A Brief History of George Mason University

George Mason CampusGeorge Mason University's growing reputation as an innovative educational leader is rooted in Virginia's strong educational tradition.

The university began as the Northern Virginia branch of the University of Virginia in 1957. Eager to support the fledgling institution, the Town (now City) of Fairfax purchased 150 acres in 1958 and donated it to the University of Virginia for a permanent branch campus. In March 1966, the General Assembly authorized the expansion of George Mason College into a four-year, degree-granting institution and gave it the long-range mandate to expand into a major regional university.

In 1972, the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia recommended that the college separate from its parent institution. On April 7, the governor signed the General Assembly legislation that established George Mason University as an independent member of the commonwealth's system of colleges and universities.

Performing Arts at George MasonSince 1972, the university's development has been marked by rapid growth and innovative planning. Drawing prominent scholars from all fields, George Mason's outstanding faculty includes two Nobel laureates in Economic Science, James Buchanan (1986) and Vernon Smith (2002), the Robinson Professors, a group of outstanding scholars committed to undergraduate teaching and interdisciplinary scholarship, a Pulitzer Prize winner, IEEE Centennial Medalists, and recipients of numerous grants and awards, including Fulbright, National Science Foundation, and National Endowment for the Arts awards. Endowed chairs have also brought many artists and scholars to campus.

George Mason has expanded its presence to serve the entire Northern Virginia region by employing the revolutionary concept of the "distributed" university. The university acquired the George Mason University School of Law and a campus in Arlington in 1979, and established the Prince William Campus in Prince William County in 1997.

George Mason University has achieved national distinction in many areas. Its reputation continues to grow as the university provides for an educational, cultural, and economic resource for the people of Northern Virginia, the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation and beyond.