Missouri is known for many things — the Gateway Arch, Silver Dollar City, the Saint Louis Zoo and the Kansas City Zoo, Meramec Caverns, the Mark Twain National Forest, the National Museum of Transportation, Worlds of Fun, and much more. Throughout this great state, another noteworthy claim to fame includes universities with a rich background of academic excellence, especially when it comes to the history of the University of Missouri located in the city of Columbia.

The foundation of MU, or Mizzou, can be traced back to 1839 when it was established as the first public university west of the Mississippi River. At the time, the state legislature passed the Geyer Act, which allocated funding for a state university. Combined with pledges totaling $117,921 from residents of Columbia and Boone County, land was secured south of downtown Columbia.

Although the Civil War demanded the university close, the school eventually reopened and qualified as a land-grant institution established under the Morrill Act of 1862. This act signed by President Abraham Lincoln was designed to allot acres of federal land to public colleges for agriculture/mechanical teaching purposes and military training for students. 

An interesting Civil War fact connected to the MU Tigers’ namesake dates back to when Columbia residents formed an armed band of Union Home Guards called the “Fighting Tigers of Columbia,” which was responsible for protecting the city and the university. In 1890, MU’s football team officially became the Tigers.

Fast forward to the present day, and impressive numbers reflect how MU has grown to become an outstanding educational beacon for students around the world:

  • More than 30,000 students attend MU from all states and more than 100 countries.
  • Students have the option to choose from more than 300 degree programs with a plethora of options for undergraduate and graduate study, and professional certificates.
  • MU has 2,017 full-time faculty.
  • More than 330,000 university alumni are represented around the world.
  • The university is home to the first school of journalism.
  • MU is one of only 65 universities in the U.S. and Canada to be a member of the Association of American Universities.

And here’s a fun fact about MU: The Francis Quadrangle is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was named after David R. Francis, a former governor of Missouri, who was key in rebuilding the university after Academic Hall was destroyed by a fire in 1892. The only thing that survived the fire is what is now known as The Columns — a powerful symbol of MU pride, especially during the Tiger Walk and Tiger Prowl. If you want to see what Francis looks like, swing by his statue located in the northeast section of Jesse Hall. Legend has it that if you rub his nose, you’ll score an A on your next exam.

MU also has a stand-out list of notable names who called the Columbia campus home, including entrepreneurs, athletes, singers, celebrities, etc. — Jon Hamm, Sheryl Crow, Brad Pitt, Sam Walton, Kellen Winslow, Max Scherzer, and Elizabeth Vargas, just to name a few.

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