University of Minnesota Duluth

 Office of the Chancellor Inauguration

UMD's History: Serving Duluth and Minnesota

Historic Beginnings: The Duluth Normal School, Old Main, and The Duluth State Teachers College Old Main

It was 1895 when the Minnesota State Legislature gave approval to establish a Normal School in Duluth. With a donation of six acres for the school's campus from the city, the Duluth Normal School opened in fall 1902 with 100 students. The Normal School was the first post-secondary institution in Duluth. Initially President Eugene W. Bohannon administrated a two-year program designed to train elementary school teachers.

Designed by Palmer, Hall, and Hunt of Duluth, Old Main was the only building on the original UMD campus until Washburn Hall, a women's dormitory, opened in 1906. Torrance Hall, another women's dormitory, was built in 1910. Throughout its lifetime until closing in 1985, Old Main was used for administration offices, classrooms, library, performing space, and artist studios.

Old Main burned on February 23, 1993, a few months before its conversion to apartments by a private developer. Coincidentally, the building had also been gutted by fire on February 21, 1901 but was rebuilt. Today, three standing red sandstone arches from Old Main's doorways serve as a reminder of the former centerpiece of UMD's campus.

In 1921, the Duluth State Teachers College was formed to provide four years of training for teachers. In 1927, a Laboratory School opened. It served as a working, hands-on grade school for teacher training. That same year, the first bachelor's degrees were awarded. The Lab School building is still in use by the University as a research center.

It wasn't until 1947 that the Duluth State Teachers College officially became a coordinate campus of the University of Minnesota. Governor Luther Youngdahl signed the bill on July 1, 1947. Enrollment for its first year as the University of Minnesota, Duluth Branch was 1,432 students. UMD was authorized to grant the associate in arts, bachelor of arts, and bachelor of science degrees.

UMD Comes To the Upper CampusScience Building on the Upper Campus

According to UMD Comes of Age: The First 100 Years by Neil Storch and Ken Moran, the city of Duluth planning commission reserved a vacant 160-acre diamond shaped property west of Woodland Avenue near the Chester Park School as a possible site for the proposed University of Minnesota branch. The land had formerly been a hay field for the Zenith Dairy. Regent Richard L. Griggs and other prominent Duluthians purchased the land for UMD in the late 1940s.

In 1951, northeastern Minnesota civic leaders viewed "UMD 1970," a scale model of the new UMD campus plan. This integrated plan, formed under the leadership of Provost John E. King, provided the campus with the blueprint it followed for the next two decades. The plan included connected buildings and provisions for people with disabilities, features still in use today.

The science building, completed in 1949, was the only building on the upper campus until 1953 when the Health and Physical Education Building was opened. The library and student center initiative began in 1953 when the northern delegation to the state legislature fought for expanded facilities. Minnesota lawmakers, impressed by the enthusiasm of the northern delegation and its commitment to UMD, voted to appropriate $1.1 million. In the 1950s, students called the winter trek between the Old Main campus and the Science Building on the upper campus "the Yukon Trail."

In 1954, groundbreaking ceremonies were held for a UMD Library and the Kirby Student Center. Both opened two years later. Funding came through the enthusiastic dedication of the northern delegation to the state legislature.

Living on Campus: Student Residences Two women studying in their dorm room

The upper campus design of the 1950s included student housing. These residences were built directly above the Kirby Student Center on a hillside facing Lake Superior. Vermilion Hall, completed in 1956, was named after a northern Minnesota lake and was the first dormitory on the upper campus. Burntside Hall, also named after a northern Minnesota lake, was completed in 1959 as part of the post-World War II building boom on the upper campus.

Today, UMD can house 1,564 students in traditional residence halls and 1,455 students in apartment-style units. In addition to Vermilion and Burntside, housing is offered in Goldfine Apartments, Griggs Hall, Heaney Hall, Junction Apartments, Lake Superior Hall, Oakland Apartments, and Stadium Apartments. The new Griggs G will be completed in fall 2011, with rooms for an additional 280 students.



School of Medicine School of Medicine

The University of Minnesota School of Medicine - Duluth is a nationally recognized two-year medical school program focused on training family practice physicians to serve rural areas. Through the efforts of a small group of local physicians and UMD administrators and faculty, the two-year Duluth medical school opened on the Old Main campus in 1972 with 24 students.

The school has consistently led the nation in the percentage of students choosing family practice as a career choice. It is affiliated with the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis where UMD students transfer to complete their third and fourth years of medical training.

The School of Medicine moved to new facilities on the upper campus in 1979. In 1987, the Center of American Indian and Minority Health was established to coordinate the programs administered throughout the school. The school has always held a strong commitment to the recruitment and training of American Indian students. The University of Minnesota graduates the second-largest number of American Indian physicians in the U.S., a great number of whom started in the Medical School-Duluth.

The Organization of UMD

In 1974, campus academic units were reorganized. Six autonomous collegiate units, each headed by a dean reporting to the vice provost for academic administration, were established: College of Education; College of Letters and Science; School of Business and Economics; School of Fine Arts; School of Medicine, Duluth; and School of Social Development. The Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) was established and made its first home in the Lab School on the lower campus.

