The summer of 1969 was a season of revolutionary change, and events of those months still are part of the national conversation today:
• President Richard Nixon announced troop withdrawals from South Vietnam.
A convocation celebrating “UAB: Forty Years of Breakthroughs” will begin at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 24 in the Alys Stephens Center Jemison Concert Hall.
A food drive coordinated by the UAB Student Alumni Society will be held during the 40th anniversary celebration to respond to community needs. Non-perishable food items will be collected at locations across campus.
• Warren E. Burger was sworn in as Chief Justice of the United States.
• Charles, Prince of Wales, was presented the crown of his title by the Queen.
• The world watched in awe as Neil Armstrong took his historic first steps on the moon.
We knew as these events unfolded they would forever change the world as we knew it.
Few, however, foresaw the revolutionary change in education and health care that would follow the decision of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees to create a three-campus system and grant autonomy to its Birmingham extension center on June 5, 1969.
Less than two weeks later Joseph F. Volker was named first president of what was then known as the University of Alabama in Birmingham, a position he officially assumed Sept. 5, 1969, a mere 40 years ago this week.
Volker, we know, saw a future so promising some faculty wondered aloud about his grip on reality. But his insistence that we do ourselves a disservice by dreaming dreams that are small set the unmistakable tenor for his administration, and that clarion call has been sounded by each of the presidents to succeed him.
The improbable vision became the inevitable dream.
Though the nation has a multitude of universities that have buildings older than our institution, UAB faculty, staff and students have made the most of their time. In four decades, UAB has become a world-renowned research university and health-care center, Alabama’s single largest employer and the economic engine of Birmingham with an impact exceeding $3 billion. Its campus —covering more than 80 city blocks — is home to more than 18,000 students and some 18,000 faculty and staff.
So this university known for establishing traditions and shattering norms will observe its first University Day on Thursday, Sept. 24 and commemorate its founding and 40th anniversary.
In coming years, University Day will become an annual event to celebrate UAB’s founding and future.
A convocation celebrating “UAB: Forty Years of Breakthroughs” will begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Alys Stephens Center Jemison Concert Hall. Everyone in the UAB family — students, parents, staff, faculty, retired employees, alumni and friends — is invited and encouraged to attend.
President Carol Garrison and Provost Eli Capilouto have invited 40 distinguished UAB alumni representing the graduating classes from 1969 to 2009 to attend. Chancellor Malcolm Portera of the University of Alabama System will speak, and four graduates, one from each decade, also will present remarks during the ceremony.
The UAB Student Alumni Society is coordinating a food drive during the 40th anniversary celebration to respond to Birmingham community needs. Canned and non-perishable food items will be collected at locations across campus and distributed to area food banks.