UT Celebrates Morrill Act, 150 Years of Land-Grant Universities

Left to right, UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek, UT Agriculture Chancellor Larry Arrington, and UT System President Joe DiPietro dedicated a plaque commemorating the passing of the Morrill Act at the university’s annual Ag Day celebration.

The University of Tennessee commemorated the 150th anniversary of the establishment of public land-grant universities on Saturday, November 3, during the annual Ag Day celebration.

In the early 1960s, Vermont Representative Justin Morrill had a big idea that would help shape the future of Tennessee and the rest of the nation: He believed higher education should be available to everyone.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Land Grant College Act of 1862, providing federal funds to establish many of America’s public colleges and universities to teach agriculture and the mechanical arts to all.

UT is one of 107 land-grant institutions in the United States. The Civil War prevented Tennessee from being eligible for land-grant funds until 1867. In 1869, Tennessee’s legislature designated UT—known as East Tennessee University at the time—as the state’s land grant institution, allowing the university to grow and expand. The College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, AgResearch, the College of Veterinary Medicine, and UT Extension are all direct results of the Morrill Act and other legislation.