Mason Milestones

Learn about the founding, history, and traditions of George Mason University.

50th anniversary of George Mason University Logo

We've always been Green and Gold—now, we're Golden! Celebrate with George Mason University as we salute this momentous milestone, and look to a brave and bold future!

Mason started in a single building with an enrollment of 17 students.

That was in 1957.

Today, we are the largest public research university in Virginia with three campuses in Virginia and one in Songdo, Korea.

We have grown to more than 39,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Our commitment to serving our students, community and the world is having a measurable impact.

But let’s take a moment to step back, take a breath, and highlight some of the defining events in Mason’s history.

Year Event
1972 Legislation is signed establishing Mason as an independent member of Virginia’s system of colleges and universities.
1979 Mason acquires the International School of Law in Arlington, Virginia, which gets accreditation from the American Bar Association a year later.
1979 The Metro Campus (now the Arlington Campus) opens in what was Kann's Department Store and becomes the first law school with an escalator.
1981 Mason begins offering graduate classes on the Metro Campus, now known as the Arlington Campus.
1981 Mason joins the NCAA.
1985 The first graduation is held in the Patriot Center (now EagleBank Arena).
1985 Mason partners with area businesses to start an engineering program and create what is now the Volgenau School of Engineering.
1986 James Buchanan wins the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences.
1988 The Early Identification Program begins.
1989 Men's Basketball makes its first NCAA appearance.
1990 The Center for the Arts opens.
1991 Mason receives a major bequest to establish the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study.
1993 Zero-base curriculum begins, which eventually becomes New Century College, now the School of Integrative Studies
1996 The Johnson Center opens.
1996 The George Mason statue is dedicated on April 12.
1997 Prince William Campus, now known as the Science and Technology Campus, opens for classes.

Mason sees its largest incoming freshman class in history, with 2,169 students.

2002 University Libraries hits 1 million volumes.
Vernon Smith wins the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences.
2004 With an enrollment of 28,750, Mason becomes the largest public university in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
2006 The Krasnow Institute for Advanced Studies at Mason is home to a powerful $1.8 milllion Siemens Magnetom Allegra 3 Tesla brain scanner. Only two other schools, Dartmouth and Princeton, have this sophisticated medical device.
2006 The Mason men’s basketball team becomes the original “Cinderella” team of March Madness as it made its exciting run from an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four.
2007 As part of the new Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation, Mason students live and learn with some of the world’s leading conservation scientists at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Front Royal, Virginia.
2008 U.S. News & World Report named Mason the nation’s number one university to watch on its first list of up-and-coming schools. We’re still on the list.
2009 The Long and Kimmy Nguyen Engineering Building opens, making it the largest and first LEED-certified building on the Fairfax campus.
2010 The Biomedical Research Laboratory on the Science and Technology Campus is one of 13 biosafety-3 labs that have been or are being built nationwide.
2010 Mason receives a $28.5 million Investing in Innovation (i3) grant from the U.S. Department of Education to lead the Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement (VISTA).
2010 The College of Health and Human Services receives a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration to establish the Mason Partners for Access to Health Care (PATH) program, which will help improve access to health care for low-income patients in Fairfax County.
2010 The grand opening is held for the Hylton Performing Arts Center
2011 Mason’s new custom-built, state-of-the-art 32-inch Ritchey Chrétien telescope is installed in the Research Hall observatory on the Fairfax Campus.
2012 Mason School of Law graduates taking the Virginia Bar Exam for the first time achieve a 100% pass rate for the February 2012 sitting of the exam.
2012 In recognition of its sustainability achievements, Mason received a STARS Silver Rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Mason is one of only two universities in Virginia and 38 nationwide to receive the distinction.
2012 President Alan Merten steps down as president after a 16-year tenure. Ángel Cabrera is named Mason's sixth president.
2013 Mason joins the Atlantic 10 Conference. The university has 22 NCAA Division I sports and is a founding member of the Colonial Athletic Association.
2014 The university dedicates Alan and Sally Merten Hall, formerly University Hall, which was built during Alan Merten’s tenure as Mason’s fifth president. He served from 1996 to 2012.
2014 The university launches the Mason Korea campus in Songdo, Korea, and furthers Mason's global reach.
2015 George Mason launches the Institute for Advanced Biomedical Research on its campus in Prince William County and renamed that campus the Science and Technology Campus. The multidisciplinary institute will focus on cures and treatments for complex and pervasive diseases.
2016 Mason is designated as an R-1 research institution.
2016 A $30 million combined gift to the George Mason University Foundation renames Mason’s law school in honor of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
2017 Mason and Northern Virginia Community College announce a groundbreaking new partnership to assist community college students in achieving a four-year undergraduate degree, ADVANCE.
2017 In recognition of a $10 million gift from Dwight C. Schar, the School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs is renamed the Schar School of Policy and Government
2018 The new Peterson Family Health Sciences Hall, named in honor of the Peterson Family, opens on the Fairfax Campus, allowing all of the College of Health and Human Services to be housed in one location for the first time
2019 Ángel Cabrera steps down as president, and Anne Holton, former Virginia secretary of education, is named interim president.
2020 Gregory Washington is named Mason’s eighth president and first African American president
2020 The School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution is renamed the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution
2020 Mason-sponsored research surpasses $200 million

Mason was also the first university in the country to offer doctoral programs in conflict resolution, information technology, bioinformatics and computational social science.

What’s next? We’re just getting started.