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Around the Columns

Back to the future

Jesse

At a Nov. 29, 2007, meeting in Kansas City, Mo., the University of Missouri System Board of Curators recognized MU’s historical significance to the state when it voted to allow MU to identify itself simply as the University of Missouri. Photo by Nicholas Benner

When Mizzou was founded in Columbia in 1839, it was a frontier university — the first public university west of the Mississippi River. Mizzou is still a frontier university, but instead of being on the frontier of a vast new territory, today it’s on the frontier of new knowledge.

At a Nov. 29, 2007, meeting in Kansas City, Mo., the University of Missouri System Board of Curators recognized MU's historical significance to the state when it voted to allow MU to identify itself simply as the University of Missouri — as it was for 124 years until the formation of the four-campus University of Missouri System in 1963. That was also how Mizzou was known in 1908, when it was among just a handful of public universities invited to join the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU).

The association's goal back then was to advance the international standing of U.S. research universities. One hundred years later, AAU members are among the most highly regarded research universities in North America. Membership recognizes MU's national leadership role in issues that are most important to research-intensive universities, such as research funding, policy issues, and graduate and undergraduate education.

Supporters in recent years argued that the "– Columbia" in its title sold MU short. The geographic designation made Mizzou sound like a regional institution, they said, instead of acknowledging its national prominence.

Chancellor Brady Deaton says the name restoration recognizes that MU is a university of enormous national significance. "The role of a research and flagship university is very powerful," he says. "You can’t ignore that and still be honest about what your position is in higher education. We feel it’s important that the state recognizes that, and the name restoration was one symbol of a forward step in higher education for the state." Deaton says restoring Mizzou's original name will elevate the stature of all four campuses of the University of Missouri System. "It will make a stronger system, one that can speak to the nation with a more unified voice based on the outstanding quality of our AAU public research, land-grant university here at MU," he says.

There was support for the name restoration by all of MU's constituent groups, Deaton says, such as the For All We Call Mizzou campaign national steering committee, the Mizzou Alumni Association governing board, Mizzou Flagship Council, MU’s faculty council, staff council and student organizations.

"We’re very grateful to the Board of Curators for recognizing the historical significance of this name restoration," Deaton says. "We feel that it honored the other campuses and their concerns. We don't see anything about the name restoration that takes anything away from the other institutions."