History and Traditions

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act to fund the establishment of a new college in each state and territory. These schools were to promote higher education and practical learning to people of all classes and walks of life, especially rural life. In 1888, the Agricultural College of Utah was founded as the state's land-grant institution.

Though it grew to become Utah State University in 1957, the university has remained true to its roots as an institution dedicated to the land and its people. With the land-grant distinction, USU has the responsibility to "educate the state," and it continues to maintain a presence in every county in Utah. Through academic and research prowess, athletic success, and unparalleled student experience, USU's rich history and traditions color who we are today.


The Agricultural College of Utah (UAC) is founded on March 8. Two years later, 14-year-old Miss Vendla Berntson enrolls as the Agricultural College of Utah's first student.

USU Presidential Seal


The "Farmers" of UAC defeat the University of Utah 12-0 in the first football game, and athletic event, in school history. The game is played on what is now the USU quad.


The first eight students receive business degrees, making USU home to the oldest continuously operating business school in the West.

The Jon M. Huntsman School of Business counts Deloitte CEO Jim Quigley among its alumni.


The Alumni Association is organized.



Blue is adopted as the official school color, and is used by the first women's basketball team, which will predate a men's team by three years.


Students publish the first campus newspaper, Student Life. The name is changed to the Utah Statesman in 1978.


Fearing that the growth of the UAC will hinder the University of Utah's progress, legislators in Salt Lake City attempt to consolidate the two schools, and upon failing, instead pass a bill limiting UAC's curriculum to agriculture, domestic science, and mechanic arts. Many once-thriving programs in the arts, humanities, education, and others are closed, despite the college's initial mandate that it offer such instruction. By 1927, all curricular restrictions except law and medicine are lifted.


Students meet in the Old Main Chapel on October 26 to organize the first student government.


Rooted in rural education, professors travelled by train from Logan to provide new information and techniques to rural residents.

Professors traveling by train


The "A" of Old Main, the school's first senior gift, is installed on the tower's west face.

The "A" light, later extended to all four sides of the tower, shines white each night, and blue for special campus events and significant athletic victories.


The first volume of the student yearbook, the Buzzer, is published. It persisted through 1971.


The first correspondence study courses are organized. Curriculum included agricultural and general education courses. Residents of Brigham City, Northern Utah and Idaho took part.


As part of the school's land-grant mission, the Utah Cooperative Extension Service is founded, bringing research-based knowledge to people, especially farmers, around the state.
UAC grants its first graduate degree, a master's in agriculture. The first doctoral degrees are awarded in 1950.

USU Cooperative Extension runs Utah's 4-H program, which teaches science, engineering, technology, healthy living, and citizenship to almost 90,000 youths across the state.


The Be-No Club erects the block "A," which can now be found between the quad and Old Main.

Tradition holds that in order to become a "True Aggie," one must receive a kiss atop the "A" at midnight on either Homecoming or A-Day, or by kissing a current True Aggie at midnight under any full moon.

Cooperative Extension county agent with car covered in promotional dairying posters


Campus is temporarily transformed into a military institution, with enlisted students housed in numerous new barracks around the quad. The buildings, which will be converted into classroom and laboratory space after the war, essentially double the size of campus. Meanwhile, the Spanish Flu epidemic necessitates a campus-wide quarantine and the establishment of a hospital in the north wing of Old Main.
The popular spirit song "The Scotsman" is composed by a student.


Aggie Ice Cream introduced by Gustav Wilster. Eating Aggie Ice Cream has become a rite of passage on campus.

New machinery was purchased for the college creamery so that it could manufacture cheese, butter, and ice cream on a larger scale.


The National Summer School is founded at UAC, bringing in Knute Rockne, Frederick Jackson Turner, and other distinguished faculty from Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, and elsewhere. The success of the program, which lasts three summers, is partially responsible for influencing the state legislature to reverse the curricular restriction in 1927 and award UAC full state college status in 1929.


The newly launched School of Education establishes a teacher training school, what is now called the Edith Bowen Laboratory School.

The Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services ranks #8 in the nation among public universities for total research dollars received by a college.

Students in teacher training classroom


The Utah Agricultural College (UAC) is renamed the Utah State Agricultural College.


The first Homecoming game and festivities are held on October 11.

Romney Stadium cerca 1930


"Hail the Utah Aggies" is first written and performed in 1933.


