A Chronological History of
the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)
and its Predecessor Institutions and Organizations, 1831-

(Please contact the UAB Archives for additional information.)

Copyright: The University of Alabama Board of Trustees.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) traces its roots to the 1859 founding of the Medical College of Alabama and the 1936 opening of the Birmingham Extension Center of the University of Alabama. In 1945 the Medical College of Alabama was moved from Tuscaloosa and the University's Medical Center was founded in Birmingham. In 1954 the Extension Center was moved to a newly constructed facility adjacent to the Medical Center, bringing together for the first time the University's two academic components in Birmingham.  Later, in November of 1966, the Extension Center and the Medical Center were administratively merged to form the "University of Alabama in Birmingham," an organizational component of the University of Alabama (in Tuscaloosa). In 1969 UAB became an independent institution, one of the autonomous universities within the newly created three-campus University of Alabama System.

Today, UAB is a comprehensive urban university with a nationally recognized academic health center. UAB is the only public, four-year degree granting university in the state's largest metropolitan area. UAB is the largest research institution in the state of Alabama and is the largest single employer in the state.

A comprehensive chronology of the history of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and its predecessor entities is found below.  Underlined and bolded items in this list may be selected to see portraits or photographs about the specific person or event.

Chronology last updated 12 September 2022

January 6, 2020: Dr. Barry P. Sleckman of the Weill Cornell Medicine assumed duties as new director of the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Sleckman had been selected the previous October.

January 13, 2020: Proton International at UAB, the state’s first proton therapy center, was opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The three-story facility is located on 20th Street South.

February 10, 2020: Jeffrey D. Graveline, a long-time member of the library faculty, became interim dean of UAB Libraries.

February 11, 2020: Dr. Gregg H. Gilbert presented the fifty-sixth Distinguished Faculty Lecture.

February 2020: UAB announced that its public radio affiliate WBHM 90.3 FM was partnering with three other stations, Mississippi Public Radio (Jackson), WNNO (New Orleans), and WPFK (Baton Rouge), to establish the collaborative Gulf States Newsroom. Headquartered at WBHM on the UAB campus, the Gulf States Newsroom is sponsored by National Public Radio and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

March 12, 2020: Due to the effects of the growing global pandemic of coronavirus (COVID-19), the University of Alabama System announced that classes on all three system campuses, UA, UAH, and UAB, would transition completely to an online or alternative instruction model for the remainder of March. UAB’s Spring Break – which was due to begin on March 16 – was extended until March 24 and students were instructed to not return to campus until further notice. All non-essential university events and activities, including all Blazer athletic competition, and all non-essential university-related travel were also cancelled for the time being.

March 15, 2020: Due to the growing global pandemic of COVID-19, UAB announced a Limited Business Model for all campus operations except for essential services through the end of the month of March.

March 20, 2020: UAB alumnus Andy Kennedy became the seventh head coach of the men's basketball team. Kennedy, a former Blazer star player and former assistant coach at UAB, had previously served as head coach at the University of Mississippi.

March 26, 2020: UAB announced the indefinite extension to its Limited Business Model due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

April 1, 2020: Kasia J. Gonnerman, previously of Vanderbilt University, became the second dean of UAB Libraries.

May 1-2, 2020: Due to the university's Limited Business Model implemented because of the COVID-19 pandemic, UAB provided virtual only commencement ceremonies for graduating students.  Graduate degrees were awarded during an online-only ceremony on Friday the first, undergraduate degrees were awarded during an online-only ceremony on Saturday the second.

June 29, 2020: Governor Kay Ivey announced programs to provide COVID-19 testing and symptom monitoring for the state's public higher education institutions.  The programs were developed by and are being led by UAB and the Alabama Department of Public Health and are being supported by funding obtained through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).  The Testing for Alabama initiative will provide testing for every college student attending a public four-year or two-year college prior to the student's reentry to campus.

July 1, 2020: The University of Alabama Board of Trustees approved the creation of the UAB Health System Authority.  Dr. William Ferniany became the first Chief Executive Officer of the new authority.  He was also named as the CEO of the new UAB Health System/Ascension St. Vincent's alliance.

July 2020: Dr. Jeffrey W. Holmes became the seventh dean of the School of Engineering. Dr. Holmes came to UAB from the University of Virginia.

July 2020: Reid F. Jones became the new Chief Executive Officer of UAB Medicine.  Jones, a long-time UAB employee and UAB alumnus, retained his position as COO of UAB Hospital.

August 1, 2020: Dr. Kecia M. Thomas became the third dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.  Dr. Thomas came to UAB from the University of Georgia.

August 2, 2020: Returning from the International Space Station (ISS), the SpaceX Dragon capsule carried two UAB freezers on its return to earth. The Glacier freezer unit had been aboard the ISS since April 2014 and the Polar freezer unit had been aboard the station since July 2019. The Polar unit had been designed by the UAB Engineering and Innovative Technology Development team.

