Jacksonville University is an especially impressive educational center when one considers its modest beginnings. Created to “furnish an opportunity for citizens of Jacksonville and vicinity to obtain a standard collegiate education without leaving the city’’ and “to fill the need for a center of culture and cultural background for Jacksonville,’’ William J. Porter University opened its doors in 1934 as a two-year community college. Within a year, the institution was renamed Jacksonville Junior College to identify more accurately its ties to the city and its two-year program.

The College’s first ten years were a continuing struggle for survival; but, by 1944, the first full-time president and faculty had moved into the Kay Mansion in Jacksonville’s fashionable Riverside area. With returning World War II veterans swelling the student ranks and projected enrollments increasing, plans for another move were soon underway.

In 1947, the Board of Trustees commissioned a master plan for development of a new campus in suburban Arlington. In 1950, the College relocated to its present site in its first permanent structure, the Founders Building.

With the decision to expand to a four-year program, Jacksonville Junior College became Jacksonville University in 1956. Shortly thereafter, the Jacksonville College of Music merged with the University. In 1961, JU was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and the College of Music was renamed the College of Fine Arts due to the addition of programs in drama, art and fine arts.

In May 1967, the College of Arts and Sciences was established by combining the academic divisions of business administration, education, humanities, science and mathematics, and social sciences.

The Davis College of Business opened in 1979. Graduate studies leading to the Master of Business Administration degree were initiated the following year.

In February 1982, the nursing program was approved by the Florida Board of Nursing. Today, it offers The Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and Emergency Nurse Practitioner (ENP) sub specialization program, which is the sixth of its kind in the United States and the first in Florida.

In 1983, JU established its Division of Aeronautics. The division now offers careers in aviation management or aviation management and flight operations.

The Davis College of Business added the Executive MBA program in 1984. An adult studies program was established in 1986 as the College of Weekend Studies under the administrative supervision of the Davis College of Business. This program is now the JU Accelerated Degree Program.

The School of Orthodontics was established in 2003. The two year Advanced Education Program in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics received full accreditation without reporting requirements from the Commission on Dental Accreditation in August of 2006. Upon successful completion of the program graduates receive a C.A.G.S., Certificate in Advanced Graduate Studies. Students may also opt for a combined program with the Davis College of Business which leads to being awarded an M.B.A. in addition to the C.A.G.S after an additional year of specialized study.​