featuring famous authors' words, visually connected up and down Iowa Avenue through writing stamped into the concrete sidewalk.
Outside of the university the city boasts a number of great golf courses, several pools and movie theaters, and a state park for swimming, boating, disc golf, camping, and biking. Just a few miles west of Iowa City is a large mall featuring major retailers such as Best Buy, Target, Dillard’s, Gap, Abercrombie, and American Eagle.
The most prevalent University of Iowa traditions are related to athletics. Students and locals alike love the Hawkeyes with a fierce loyalty and show their UI pride with tailgating events and fight songs.
The RiverFest is an annual free concert and festival held in the spring featuring local and national acts.
During Martin Luther King, Jr. Human Rights Week, the university hosts workshops, lectures, group discussions, film screenings, and other events aimed at educating students and the community about diversity and human rights.
B.J. Armstrong (1989) is a former NBA point guard and member of the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty of the 1990s.
Mildred Wirt Benson (1925) was the creator of the Nancy Drew mystery story collection.
Terry Branstad (1969) is a former governor of Iowa, the longest-tenured in the state’s history.
George Gallup (1923) was the founder of the public opinion polling firm Gallup Poll.
John W. Irving (MFA 1967) is a renowned novelist whose works include "The World According to Garp" and "A Prayer for Owen Meany."
(Mary) Flannery O'Connor (MFA 1947) was a widely acclaimed novelist and author of numerous short stories.
Mary Louise Smith (1935) was the chair of the National Republican Committee and former vice-chair of the US Commission on Civil Rights.
Juanita Kidd Stout (1939), who served as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, was the first African-American woman to be elected to a judgeship and the first to serve on any state’s Supreme Court.
Tennessee Williams (1938) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who penned American classics including "A Streetcar Named Desire" an"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."
Gene Wilder (1955) is a comedic film and television actor whose credits include "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," "Young Frankenstein," and "Stir Crazy."
University of Iowa athletes, known as Hawkeyes, don black and gold uniforms and receive encouragement from their mascot, Herky the Hawk. UI plays at the NCAA Division I-A level in the Big Ten Conference.
The Hawkeye football team plays home games at Kinnick Stadium, a 70,585-seat arena that was renovated in 2006 to the tune of $90 million. The team has made six national bowl appearances since 2001 and earned two shared Big Ten titles, in 2002 and 2004.
The wrestling team, however, is probably the most decorated of the Hawkeye squads. They’ve won 21 national titles and 32 Big Ten championships, including nine straight NCAA team championships from 1978 to 1986.
Since the state of Iowa doesn’t have any professional sports teams, all of the collegiate sports are incredibly popular. Regardless of whether the teams win or lose, there is an abundance of Hawkeye pride.
A typical Saturday during the fall begins at 6am, when the city begins to triple in size as people from all over the state pile into Iowa City to watch the Hawkeyes take to the gridiron. The area around the stadium is a complete sea of black and gold. All of the houses, parking lots, and yards host tailgates beginning in the wee hours of the morning and extending through the start of the game. The student section isn’t as rowdy as at some other schools, but watching several thousand students pile into the bleachers and rowdily chant the Hawkeyes to victory is still an incredible experience.
The Hawkeye nickname is based on a fictional character from James Fennimore Cooper’s 1826 novel The Last of the Mohicans.
George Nissen, a U of I gymnast, and Larry Griswold, his coach, invented the trampoline in 1935.
The University of Iowa’s ten residence halls provide housing for some 5,500 students, more than half of whom are typically freshmen. East and West Campus each have 5 residence halls, usually located in clusters not far from the main academic buildings. Two of the residences, Parklawn and Mayflower, are located away from the other halls, with Mayflower on the very outskirts of campus. However, these dorms offer some of the nicest amenities: all of the rooms in Parklawn and Mayflower are equipped with kitchens and private bathrooms, and Mayflower even has its own fitness center, computer lab, and convenience store.
All of the residence halls are coed, provide laundry facilities and study areas, and are stocked with vending machines.