Florida experiences a huge population boom after World War II. Because of its mild climate, Florida was used to train troops for battle. By the time the war is over, Florida has an excellent transportation system for residents and visitors. Many high-tech industries relocate to Florida, most notably the Space Program. The exploding population of the state carries over into its universities. The University of Florida goes from being a school of 5,000 white males to a diverse student body of more than 28,000 men and women.

centurytower1953 » UF Centennial

Century Tower is built to commemorate the university’s centennial celebration and honors UF men killed in World Wars I & II. Markers are placed in Lake City, Ocala, Bartow and Gainesville to mark the sites of the colleges that combined to form UF. A 49-bell carillon that rings every 15 minutes will be added in 1979.

reitz1955 » J. Wayne Reitz Builds Campus Infrastructure

During Reitz’s time as president, $50 million is spent on campus construction. Much of that money goes to the Health Science Center and teaching hospital (now Shands), which admitted its first patient in 1958. Segregation ends at UF when George H. Starke, Jr. enrolls in the College of Law as the university’s first African-American student.

gators1958 » First UF-FSU Football Game

The Gators stomp the Seminoles 21-7 in Gainesville.

oconnell1967 » President O’Connell Steers UF Through Turbulent Times

Stephen C. O’Connell is the first UF alumnus to serve as president of the university. During his tenure, total student enrollment increased. A 1970 evaluation of graduate programs by the American Council on Education gave national ranking to twenty-two departments compared to eleven in 1965. Perhaps his greatest achievement was the reorganization of the Alumni Association and the creation of an Office of Development staffed by professional fund raisers. The result has been the enrichment of the University’s endowment fund. O’Connell lead the campus through its most turbulent period of unrest, as numerous demonstrations, both peaceful and militant, are held to protest the Vietnam War, and racial and feminist issues.

oconnellsitin1971 » “Black Thursday” Protest

UF integrates in 1958 with little protest. By fall of 1970, though, there are still only 343 African-American students, who experience a sense of alienation in a historically white campus. A sit-in at the president’s office in April culminates in the arrest of 66 students. When O’Connell refuses to grant amnesty to the demonstrators, approximately one-third of the black students and several black faculty members leave the university. By the time President O’Connell retired in 1973, African American student enrollment had reached over 1,000.