The history of Tulane University is a particularly unique one when compared to the stories of universities of a similar age.
The private college located in New Orleans, Louisiana known today as Tulane began with meager beginnings as the Medical College of Louisiana in 1834. Interestingly, modern day Tulane University owes its existence to a fear of yellow fever and smallpox – two diseases largely considered to be eradicated in the modern Western World. It was fear of outbreaks, particularly of the diseases just mentioned, that inspired New Orleans residents to open what was at the time only the second medical school located in the South.
In 1847 the school broadened its curriculum and officially became The University of Louisiana with a law school being added four years later. While some devote Tulane fans and alumni know that the school was established in 1834 fewer realize that the school has not run continuously since that time. The then titled University of Louisiana closed its doors during the civil war from April 1861 through April 1865, as did numerous schools during the time. Following the civil war the school faced a smorgasbord of financial issues that culminated with an agricultural crisis that was due in no small part to inclement weather. At the time of the school’s most dire financial hardship Paul Tulane was a man that successfully owned both a clothing and dry goods business. Mr. Tulane’s successful business endeavors afforded him the ability to donate sizable amounts of real estate to the ailing university.
It would not be until half a century after the school was established that in 1884 donations from Paul Tulane would allow the university to become privatized. It was at the time of the privatization that the name was formally changed from The University of Louisiana to Tulane University. To this day Tulane remains as the only instance in American history of a university shifting from a state sponsored public institution to a private college.
While numerous milestones were reached during the twentieth century none compared to the devastating effects that Hurricane Katrina had on the community in the early part of the twenty first century. In August, 2005 Hurricane Katrina forever impacted the New Orleans landscape and Tulane University was no exception. In trying times character is revealed and one notable positive effect of the devastation is that Tulane became the first high research institution to mandate that a public service fulfillment be a prerequisite to completing an undergraduate degree.
While no one can predict the future with absolute certainty it seems safe to say that considering Tulane University’s history of overcoming adversity, future prosperity is all but a sure thing.