University of Omaha
The online North Omaha History contains a history and very good images of the University of Omaha. The present University of Nebraska Omaha, successor to the U. of O., has school yearbooks 1915-1929 in its Archives and Special Collections. The seal (right) is from the 1924 yearbook. Early school catalogs are available through HathiTrust. The Omaha World-Herald covered school events.
University of Omaha sprang from a desire to have a non-denominational Christian college in the city. On October 8, 1908 a board of trustees was organized to create such a school. On September 14, 1909 classes began for 26 students. The five faculty members—including the president—were also members of the faculty from the Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
Enrollment grew. At the end of World War I it had passed 500, and by 1929 it had reached 1500. As numbers grew, so did academic programs. From the original College of Liberal Arts, the U. of O. added a Conservatory of Music and a College of Commerce. The independent Omaha College of Law became the University of Omaha College of Law. Yearbooks also show pre-medical, preparatory, and teacher training programs.
Likewise, extra-curricular programs increased with enrollment. Beginning with YMCA and YWCA chapters, a Utopian literary society, the Gateway Club, and the Dramatics Club, students soon were publishing a school newspaper and a yearbook. A small orchestra morphed into numerous instrumental and vocal groups. U. of O. was also represented by a debate team. One fraternity and two sororities in 1916 grew to a PanHellenic council overseeing chapters of ten national fraternities and sororities by 1930. Many of the academic divisions also began sponsored clubs and societies.
As the school grew, the financial situation became more dire. President Daniel Jenkins refused to take his salary and saw to it that heat and lights were used sparingly. Despite these measures, by 1930 the U. of O. had determined that it could not continue as a private school, dependent on tuition and gifts. In May 5, 1930 Omaha residents voted (by a 20 vote margin) to adopt the U. of O. as a municipal university. At the end of that year the University of Omaha ceased to exist, continuing as the Municipal University of Omaha until 1968, when it became a part of the University of Nebraska system.
Bricks and Mortar
The trustees purchased the Redick Reserve in northeast Omaha. The property included a frame Victorian mansion located at the corner of North 24th and Pratt. This served as the main classroom building during the first five years of the college. The first building constructed on campus was the Jacobs Gymnasium, built of recycled bricks with faculty labor. It contained a basketball court, a balcony running track, and a stage, allowing it to serve as an auditorium.
In 1916 the U. of O. began a structure which became known as Joslyn Hall. As a replacement for Redick Hall, the three-story brick building contained administrative offices, an auditorium, a music department, chemistry and physics laboratories and 30 classrooms with room for 750 students.
In 1917 Redick Hall was disassembled and moved to Keeley Island in Minnesota. It burned in 1928. Jacobs Hall and Joslyn Hall were both razed in 1964.
Redick Hall. Image from UNO Photograph Collection, Archives and Special Collections, University of Nebraska at Omaha Libraries.
School Colors: Crimson and Black
Team name: Crimson and Black,
University of Omaha began fielding football teams in 1911 when enrollment was still under 100.
Yearbooks sounded a yearly complaint of low numbers, lack of experienced players, and inadequate facilities. Yet U. of O. fielded teams that were generally competitive with area schools and were members of the Nebraska State Conference. The 1920 Maroons won their first five games before falling to Tarkio College. Conference opponents included Wayne Normal, Cotner, Grand Island, Nebraska Central, and Peru Normal, along with Trinity of Iowa and Tarkio of Missouri.
U. of O. also fielded competitive men’s and women’s basketball teams.
In addition to activies surrounding the crowning of the May Queen, the school’s annual Gala day featured intramural competition in track and field, tennis, and golf.
1917 University of Omaha women's basketball team. Image from the 1917 "Gateway."