General Information
On March 1, 1948, the university opened its doors in an official ceremony that took place in the patio of the Dámaso Zapata Industrial School located on the extreme northern end of the Bucaramanga plateau. The political desire and will to industrialize the country which began in the 1920’s, and was strengthened in the following decade became an urgent necessity when the recently created Industrial Ministry announced that Industrialization of the country was a top priority on the national agenda.

As a result of this national upsurge that corresponded to a movement throughout Latin America to substitute the direct importation of consumer goods, a Santander action committee was formed in 1938 to promote commerce and incipient industrial growth in the region. The committee also watched over and supervised investment of oil royalties to which the department was entitled. The chairman of this committee was the lawyer, Dr. Mario Gálan Gómez, who in August of that same year, was appointed departmental Secretary of Education. Two years later, as a result of his educational innovations, he presented to the departmental assembly a resolution to begin the legal creation of the Industrial University of Santander.

This 1940 project only contemplated the founding of an Industrial Engineering School specializing in Chemistry, and mechanical and electrical engineering. It also included provisions for developing a technical high school degree program for students studying in the renewed Bucaramanga Technical School. These students were to be trained to enter the new Faculty under optimal educational conditions. In a speech in which Dr. Gomez exposed his motives, he said that the state was obliged to create, “institutions that offered new professional options in higher education oriented towards technical studies and culture.” Thus, the technical high school degree program of the Bucaramanga Technical School would be the logical basis for the creation of the industrial engineering faculty. Once the designated commission of the assembly endorsed the project, this legislative body approved, on June 21, 1940, a statute creating “The Industrial Engineering Faculty” and establishing a technical high school degree program in the Industrial School. An initial budget of $20.000 pesos was assigned to the project.

This decree, which initially approved only the founding of a “faculty”, was the first of several contributions that Dr. Mario Galán would make during the 1940’s to the creation of the University. Three more important phases would yet have to be carried out in the march towards the opening of the UIS: 1.) Elevate the status of the Faculty to that of a University; 2.) Write up the legislative decree that would establish the university’s mission, its educational intention, and its governing bodies and 3.) Allocate the necessary annual funding in the Department’s budget. Other important people would intervene to achieve these ends. In accordance with the ordinance then, the technical high school degree program was implemented in the “Dámaso Zapata” Industrial School. Julio Álvarez Cerón, an exiled Spanish Engineer living in Colombia, was appointed to direct this innovative program. President Eduardo Santos, who was familiar both with Dr. Mario Galán’s project and with the vast experience in industrial engineering of this Spanish immigrant, chose him to become the schools first principal. Its first graduating class received their degrees in 1947, and the following year, the UIS was opened.

Dr. Álvaro Cerón’s decisive contribution to the creation of the UIS was the drawing up of the first organic enactment, which established the founding of the Industrial University of Santander. This statute (Decree No. 583) was sanctioned by Governor Samuel Arango Reyes on March 25, 1947. It was drawn up in collaboration with Alberto Duarte French, who was at that time the Department’s Education Director. This was done following a 1944 mandate that established a 3-member party to draw up the document. In the document, which was prepared for the State’s Department of Education, Dr. Álvaro Cerón established the criterion that he shared with Dr. Galán Gómez: The UIS would initially consist of 3 industrial engineering faculties (Mechanical, Electrical and Chemical Engineering) and by 2 lower order appendages: The Santander High School and the Dámaso Zapata Industrial Institute.
The universities mission statement and its first institutional educational project were also written up by Dr. Alvarez Ceron and sanctioned by decree No. 583 of 1947. The UIS’s original Mission Statement ordained “professional technical schooling in the branches of Industrial Engineering, in accordance with the needs of the country and the demands of and advances in national industry”. The goals outlined in the institutional educational project were stated as follows:
Complete mastery of the basic sciences in the fields of study to be established.
Knowledge of the tools, machinery and necessary technical skills in the field.
Thorough knowledge of the economic aspects and of the social implications of the career.
Facilitation, not saturation, of learning skills.
Rational use of the natural resources of the state and of the country.
Furthering of students’ moral integrity, personal initiative and character.
The educational project and the original mission statement for the UIS were formulated by the dab hand of Dr. Cerón. His companions on the commission specified the legal aspects to which the institution would conform. It would be a legally constituted entity, with corresponding legal autonomy, and governed by an advisory board, a rector, a trustee, and a general secretary. These fundamental resolutions of March 1947 were made possible, because a number of local politicians had managed, in 1944, to convert the 1940 “faculty” into the University of Santander. The representatives, Jorge Sánchez Camacho and Alejandro Ariza Acevedo presented an ordenance before the state assembly in 1944 aimed at creating “The Santander University”. Under this new plan, the university would not only offer advanced studies in Industrial Engineering, but would open careers in veterinary science, chemistry and pharmaceutical studies, agricultural science, mineralogy, commerce and the fine arts. $200.000 pesos was appropriated to acquire land and begin construction.