September 17, 2020: Michael Brock was elected to the University of Alabama Board of Trustees.  W. Stancil Starnes was elected president pro tempore of The University of Alabama Board of Trustees.

September 2020: For the fifth consecutive year, UAB set an enrollment record with a total of 22,563 students, an increase of 2.19 percent from the previous year. The number of graduate students increased by 6 percent to 7,512 students.

October 1, 2020: Dr. Michelle A. Robinson of the School of Dentistry became interim dean of the School of Education. Dr. Robinson had previously served as interim dean of dentistry from May 2018 until June 2019.

December 2020: William Dahlberg became interim General Manager of WBHM FM Radio.

2020: During the fall, UAB students in the Science and Technology Honors Program, in conjunction with the UAB Sustainability office, created a monarch butterfly waystation at the corner of 10th Avenue South and 14th Street adjacent to the university's new Honors Hall. It is only the second certified monarch butterfly habitat within the city of Birmingham.

February 5, 2021: The University of Alabama Board of Trustees approved the closure of seventeen research centers and institutes at UAB.

February 9, 2021: Forbes named UAB as the best large employer in the nation. The university was at the top of a list of more than 500 public and private corporations, universities, and companies.

April 2021: Two small beehives complete with two queen bees and some 40,000 worker bees were installed in the UAB Gardens to increase pollination in the campus and Southside area. The bee waystation is located in a fenced area across from the UAB Solar House.

April 30, 2021: Dr. Robert M. Centor presented the fifty-seventh Distinguished Faculty Lecture, “The Importance of Clinician Educators.” Because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the lecture was presented virtually in an online platform.

April 30/May 1, 2021: Because of the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, UAB held outdoor commencement ceremonies at Birmingham’s Legion Field, the first time at that venue and the first outdoor ceremony in UAB history. Graduate students attended a ceremony on April 30 and undergraduate students attended a ceremony on May 1. UAB students who had graduated during virtual-only ceremonies in 2020 were invited to participate.

May 2021: UAB and the Birmingham Organizing Committee for the 2022 World Games announced that UAB would provide some of the housing needed by athletes, coaches, and officials and the university would host several competitions at UAB venues during the World Games, to be held in Birmingham July 7-17, 2022. Lacrosse will be held on the PNC Field, Tug of War will be held at the track facility, and racquetball and squash will be held in the University Recreation Center. UAB Medicine will be the official sponsor for medical services during the World Games.

July 6, 2021: Ann Alquist became executive director and the fifth General Manager of WBHM FM Radio. Alquist came to UAB from Rhode Island Public Radio.

September 17, 2021: Kenneth O. Simon was elected to the University of Alabama Board of Trustees.

September 28, 2021: The University of Alabama Board of Trustees approved the renaming of the medical school as the UAB Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine following a gift of $95 million by Dr. Heersink and his wife, Mary. Dr. Heersink, of Dothan, Alabama, is a renowned eye surgeon, innovator, and entrepreneur. The Heersink gift, which is the largest single gift in the history of UAB, will also create the university's Marnix E. Heersink Institute of Biomedical Innovation and the Mary Heersink Institute for Global Health.

September 2021: For the fiscal year of 2021, UAB received more than $848 million in extramural research grants and awards, a one-year increase of 33 percent. UAB ranked in the top three percent of all universities in the US and each of the six health science schools ranked in the top 10 in National Institutes of Health funding awarded to public universities.

September 2021: UAB reported a fall enrollment of 22,000 students and a record first-time student class of 2,415 freshmen. Total enrollment was down approximately 2.4 percent, but freshmen enrollment increased 12 percent.  The UAB student body was 42 percent minority.

October 2, 2021: UAB hosted Liberty University in the inaugural game held in the new Protective Stadium in the Uptown Neighborhood in downtown Birmingham. The Blazers fell to the Liberty Flames 36-12 before an announced attendance of 37,167.

November 5, 2021: The University of Alabama Board of Trustees approved the renaming of UAB's on-campus soccer field as PNC Field.

March 8, 2022: The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees approved the sale of the engineering division of the UAB-affiliated Southern Research Institute (SRI) to Kratos, a national aerospace company headquartered in Delaware. Dr. Joshua Carpenter, president of SRI, explained to the board that the sale would allow SRI to "narrow our focus to life sciences, an abiding strength of UAB."

March 29, 2022: Dr. Smita Bhatia presented the fifty-eighth Distinguished Faculty Lecture, "The Art of Surviving and Thriving."

April 8, 2022: The University of Alabama Board of Trustees approved the closure of ten research centers and institutes at UAB.

May 3, 2022: Dr. Casey Weaver, a professor of pathology, was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences, the third UAB faculty member to be so honored.

September 2022: William Dahlberg became the executive director and General Manager of WBHM FM Radio after having served in an interim capacity. Dahlberg had formerly served as the station's membership manager and deputy director.

Chronology maintained by Tim L. Pennycuff and last updated 22 September 2022