FIU in ’72 commemorates 50th anniversary

FIU in ‘72 at the Green Library | Gabriela Perez, PantherNOWFIU in ‘72 at the Green Library | Gabriela Perez, PantherNOW

By Gabriela Perez | Contributing Writer

FIU celebrated their 50th anniversary by showcasing an exhibition dedicated to the school’s opening day on Sep 14, 1972. 

Althea “Vicki” Silvera, Department Chair of Special Collections and University Archivist, provided student media with details about the exhibition.  She has worked at FIU for more than 35 years. 

“The gallery began more than 34 years ago as a site to show the collections in the library. It is a free space with open access. To get a sense of the shows that we have had in person or online, you may look at the Special Collections site at”

Charles Perry, the first president of FIU. | Gabriela Perez, PantherNOW

The FIU archives are located on the second floor of the Green Library in the Modesto Maidique Campus, open until Sept 30.

First opening the school to over 5,000 students in 1972, Perry is the very first portrait students can see walking into the gallery.  

With double the students, six academic buildings and 134 degrees offered,  Perry left the position of president in 1976. He started working in the private sector and eventually ran Jack Nicklaus’ golf company, located in North Palm Beach. 

Perry died on Aug 30, 1999 and is buried in front of the Graham Center entrance, located at MMC. 

Display of FIU’s “Primera Casa” which translates to  “First House” | Gabriela Perez, PantherNOW

Before MMC expanded into the multitude of buildings it currently has, Primera Casa was the first building to open on campus, built in 1969. 

Photo of the Biscayne Bay Campus (BBC) opening in 1977 | Gabriela Perez, PantherNOW

The exhibition also displayed an early picture of the Biscayne Bay Campus, located in North Miami. 

The campus was a vision of innovation before it became a reality and opened in 1977. FIU’s second president, Harold Crosby, agreed to serve a three-year term under his leadership at the “North Campus” now known as BBC. This was just five years after MMC came to life. 

“Biscayne Bay or North Miami Campus was always in the radius of President Perry. He saw the need for a campus that would serve North Miami and Broward. It opened after he retired, but its conception began during his tenure,” said Silvera. 

Perry believed that opening a campus by the bay would make FIU’s impact known across South Florida, with its one-of-a-kind view of aquatic life and innovative programs offered on campus. 

These programs include the School of Communication +Journalism;  the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management; and Marine Science Program

“Elan” the first FIU yearbook, 1976 | Gabriela Perez, PantherNOW 

Not only were visitors able to observe the earliest buildings, but they could get a glimpse of some of FIU’s gems, such as a creative display of FIU’s first yearbook in 1976, with retro fonts and designs that reflect its vintage charm.

All of FIU’s yearbooks are stored in the University Archives. The Digital yearbooks are found in FIU dPanther digital collections. 

Photos and a cap from the first commencement, 1973 | Gabriela Perez, PantherNOW

Panthers also got a look at the very first graduation ceremony at FIU. The presentation at the exhibition even gave visitors a peek at one of the caps from the ceremony, with a golden tassel attached. 

The first commencement actually took place in the library, located in the Primera Casa on June 26, 1973.  The PC building was originally designed to hold the library, academic advising, bookstores and food services before it became what it is today. 

 FIU’s First parking decal | Gabriela Perez, PantherNOW 

The gallery also features the parking permits used when FIU first introduced them. 

“The planning, the ground breaking, the opening day – they were preserved by President Perry because he saw the importance of even the smallest items that marked the beginning of FIU,” said Silvera. 

Photos from the early days at FIU | Gabriela Perez, PantherNOW

FIU faculty has grown throughout the years, and the gallery allows visitors to see moments that  faculty and friends have experienced throughout the years, as well as administrators like Chancellor Robert Mautz and Vice President Donald L. Mc Dowell on campus. 

Robert Mautz was chancellor of the State University System of Florida, from 1968 to 1975. Whereas, Donald L. Mc Dowell was vice president for FIU from 1972 to 1974. 

Silvera said that even though there are many vintage staples throughout the gallery, there is one in particular that stands out.

“The photograph of the founding administrators, faculty and staff has to be the most valuable item in this gallery,” said Silvera.