Three students are named Rhodes Scholars in three years (1936-1938).


World War II has a profound effect on campus. The war decimated student enrollments, which declined from 3,641 during the 1940-41 school year to 1,129 in the '43-'44 school year to only 861 students for fall 1944. The physical face of campus changes as well. In preparation for the Army Specialized Training Program, the Field House is modified to serve as a barracks.

1940's ski class on Old Main Hill


The institution initiates its first international program at Kardj College in Iran.


Utah State Agricultural College becomes Utah State University.

Old aerial shot of campus


Two of the most respected research institutions in the West, the Space Dynamics Laboratory and the Utah Water Research Laboratory, are founded in the same year at USU.

USU has sent more student experiments into space than any other university in the world and has also produced many of the world's leading experts on water issues, including the current governor of the World Water Council.

Exterior shot of water lab


Led by future Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen, the Utah State Aggie football team finishes at #10 in the nation, its highest year-end ranking. The football field at former Romney Stadium was dedicated as Merlin Olsen Field in 2010.


In one of the greatest tragedies to befall the university, star basketball player Wayne Estes is killed on February 8, hours after scoring 48 points in a victory against the University of Denver. At the time of his death, he is the nation's second leading scorer, and the Los Angeles Lakers are planning to select him in the first round of the NBA draft. He is posthumously awarded first team All-American honors.

Under former head coach Stew Morrill, USU enjoys the fourth-highest winning percentage in the nation, after Duke, Kansas, and Gonzaga.


The first statewide campuses are established.Representatives Daniel Dennis, Ralph A Preece, Chilean Halladay working with Alva Snow, jointly sponsored a bill to establish Utah State University education centers in Roosevelt and Moab. Classes began fall term of 1967 in Roosevelt.


The Smith Spectrum hosts its first men's basketball game on December 1, against Ohio State.

Dee Glen Spectrum during a basketball game


The university initiates its Undergraduate Research Program, making it the second oldest program in the nation, behind MIT.

Because undergraduates work under the supervision of USU's top research faculty, many have been able to publish work in professional journals.


USU purchases a live white bull to act as a mascot for sporting events and painted it blue before each game. Despite being fitted with large rubber boots, the damage the bull causes to the Smith Spectrum and Romney Stadium becomes too great to overlook, and the bull is retired a short while later. The current Big Blue mascot is introduced in 1987.


Utah State Aggie Athletics crowns its first national champions as the women's volleyball team defeats UCLA in the national final and finishes 40-4 on the year.

Women playing volleyball cerca 1978


USU Research and Technology Park is founded north of campus. It will later be renamed Innovation Campus and will support the research of private companies engaged in projects with student researchers and faculty.

View of Space Dynamics Lab on innovation campus in Logan


A fire that destroyed the south wing of Old Main in 1983 led to an extensive renovation project that took 14 years to complete. The historic building is completed and rededicated in October.



USU initiates its first capital campaign for $400 million. In a short period of time, the university receives the three largest private gifts in its history.


The new Merrill-Cazier Library is dedicated on April 14 and immediately begins to receive national recognition, including #1 in the "Smart Classroom Category" from Campus Technology.

In 2006, students gather in the library's main foyer to relieve their stress vocally during the inaugural "Finals Week Howl."

Picture of Merrill Cazier library on the Logan Campus


In the state of Utah's first-ever merger of two longstanding academic institutions, the College of Eastern Utah joins forces with USU. USU Eastern in Price operates as a comprehensive community college offering both technical certificates and academic degrees.

View of the USU campus in Price Utah


USU alumnus Lars Peter Hansen, received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Economics. Hansen graduated from USU in 1974 with bachelor’s degrees in both mathematics and political science and a minor in economics.


First-time students were able to take part in the first luminary procession prior to the start of classes in the fall of 2016. This tradition, part of the USU 1010: Connections experience, has become one of the most celebrated rites of passage for incoming students.

Incoming students celebrate the start of their first semester during the lumninary procession.


Noelle Cockett was appointed as USU’s 16th president, and her official tenure began in January 2017. In addition to becoming the institution’s first female president, she has prioritized diversity and inclusion throughout USU’s statewide system.


The Latinx Cultural Center opened in October 2018 to increase education, training, and mentoring opportunities for Latinx students. In 2021, the center welcomed students to a new, centralized location in the Taggert Student Center.