Arizona Secretary of State - Michele Reagan

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Executive Branch
State Universities and Colleges

Northern Arizona University


The beginnings

Northern Arizona University opened its doors in 1899 with 23 students, one professor, and two copies of Webster's International Dictionary bound in sheepskin. The first president scoured the countryside in horse and buggy seeking students to fill the classrooms of the single school building (now known as Old Main).

Since those humble beginnings, the university has continued to grow, undergoing several name changes in accordance with expansions, added degree programs, and achieving university status.

The depression and WWII

The university was not immune to the effects of the Great Depression. The only bank in town closed its doors in June 1932. However, the President at the time, Grady Gammage, recognized that higher education was a "depression industry," one that fared well in hard times—and he was right.

Enrollment at the university rose during the Depression from 321 students during the 1929-1930 academic year to 535 by 1940.

Many significant historical events also occurred during these hard times: In 1937, graduate work at the university became possible with the addition of the master of arts in education degree, and in 1939, Ida Mae Fredericks became the first Hopi to receive a college degree.

The entry of the United States into World War II precipitated a large drop in enrollment as college-age men entered the armed services. By the 1944-1945 academic year, just 161 students attended class on the Flagstaff campus, yet the university survived by making valuable contributions toward the war effort.

The university served as a site for the Navy's V-12 training program, one of 150 schools selected from among 1600 contenders. The Campus Civilian Defense Program maintained an aircraft spotting post, one of only 84 such posts in the United States. The university even banned all gas-powered vehicles and those with rubber tires from the Homecoming Parade in 1942, to demonstrate its dedication to rationing programs.

Becoming a university

In the 1950s, the university entered a period of exceptional growth. Students could now earn an education specialist degree as well as master's in the arts and sciences. Much of the expansion can be attributed to Dr. J. Lawrence Walkup, who has the distinction of serving the longest term as President (December 21, 1957 to June 30, 1979).

Building on this growth, the road to becoming a university began with the creation of the forestry program in 1958 and increased research activities. Pleased with the array of quality academic programs and ever-growing student body, the Arizona Board of Regents recommended that the then Arizona State College become Northern Arizona University (NAU), effective May 1, 1966.

Northern Arizona University today

More than 40 years later, NAU has a lot to be proud of, including its nationally ranked programs, its high-research status, and its emergence as a leader in sustainability, science, business, green building, and cultural arts.

Noted Flagstaff historian Dr. Platt Cline has characterized NAU as an institution that has thrived throughout the years due to our strong leadership, the devotion of former students and faculty, and community support for the school's success.

Empowered by the Arizona Board of Regents to provide educational opportunities statewide, the university now serves approximately 25,000 students at the Flagstaff campus, more than 30 statewide locations, and online—offering nearly 150 combined undergraduate and graduate degree programs, all distinguished by an ongoing commitment to close student-faculty relationships.

Source: 2012 NAU Website

Become a Student

Student Information

S. San Francisco Street
Flagstaff AZ 86011
Phone: (928) 523-9011

Undergraduate Admissions and Orientation
Box 4084
Flagstaff, AZ 86011



Alumni Information

Office of Alumni Relations
624 S. Knoles Dr.
PO Box: 6034
Flagstaff AZ 86011-6034
Old Main - (Bldg #10)

Phone: (928) 523-3757
Toll Free: 1-888-628-2586
Fax: 888-628-2586


NAU Presidents


1st President
Almon N. Taylor


Almon N. Taylor


2nd President
Rudolph H. Blome


Rudolph H. Blome


3rd President
Guy E. Cornelius


Guy E. Cornelius


4rd President
John O. Creager


John O. Creager


5th President
Lynn B. McMullen


Lynn B. McMullen


6th President
Fasset A. Cotton


Fasset A. Cotton


7th President
Grady Gammage


Grady Gammage


8th President
Thomas J. Tormey


Thomas J. Tormey


9th President
Tom O. Bellwood


Tom O. Bellwood


10th President
Lacey A. Eastburn


Lacey A. Eastburn


11th President
J. Lawrence Walkup


J. Lawrence Walkup


12th President
Eugene M. Hughes


Eugene M. Hughes


Interim President
Patsy B. Reed


Patsy B. Reed


13th President
Patsy B. Reed


Clara M. Lovett


14th President
Owen F. Cargol


Owen F. Cargol


15th President
John D. Haeger


John D. Haeger