In their exposition of motives, these two representatives argued that departmental funding would be insufficient and that it would be necessary to seek national funding resulting from the exploitation of hydrocarbons; the only way to insure success of the venture. They also introduced the idea of a dual curriculum for its study programs: one that would be “a true spiritual and technical reserve for its youth” in which students could study not only energy and development activities (engineering) but also sciences and the fine arts. It is quite possible that Mario Galán was behind this economic strategy. As departmental comptroller, he had proposed reserving $347.000 pesos of the 12 million government loan that that the governor, Alejandro Galvis Galvis was soliciting. The efforts of these two representatives soon paid off, when the assembly passed ordinance No. 83, of June 22, 1944 approving the establishment of “The University of Santander with the legal autonomy inherent to such institutions”. The Education Department then convoked a three-member consultant group to be named by the Assembly to organize the university in all its aspects. A decisive step forward had been taken: “The Industrial Engineering Faculty”, founded in 1940, was now converted into the University of Santander.

When the aforementioned representatives presented their ordinance, they said, “the creation of the University of Santander had been a splendid idea presented to them by Jorge Orduz Ardila in the last legislative session.” They were referring to the effort made by the Departmental Director of Education, who on May 24, 1943, had presented to the Assembly an ordinance project that suggested the creation of the University of Santander empowering it to formulate an organic project to be presented in the 1944 sessions authorizing the sale of the old Dámazo Zapata building, and using the income thereby acquired to equip the university and to acquire land for it. His project was identical to the one that Sánchez Camacho and Ariza Acevedo presented the following year. In his exposition of motives, Orduz Ardila maintained the idea of keeping the Damazo Zapata for the Industrial Engineering and Mineralogy Studies. On presenting his project he admitted that the university would cover more areas than those originally contemplated. These would include technical and industrial experts and the Fine Arts Faculty with the already existing music school, the school of art and the school of sculpting which was non-existent yet, but which had been duly authorized.
As promised by the Comptroller Galán Gómez, the Governor, Alejandro Galvis Galvis, set aside in 1945 $347.000 pesos of the international loan that the department had obtained to be assigned to buildings and laboratories for the university thereby ensuring the department would make of the university one of the best of its kind in Colombia. In his annual report in 1945, before the departmental assembly, Galvis Galvis announced that the process of formation of the university would be done in several stages, thereby allowing the high school students enrolled in the Dámaso Zapata Industrial Institute to complete their degrees and enter the university in 1947. In the meantime, he would draft the proper decree and have engineers from public works design the first buildings to be constructed in the university. He would also take the necessary steps to obtain financial assistance from the national congress.

Year 1947 couldn’t have been a worse time to prepare for the opening of the UIS. The departmental assembly, with a liberal majority, had decided to put up a civil resistance movement to the acting Governor, Julio Martin Acevedo Díaz, who, his opponents claimed, was a Falangist. The tight opposition within the assembly had suppressed all secretarial dispatches to the governors office, the departmental police force, the state guard, and payment of state debt bonds. When the governor resigned, President Mariano Ospina Pérez appointed in his replacement Dr. Rafael Ortiz González, who had to work extremely hard to bargain with the delegates to the assembly to raise taxes on cattle beheading and on public service transportation vehicles in order to raise sufficient funds to open the UIS the following year. After the second debate, the assembly approved ordinance No. 30 on December 9, 1947, approving the allocation of $400.000 pesos of the 1948 budget as of the first of January to be used exclusively for the organization and operation of the Industrial University of Santander. With this ordinance, all the necessary legal steps had been taken for the creation of the university. Getting started now depended solely on the initiatives that would be taken by the first rector of the university and by the support of the Governor. In effect, on January 24, 1948, the governor issued decree No. 114, which incorporated to the prior ordinance the organic statute of the UIS establishing employee payrolls and the disposition under which the rector would be appointed by the governor for a period of four years.

