In the early twentieth century Bridgeport was one of only six U.S. cities of over 100,000 people with no institution of higher education. Local physics and mathematics teacher E. Everett Cortright believed that equal access to education was necessary for national success, stating, “Ability and leadership must be sought in all groups.” He and two friends, founder of the dental hygiene profession Alfred Fones and Raybestos President Sumner Simpson, decided to create a two-year junior college, the first one in New England.
On May 5, 1927, the state charter of the Junior College of Connecticut was signed to resounding local and regional acclaim. Dr. Fones bought a large brick building at 1001 Fairfield Avenue to use as the first college building. Aspiring men and women entered the new college to take general education classes, as well as specialties like Hungarian and aeronautics. Almost immediately President Cortright realized that the college needed to grow and began building dormitories. By 1935 he had absorbed New Haven’s Arnold College, and opened a School of Business. He purchased more property, including P.T. Barnum’s former estate near Seaside Park.
At the end of World War II, veterans flooded the school, taking advantage of the GI Bill. The new president, James Halsey, saw this as an opportunity to expand the successful junior college into a full university, and students agreed, signing petitions and writing to newspapers. In 1947, the University of Bridgeport was created on its campus by Seaside Park. New majors and schools were added, all contributing to the diversity of ideas and opportunities that have distinguished the university ever since. The innovative thinking that led to the founding of UB almost a century ago continues to guide us today as we connect to a wider world.