The story of the university began in 1952, when the Mobile Baptist Association appointed a committee to study the feasibility of starting a Baptist-affiliated college in Mobile. In 1959, the Alabama Baptist State Convention agreed to build and operate a college if the Mobile community would raise $1.5 million within two years. Only one year later, area churches, businesses, and industries pledged more than $2 million to the effort.
1961: MOBILE COLLEGE
Dr. William K. Weaver, Jr., was appointed president of Mobile College on April 1, 1961, a position he would hold until his retirement in 1984. When Alabama Governor John Patterson signed the college’s charter on December 12, 1961, Mobile College became the first senior college to be chartered in the state in 57 years. Reflecting the institution’s Christian foundation, the college seal includes the phrase from Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
1984: NEW PRESIDENT
The second President, Dr. Michael A. Magnoli, was inaugurated in 1984. He was a member of the university’s first graduating class of 1967. During his tenure as President, Dr. Magnoli initiated a campus expansion that added acreage, athletic facilities and classroom buildings. Academic programs were added, including the graduate program offering master’s degrees in education, business administration, nursing and theology. In 1985, the intercollegiate athletic program started with two sports, men’s tennis and golf, and quickly expanded.
1993: UNIVERSITY OF MOBILE
On July 1, 1993, the institution celebrated its growth by adopting a new name that reflected its continuing development: University of Mobile.
1998: NEW YEAR NEW LOOK
On February 13, 1998, the University of Mobile Board of Trustees unanimously elected Dr. Mark R. Foley as the third president. Under Dr. Foley’s leadership, University of Mobile entered the new millennium with the express purpose of preparing students academically, socially, and spiritually to impact the world. Renovation of Weaver Hall, including a hipped roof with cupola and portico, provided a new focal point for the campus.
2000s: CAMPUS EXPANSION
Samford Hall, a 101-bed residence hall, was completed in 2004. In 2006, the 151-bed Karlene Farmer Faulkner Hall opened. In 2009, Ram Hall expanded the cafeteria and provided a state-of-the-art auditorium for student events and concerts. The Timbers, a 96-bed apartment-style residence, was added in 2012. In 2013 the university completed an extensive $7 million campus-wide enhancement project. The university’s Center for Performing Arts was established, a professional recording studio built, and online academic programs were launched. Dr. Foley retired in 2016 after more than 18 years as president.
On April 11, 2016, Dr. Timothy L. Smith was named president. The university significantly expanded academic programs and established its first two doctoral programs. Over 34 academic programs were added, nearly doubling offerings to 76 programs. New labs such as the Center for Excellence in Healthcare Practice emphasized practical learning experiences, or Prac-ademics. The university implemented a four-day academic/work week with “Focus Fridays.” Dr. Smith resigned on February 27, 2019.
2019: NEW LEADERSHIP
On May 28, 2019, University of Mobile alumnus Dr. Lonnie Burnett became the institution’s fifth president, selected by the Board of Trustees to serve as interim president for the next 16 months. A 1979 graduate of the University of Mobile, then Mobile College, Dr. Burnett joined the faculty in 2005 teaching history and gained tenure in 2012. He served in a variety of administrative positions, most recently as executive dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Burnett is the author of two books of history, numerous academic articles and reviews, and serves as managing editor for The Alabama Review quarterly journal of Alabama history. He has served as a member of the Saraland City School Board since 2010, where he earned state-wide honors from the Alabama Association of School Boards. He is an active member of Redemption Church in north Mobile. His wife, Lynne, and daughter, Lauren Burnett Wetzell, are also University of Mobile graduates.
Throughout the decades, the University of Mobile has maintained a highly dedicated faculty providing quality Christian higher education with a devotion to the intellectual and spiritual development of students: Higher Education for a Higher Purpose.