About USM

USM History


On December 26, 1878, 700 people braved a snowstorm to hear 14 speeches, one of which clocked in at more than one hour, at the opening of Corthell Hall, the first university building in Gorham. The Gothic-style building was constructed at a cost of $23,170, and dedicated to the education of teachers, who were in short supply. (By comparison, USM's new residence hall, complete with apartment/suite style quarters, carries a $21 million price tag.)

Some 40 years later, soon after the end of World War I, Portland University opened on the second floor of a commercial building, located just off Monument Square in downtown Portland. The university was established in response to the lack of educational opportunities for accountants.

These two events share two things in common:

  • They celebrated the openings of institutions envisioned as doorways leading to successful careers, and
  • Both celebrated the openings of institutions that morphed into the University of Southern Maine.

On September 6, 1988, USM’s Lewiston-Auburn College opened its doors on Lewiston’s Westminster Street to 673 students. In January of 1989, LAC enrolled 840 students, 167 more than the first semester. Enrollment has continued to grow at LAC, but it is only one measure of the region’s support for the college. LAC’s establishment and growth are a direct result of the interdisciplinary nature and community focus of its curriculum.