In 1984, significant changes were made. The College of Letters and Sciences was restructured into the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Science and Engineering, and the School of Social Development was restructured within the College of Education and Human Service Professions.

The Three Homes of the UMD Library Exterior of the UMD Library

UMD's first library was originally housed in the 1902 Old Main building on the lower campus until a new library was built on the upper campus in 1955. With increasing enrollment, two additions were completed in the 1960s.

A new technologically advanced library was completed in the fall 2000 on the northeast edge of Kirby Drive. In the library’s entryway, a chandelier created by world-famous artist, Dale Chihuly, hangs in the atrium. Individual seating can accommodate 1,361 patrons. The library has full-access computer laboratories, electronic classrooms, and 25 group study areas with network connections.

Brought to You Live: Weber Music Hall Weber Music Hall

According to world-famous architect Cesar Pelli, his Weber Music Hall is a “jewel” on the UMD campus, offering the intimacy of a small concert hall under a dome and skylights. The lobby grand staircase boasts a custom light fixture, concept-designed by Pelli.

Weber Music Hall is designed and “tuned” to be acoustically excellent. It provides learning, rehearsal, and performance space for UMD students as well as performances by internationally recognized artists for the entire Duluth community.

The hall, which opened in 2002, was named for alumni Mary Ann and Ron Weber who provided generous gifts toward the design and completion of the building. Weber Music Hall completes the “arts triangle” in the UMD Ordean Court along with the Tweed Museum of Art and the Marshall Performing Arts Center.

UMD's Living Room: Kirby Student Center Students in Kirby

"It's your living room," proclaimed copy from a 1956 student brochure for the newly opened Kirby Student Center. Duluth businessman and UMD supporter Steve Kirby was instrumental in establishing the student center, which was named in his honor.

It’s the heart of the campus. On average, a student walks through the Kirby Student Center seven times a day. It was first remodeled in 1964 and then again in 1967 when an expanded food service, the Bull Pub, and the Rafters were added.

In 2004, the old Library space was renovated to become the three-story Kirby Plaza. It includes a food court, bookstore, bank, coffee house, childcare center, the Duluth Transit Authority Bus Hub, and offices. The Kirby Student Center was renovated at the same time to include an updated Kirby Lounge, ten campus organizations, the Multicultural Center, and Student Union.


Building Science: James I. Swenson Science Building Swenson building as seen from Griggs

This three-level structure contains teaching and research laboratories for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Department of Biology. The building was designed by architect Carol Ross Barney and opened in September 2005.

It was named for Jim Swenson, a 1959 UMD chemistry graduate, who together with his wife Susan, through the Swenson Family Foundation, made a generous gift to help fund the building.

Just outside the building is the 89-foot tall steel sculpture “Wild Ricing Moon” designed by internationally known sculptor, John David Mooney, and constructed at BendTec in Duluth.

Athlete Central: Sports and Health Center Addition Weight Room

UMD’s facility, the largest and most comprehensive athletic and recreational sports center in Northern Minnesota, opened in fall 2006, funded partially by student fees. A two-story fitness center features all types of cardio machines, a climbing wall, group exercise rooms, and a recreational gymnasium.

The UMD Department of Athletics uses part of the addition for team training. It joins an existing complex, which includes Romano Gymnasium, an Olympic-size ice rink, a swimming pool, sports medicine facilities, classrooms, Ward Wells Field House, and Malosky/Griggs Stadium.

Financial Innovation: Labovitz School of Business and Economics LSBE and a flower

The Labovitz School of Business and Economics was the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified structure on the UMD campus, providing another way for UMD to express its commitment to sustainability. It offers the latest in advanced technology including computer labs, facilities for distance learning and conferencing, and multipurpose classrooms. The Financial Markets Lab, located just inside the front entrance, provides students the opportunity to participate in the industry.

The school is named for the Labovitz family: Duluth native, Joel Labovitz, a 1949 graduate of UMD; his wife, Sharon; and their three children. The family provided part of the funding for the building’s construction. It opened in September 2008.


Improving Structures: James I. Swenson Civil Engineering Building

Civil Engineering

This LEED certified building was designed to showcase the Bachelor of Science degree program in Civil Engineering, which began admitting freshman students in fall 2008. It contains classrooms, administrative offices, and six sophisticated, specialized teaching and research laboratories.

The Swenson Family Foundation made a generous gift toward construction of the building, which was completed in 2010.




Bagley Classroom Bagley Classroom

The Bagley Classroom, which opened in 2010, is in the Bagley Nature Area, 50 acres on the UMD campus containing a variety of forests, a pond, a trout stream, and walking and skiing trails. The classroom, designed by Duluth architect, David Salmela, is a multi-purpose space for outdoor classes. The Bagley Classroom is a zero energy and near-zero waste building and received LEED status. It features a vegetative roof, passive solar and photovoltaic technology, and waste composting.




UMD’s Leadership History

Recent Milestones



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Last modified on 01/20/11 03:28 PM
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