UTC THEN AND NOW
• The school began in 1886 with 118 students; now enrollment is 11,438.
• In the first year, what was then Chattanooga University graduated three students. Last year, UTC graduated 1,810 students.
• Since 1886, the university has had 15 chancellors or presidents, including current Chancellor Roger Brown.
• On Feb. 6, 1884, groundbreaking ceremonies were held for “Old Main,” the first building on the 13-acre campus. The building housed laboratories, classrooms and living quarters for the president, faculty and students. It was completed in the spring of 1886 at an estimated cost of $40,000.
• Today, UTC is building a new library for $48 million on a campus with more than 50 buildings and 120 acres.
• Tuition for one year in 1886 was $30, compared with $6,718 this year. Students may choose from 100 undergraduate and 40 graduate degree programs and concentrations.
Source: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
• February 1884: Several hundred people gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking for the city’s first university.
• Sept. 15, 1886: Chattanooga University opens with an enrollment of 118.
• 1889: The institution’s name is changed to Grant Memorial University, and then to U.S. Grant University.
• 1904: The first organized football schedule is released.
• June 18, 1907: The name is again changed, this time to the University of Chattanooga.
• 1969: The University of Chattanooga, Chattanooga City College and the University of Tennessee system merge to form the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Source: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
The first building on the current UTC campus was described by a reporter in 1886 as “a light upon a hill,” symbolizing a beacon of opportunity for the region.
But not for the local black community, at least not until 1963, when Horace Traylor became the first black to enroll in the school.
“Black Chattanoogans saw this university as an ‘upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers,’” Traylor said, using dramatist Robert Greene’s assessment of fellow playwright Shakespeare, whom he didn’t like and accused of plagiarizing.
“Ex-slaves got to build this universe, children of slaves swept its halls, cooked its food, cut its grass, cleaned its classrooms,” said Traylor, “yet it took 83 years before this ‘universe’ admitted its first black student.”
On Thursday, Traylor, who graduated in 1965 and was the first black to do so, was the keynote speaker during the celebration of UTC’s 125th anniversary. The event also marked the 50th year since the integration of Chattanooga City College — where Traylor served as president — with the University of Chattanooga and the University of Tennessee.
He used the parallel of how Shakespeare was viewed differently by two peers. While Greene saw Shakespeare as a fake, another dramatist, Ben Jonson, saw him as a monument without a tomb — just as the university was perceived differently by the two communities, Traylor said.
“Blacks didn’t see the light upon the hill,” he said, but things have changed.
“Think about what it looked like in 1960 and what it looks like now in the administration and the student body,” he said. “We are not there yet, but we are on our way; this university is on its way.”
Part of Thursday’s celebration included a birthday party in which students ate cake, signed a banner andlistened to Dolores Harvey, a 1954 UC alum, play the accordion.
“UTC is like an extended family. We want it to be the best,” said the 79-year-old Harvey, wearing Mocs earrings, a pin, a baseball cap and clothing in the school’s colors of blue and gold.
Nearby, Daniel Weller, a senior majoring in biology, flipped though a 1928 yearbook. The main difference between then and now, he said, is “how they used to look, the hair, the glasses and that the pictures were in black and white.”
To Weller, 21, of Memphis, the 125th anniversary means 125 years of success.
“Looking at our new library getting built, all I can see are greater things for the campus,” he said.
UTC Chancellor Roger Brown said everything the institution has been through, including desegregation, the collapse of the Chattanooga economy and the rebuilding of the city, adds a depth of understanding for students and faculty.
“Hearing about how African-American students were not welcomed in this campus until 10 years after the Supreme Court had said that we must desegregate schools shows you that progress never comes easily and it takes strong individuals ... to make progress happen against all the obstacles,” he said.
Traylor told how he first tried to register for night graduate classes.
“You know we don’t admit blacks,” he was told by the registrar.
“‘I know. I’m here to change that,’” the 32-year-old Traylor responded.
He didn’t back down, he said, because he has learned in life that when you are doing right you stand your ground. He didn’t register that spring but returned in the summer.
This year, minorities accounted for 32 percent of UTC’s enrollment, he said.
“We have overcome adversity in these 125 years,” said Brown. “What we’ve learned is that we have built on the shoulders of those who came before us and it’s our obligation to leave the university better than we found it.”
Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...