The University of Georgia was incorporated on January 27, 1785, by the
Georgia General Assembly, which had given its trustees, the Senatus Academicus of the University of Georgia, 40,000 acres (160 km²) for the purposes of founding a "college or
seminary of learning."
 The Senatus Academicus was composed of the Board of Visitors and the Board of Trustees with the
Georgia Senate presiding over those two boards. The first meeting of the university's board of trustees was held in
Augusta, Georgia on February 13, 1786.
 The meeting installed its first president,
Abraham Baldwin, a native of
Connecticut and graduate of
Yale University. Baldwin was a delegate to the 1787
Constitutional Convention, and one of two Georgia delegates to
sign the final document. Many features on the University of Georgia campus resemble the campus of Yale.
University of Georgia Historical Marker
On July 2, 1799, the Senatus Academicus met again in
Louisville, Georgia and decided that the time was right to open the university. During this meeting 633 acres (2.6 km²) on the banks of the
Oconee River were chosen on which the university was to be built. This tract of land, now a part of the
consolidated city–county of
Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, was then part of
Jackson County. The meeting also established a new president of the university naming
Josiah Meigs, another
Yale University graduate, to the post. The first classes were held in 1801, in what was called the
Franklin College, named in honor of
Benjamin Franklin. The first graduating class graduated on May 31, 1804.
The Senatus Academicus convened for the last time in Dothan, Georgia, from November 3, 1859, through November 5, 1859, after which it was replaced with a Board of Trustees which reported to the
Georgia General Assembly which is composed of the
Georgia House of Representatives and the
The University of Georgia Chapel built in 1832 replacing the previous one
Civil War era
American Civil War, the university closed in October 1863 and reopened in January 1866 with an enrollment of 78 students including veterans using an award of $300 granted by the General Assembly to injured soldiers younger than 30.
 In the same year, the legislature appropriated $2,000 for the creation of a College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. This was the result of the
Morrill Act which was used to create
land grant colleges across the nation. The agricultural department of the university opened on May 1, 1872. A portion of the funds were
used to establish a branch of the agricultural department in
Dahlonega, Georgia which developed into
North Georgia College,
 which in turn became the
University of North Georgia after a 2013 merger. The Military Department of the university was abandoned in the years following the Civil War, but its campus at Milledgeville, including the former state capital building, became
Georgia Military College.
With students limited to white males for the first century of its history, University of Georgia began educating white female students during the summer of 1903. White women were not admitted as full-time undergraduates until 1918. However, at that time only junior college transfers majoring in Home Economics were integrated.
 Before admission of white women to the university, several white women were able to complete graduate degrees through credit earned during the summer sessions. The first white woman to earn such a degree was
Mary Lyndon. She received a
Master of Arts degree in 1914.
Mary Ethel Creswell earned the first undergraduate degree in June 1919, a
B.S. Two UGA
dormitories are named after these graduates:
Phi Beta Kappa chapter in the state of Georgia was founded at UGA in 1914. Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest and most prestigious undergraduate honors organization in America.
Phi Kappa Phi, the oldest all-discipline honor society, had a chapter founded at the university in 1923. A chapter of
Omicron Delta Kappa was founded at UGA in 1935. Omicron Delta Kappa is regarded as one of the highest collegiate honors that can be awarded to an individual, along with Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Beta Kappa.
The university's dean of the College of Education in 1941,
Walter Cocking, was fired by Georgia governor
Eugene Talmadge in the
Racial integration was achieved in 1961,
 with the admission of
Hamilton E. Holmes and
Charlayne Hunter after notable tension with the
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Holmes graduated Phi Beta Kappa and was the first African-American student to attend the Emory University School of Medicine, where he earned his M.D. in 1967, later becoming a professor of orthopedics and associate dean at the school. Hunter (later, Hunter-Gault) graduated with a degree in journalism, and had an outstanding career earning several awards including two
Emmys and a
Peabody for excellence in broadcast journalism.
In 2001, on the fortieth anniversary of their having first registered for classes, the university renamed a prominent campus building in their honor: Holmes-Hunter Academic Building.
 Although Hunter and Holmes were the first African-American students to
matriculate at the university,
Mary Frances Early was the first African-American graduate by earning her
master's (MMEd) in music education in 1962. In 1963, Chester Davenport became the first African-American admitted to the
UGA School of Law and its first African-American graduate (
LL.B. 1966). A decade later, Sharon Tucker was the first female African-American law graduate, earning her
J.D. in 1974.
The east facade entrance of the Hunter-Holmes Academic Building at the University of Georgia
In 2003, the University of Georgia was the only public university in North America with winners of the
Goldwater Scholarships in the same year.
 In 2014-15 the university was among only seven universities nationwide with recipients of all three major national undergraduate scholarships: the Goldwater, Truman and Udall.
 UGA is ranked fifth among the nation’s universities for the production of
Fulbright U.S. Scholars.
As of 2016, 24 UGA students have been named
Rhodes Scholars including
Eugene T. Booth and
Hervey M. Cleckley, with five of the scholarships awarded since 2008.
In 2011-2012, the University of Georgia was one of only four institutions in the U.S. with the maximum of four Goldwater Scholars; one of only two universities with three
Udall Scholars, and one of only four universities with at least five
Boren Scholars. UGA students also garnered a
Marshall Scholarship and 17
Fulbright Scholarship offers, placing the university among the top tier of academic institutions with regard to national awards. A 2016
Marshall Scholar was the sixth UGA student to earn the award since 2003.
Marshall Scholarship is one of the most selective scholarships available to postgraduates.
At the same time, alumni were well represented, as a UGA alumna garnered the coveted
MacArthur "Genius" Grant for the second time in three years (Beth Shapiro in 2009 and A.E. Stallings in 2011). More than 40 University of Georgia graduates won national academic scholarship offers in 2011-2012, among them was one Marshall Scholarship, four Goldwater Scholarships, three Udall Scholarships, five Boren Scholarships, 17 Fulbright Scholarships, and 10
National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships.
Park Hall, one of the oldest buildings on campus
The national college rankings place UGA among the top 20 of all public universities in America and a top 10 best value.
The University of Georgia is designated as a
Land-grant, a regional
Sun Grant, a
National Sea Grant and a
National Space Grant university.
Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication awards the
George Foster Peabody Awards, which are presented annually for excellence in television and radio news, entertainment and children's programming. The university also presents the annual
Delta Prize for Global Understanding, which recognizes individuals or groups whose initiatives promote peace and cooperation among cultures and nations. The university has an extensive network of student activities that center around academic, religious, social, political and fraternal organizations.
The university has significantly expanded its program offerings in the recent years. In 2001, two new colleges were created, the
College of Environment and Design and the
School of Public & International Affairs. In 2005, the
College of Public Health was established. In 2007 the
Odum School of Ecology was opened, the first standalone college dedicated to the study of
environmental science. In 2010 UGA partnered with the only public medical school in Georgia, the
Medical College of Georgia to create the UGA-MCG Medical Partnership, and in the summer of 2012, the
College of Engineering was established to consolidate the several engineering programs housed in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering and in the Institute of the Faculty of Engineering. The University of Georgia has continued to foster a global community through comprehensive study abroad programs. Open Doors 2015 ranked UGA 11th for most students studying abroad, a jump from 17th in 2012-13.
 Asian enrollment at the university has increased by 50% since 2005. Hispanic enrollment has increased 8% from 2011 to 2012.