Founded in 1866 as the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts, the University of New Hampshire was one of the early land-grant institutions established to serve the sons and daughters of farming and laboring families.
First situated in Hanover in connection with Dartmouth College, New Hampshire College moved to its Durham campus in 1893 after Benjamin Thompson, a prosperous farmer, bequeathed land and money to further the development of the college.
In 1893, Thompson Hall was completed, built with native granite and state-manufactured brick. That fall, with 37-year-old, former minister Charles S. Murkland at its helm, the College opened its doors in Durham. In his inaugural address, President Murkland spoke of the “full freedom of the highest intellectual fellowship,” committing the College to also embrace the liberal arts.
Through the years, Thompson Hall has housed the faculty post office, a women’s gymnasium, and classrooms for English, foreign languages, and mathematics. In the early days, a couple of students even lived in the bell tower. By 1919, the College enrolled 607 students. In five years, that number doubled to 1,230. By 1923, the College, by state legislative decree, changed its name to the University of New Hampshire. From 1900 to 1940, many of the University’s core buildings were built: Morrill Hall—1904, Smith and Hamilton Smith Halls—1908, Murkland Hall—1927, Hood House—1932, and Pettee Hall—1938.
After World War II, the GI Bill brought waves of new students and the lack of space on campus was described as “painful.” As then President Harold Stoke explained to the faculty, whereas college enrollment in the country had experienced an eight-fold growth since 1900, the University had grown 30-fold.
Today UNH is not only a land-grant institution but also a designated sea- and space-grant University, and is among the top-tier research institutions nationally. The University is made up of dozens of academic departments, interdisciplinary institutes, and research centers that attract students and faculty from around the world. As state-of-the-art facilities are built to support academic growth, and new residence and dining halls are built to meet the growing popularity of campus life, the University continues to rest lightly on the Durham landscape. Some 13,000 students and hundreds of faculty and staff live and work amid the rolling hills and riverbeds of one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation.
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