The University of Maryland Eastern Shore opened its doors Sept. 13, 1886, when it was known initially as the Delaware Conference Academy under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Greeting the nine students who showed up that Monday were two educators, Benjamin O. Bird and his wife, Portia Lovett Bird.
Records indicate by the following spring some three dozen students, likely from farming families in the surrounding area, were enrolled.
The prep school-style institution was founded as a branch of Baltimore’s Centenary Bible Institute, which in 1890 became known as Morgan College – the same year federal legislation passed to support historically black institutions that offered instruction in agriculture and related fields.
With the adoption of the 2nd Morrill Act, the “Industrial Branch” of Morgan in rural Somerset County started receiving funding through the state of Maryland – and eventually was rechristened Princess Anne Academy.
This federal source of money also created a relationship with the Maryland Agricultural College, now the University of Maryland, College Park, although the campus in Princess Anne remained a part of Morgan College – at the time a private institution.
The joint-management arrangement enabled the state to continue offering a land-grant education to white students attending College Park while offering African-Americans that type of instruction at what was referred to in some documents as the Eastern Shore Branch of the Maryland Agricultural College.
College-level work was added to the curriculum in 1927 and it essentially served as a junior college for the next 10 years.
The state of Maryland acquired the Princess Anne campus outright from Morgan in 1935 for $100,000 and a year later the newly renamed Princess Anne College was placed under the jurisdiction of the University of Maryland in College Park.
In 1948, the name was changed to Maryland State College; it was again renamed the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in 1970.
A change in governance structure initiated by the Legislature placed UMES under the University of Maryland System in 1988. Subsequently, the system was renamed the University System of Maryland in 1997.
Today, UMES is a Doctoral University (Moderate Research Activity), according to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education
Instruction, research, and service are provided through major academic clusters. They include liberal arts and sciences, agriculture, business, engineering and technology, education, marine and environmental sciences, allied health, hospitality and special academic services. Degrees are offered in 38 bachelors’, 14 masters’ and eight doctoral programs.
Distinctive bachelor degree programs include agribusiness, aviation science, construction management, criminal justice, engineering technology, environmental science, golf management, hospitality and tourism management and rehabilitation services.
Master degrees are offered in teaching, career and technology education, counselor and special education, applied computer science, chemistry, criminology and criminal justice, cybersecurity engineering technology, food and agricultural sciences and rehabilitation counseling.
Master’s and doctorates are offered in marine-estuarine-environmental sciences, toxicology and pharmaceutical sciences.
Other doctoral programs are: physical therapy, education leadership, pharmacy, food science and technology, and organizational leadership.
Basic and applied research covers international and domestic agriculture sciences, marine and environmental sciences, and computer and mathematical sciences.
Professional accreditation in 27 areas of study includes chemistry (ACS); construction management (ACCE); education (NCATE); human ecology (ADA); physical therapy (CAPTE) and rehabilitation service (NCRE). The University also is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
The University of Maryland Eastern Shore is home to five schools: Agricultural and Natural Sciences; Business and Technology; Education, Social Sciences and the Arts; Graduate Studies; and Pharmacy and Health Professions.