When the University of Georgia was incorporated by an act of the General Assembly on Jan. 27, 1785, Georgia became the first state to charter a state-supported university. In 1784 the General Assembly had set aside 40,000 acres of land to endow a college or seminary of learning.
At the first meeting of the board of trustees, held in Augusta on Feb. 13, 1786, Abraham Baldwin was selected president of the university. A native of Connecticut and a graduate of Yale University, Baldwin — who had come to Georgia in 1784 — drafted the charter adopted by the General Assembly.
The university was actually established in 1801 when a committee of the board of trustees selected a land site. John Milledge, later a governor of the state, purchased and gave to the board of trustees the chosen tract of 633 acres on the banks of the Oconee River in northeast Georgia.
Josiah Meigs was named president of the university and work was begun on the first building, originally called Franklin College in honor of Benjamin Franklin and now known as Old College. The university graduated its first class in 1804. The curriculum of traditional classical studies was broadened in 1843 to include courses in law, and again in 1872 when the university received federal funds for instruction in agriculture and mechanical arts.
Eighteen colleges and schools, with auxiliary divisions, carry on the university’s programs of teaching, research, and service. These colleges and schools and the dates of their establishment as separate administrative units are: Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, 1801; College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, 1859; School of Law, 1859; College of Pharmacy, 1903; D. B. Daniel B. Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, 1906; College of Education, 1908; Graduate School, 1910; C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry College of Business, 1912; Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, 1915; College of Family and Consumer Sciences, 1933; College of Veterinary Medicine, 1946; School of Social Work, 1964; College of Environment and Design, 1969; School of Public and International Affairs, 2001; the College of Public Health, 2005, the Odum School of Ecology, 2007; the College of Engineering, 2012; and the Jere W. Morehead Honors College, 2021. The Division of General Extension, now the Georgia Center for Continuing Education Conference Center & Hotel, was incorporated into the university in 1947.
In 1931 the General Assembly of Georgia placed all state-supported institutions of higher education, including UGA, under the jurisdiction of a single board. This organization, known as the University System of Georgia, is governed by the board of regents. The board of regents’ executive officer, the chancellor, exercises a general supervisory control over all institutions of the University System, with each institution having its own executive officers and faculty.