Its first rector was Nicanor Pinzón Neira, a civil engineer from the School of Mines in Medellin and originally from Guapotá, who in the 40’s had been the head of the municipal engineering department of Bucaramanga. In 1947, he had been working in the Bavaria Beer Plant in Boyacá when he accepted the governors offer to take the helm of the UIS. He participated in the National Congress in defense of the organic law of industrial universities in search of funding for the UIS. He negotiated good prices with the owners of “Llano del Regadero” properties managing to avoid land pricing speculation. He obtained from the City Council the urban reserve of these properties for the university, and he made a great effort to increase public funding for the UIS. His selection of the initial professorial staff could not have been better considering the lack of engineers in Bucaramanga at that time.

With three Engineering Faculties (Electrical, Mechanical and Chemical), directed respectively by Hernando Pardo Ordoñez, Alfonso Penagos Mantilla and Lelio Martinez Villalba, the UIS began classes with 20 students. The lack of qualified professors was overcome by hiring foreigners who had immigrated to Colombia during the Second World War: Germans or Austrians - Ernst Massar, Federico Mamitza, Jacob Seib, Werner Küenzel, Wilhelm Spachovsky, Frederich Weymayr and Martin Lutz - and Italians – Guido Burzzi, Francesco Cozza, Antonio Caccielo, Paolo Lossa, and Bartolo Serafin. In 1953, under the rectorship of Julio Álvarez Cerón, faculty and students occupy the new campus which they call “University City”. A year later, two new engineering programs were opened – Metallurgy and Petroleum engineering. They were created to meet the demands of a local growing petrochemical industry and to prepare for the reversion of the Mares Oil Concession to the Nation.
In 1957, Rodolfo Low Maus became Rector of the University. Maus managed to attract important financial assistance for the UIS from prestigious American Foundations, from ECOPETROL, and from the UNESCO. This funding enabled the university to open the Institute of Scientific Research, under the direction of Juan Ramirez Muñoz, and in 1961 the Industrial Engineering Faculty. A year later, the number of students enrolled in the UIS reached 675 and the construction of new buildings was under way in the “University City”. Thus, at the beginning of the 60’s, there were 12 buildings occupied by the different engineering faculties, the research institute and the library. In 1963, with 1,147 registered students, the university was an excellent school for engineering – but for men as there were only 16 registered women! This situation, however, has been changing considerably since then. During the second half of the decade of the 60’s, under the rectorship of Dr. Juan Francisco Villarreal, the School of Engineering gave way to an authentic university incorporating almost all the sciences and different professions. A fusion with the Feminine University brought many women on campus to study Architectural Design, Bacteriology, Physiotherapy, and Nutrition. This was the point of departure for the creation of the Health Sciences Faculty, a project that added to the university the School of Medicine and Nursing. Thus, in 1967, The Health Sciences Faculty was working with students in its 5 professional programs from 3 specialized departments. This faculty operated off campus alongside the Ramon Gonzalez Valencia University Hospital.

The creation of the Social Work program in 1967 and the adoption of an administrative system that grouped the departments into six divisions, as outlined by the Basic Plan (Plan Basico), changed the European model of administration for an American one as recommended by experts from universities in California, the Kansas State Teachers College, and others. This was also a period of student protest movements, organized by AUDESA and encouraged by the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and criticism of the government bilateral pact, which created the National Front (Frente Nacional). This protest movement, which affected universities throughout the country, did not, however, deter the expansion of programs offered by the UIS. In 1970, Systems Engineering and the Language degree programs were developed and three years later, Mathematics and Biology were also implemented.