On a beautiful February day in 1926, 7,000 people gathered to celebrate the laying of the cornerstone of the University of Miamiís first building, named in honor of the late Reverend Solomon Greasley Merrick. No one was prouder than his son, George E. Merrick, founder of the new City of Coral Gables. In December 1921, just one month after he sold the first lot in what he advertised as "Miamiís Master Suburb," he announced that someday Coral Gables would be "Miamiís University Suburb." Now, five years later, his gift of 160 acres in his Riviera Section and $5 million, to be matched by an equal sum from other sources, assured the Universityís birth.
[But] the much-praised University almost didnít happen. The faltering economy slowed both the buildingís construction and the promised donations. Then on September 17, 1926, a killer hurricane dashed all hope for completion of the grandiose campus. Despite these setbacks, that could have easily been the schoolís death knell, one month later, the brand new University of Miami opened in a half-finished apartment hotel. "What was left," author and environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas wrote later, "were such foundations of buildings or ideas as had been well and truly laid."
Today, just as Merrick and the first Board of Regents envisioned 75 years ago, the original campus has grown to 260 acres and expanded to three other campuses. The University educates an impressive group of more than 13,000 students whose international backgrounds fulfill the foundersí greatest dreams. It was a circuitous path to greatness to be sure, but as President Foote wrote in his 1987 Annual Report, "One theme is clear: From the beginning, this institution has attracted the uncommon confidence and support of visionary people."
Excerpted from The Pathway to Greatness. Building the University of Miami : 1926-2001 by Arva Moore Parks