From abandoned airport to a major university, FIU remembers its first-generation mission

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As published in the Miami Herald on January 23, 2022

In the early 1970s, the abandoned airfield where Florida International University would grow its roots looked like a movie set for a dystopian horror film: The 344 acres had overgrown sawgrass, a rusted airplane or two and a control tower that stood sentry over the site in the far corners of Dade County.

The university pioneers cleaned up the ruins of the old Tamiami Airport, improvised a parking area by painting white lines over the rutted runways and designated the desolate airplane hangars as makeshift classrooms for about 5,000 students.

The first day of class for the juniors, seniors and grad students, the only students the state allowed to attend FIU at that time: Sept. 19, 1972. There were no dorms, no sports teams, no sororities or frats. A commuter school.

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