Celebrating 50 Years

In 2018 UFM celebrated its 50th year of connecting people and ideas for unlimited learning in communities across Kansas.

The UFM House at 1221 Thurston

Our History Then & Now

UFM Community Learning Center is a non-profit campus and community education program serving Kansas State University, the Manhattan area and communities across Kansas. UFM was started in the late 1960’s by a group of KSU students and faculty as a way to bridge communication between the campus community and the Manhattan community. The first catalog of classes was published in January, 1968. That semester seven classes were offered with 150 people participating. The goal at that time was to provide opportunities for students and faculty to interact more easily with the community and to serve a variety of people in the community.

UFM was created as part of a national movement on college campuses called the “Free University” movement. This movement was based on the idea that people could learn from one another without the hindrance of traditional school settings. The programs were free of academic credentials and credits. The concept was that anyone could learn and anyone could teach. This idea became so popular that the movement quickly moved from the alternative, underground movement of the 1960’s to an acceptance of adult and leisure learning that continues today. UFM is considered to be the oldest continuously operating free university still in existence in the United States, and here it is in Manhattan, Kansas.

The original name of the organization was University for Man. In the early 1990’s it was changed to University for Mankind. In 1999, the words were eliminated, but the well-known initials UFM were retained and additional explanatory words, Community Learning Center were added. The official name is now, UFM Community Learning Center.

UFM is best known for its catalog of noncredit and credit classes offered each semester. But, UFM offers much more than that. UFM has been involved in the creation of numerous programs and services in the Manhattan area. UFM collaborates with other groups in the community to address unmet needs in the area. Currently UFM sponsors a teen mentoring program, the oldest community garden in Kansas, programming for older adults and an enrichment program for special needs adults and coordinates a social justice lecture series.

Our Mission

Based on the philosophy that everyone can learn and everyone can teach, UFM provides opportunities for lifelong learning and personal development. UFM serves as a forum for the exchange of ideas and as a catalyst for new programs and services that enhance the quality of life for all.

Our Vision

Connecting people and ideas for unlimited learning.

A Few Fun Facts

UFM Directors
UFM Board Members
Class Catalogs
UFM Staff
UFM Class Instructors

Come see the posters from the Kemper Exhibit

Stop by the UFM House to see the poster exhibit about UFM’s history, people and programs.
These were exhibited at the Kemper Art Gallery in the K-State Student Union in the Fall, 2018. Now they are permanently mounted at UFM.
Watch:  Open to All – UFM 50 Years Strong, a documentary about UFM.

Over the past 50 years…


1968 – “Man in the Year 2000”— Seven courses offered as UFM’s first catalog of classes. The office was located at 1901 Anderson until 1971


1971 – Location move to 615 Fairchild Terrace

1972 – Pottery and photography cooperative is started
– People’s Grocery Cooperative started

1974 – Manhattan Community Gardens started

1975 – UFM moves to 1221 Thurston on a lease arrangement

1978 – Appropriate Technology Program is established in separate division of UFM, growing from a single class in 1971

1979 – Community Resource Act approved by Kansas Legislature
– First Grassroots Community Education Award
– Two year project begins to extend UFM model to five other states


1980 – First Lou Douglas Lecture
– Solar Addition constructed

1981 – Rural Action Agenda Project
– UFM Woodshop Cooperative opened

1982 – Purchase of 1221 Thurston

1984 – Home Owners Maintenance and Energy Program started

1986 – Manhattan Community Gardens wins national award as best Community Gardens
– H.O.M.E WORK ’86 organized as home improvement workday

1988 – Kansas Politics and Aging

1989 – Kansas Literacy Conference
– Homeless Literacy Conference


1990 – Manhattan Community Gardens wins “America the Beautiful” Award
– Memory Lane Bike Tour held

1991 – UFM took the Community Enrichment Program from KSU Division of Continuing Education
– Began PTCED

1993 – UFM awarded Outstanding Program Award by National Community Education Association

1994 – Collaborative SHARE Youth Development Project funded by the Association for Community Based Education

1996 – Community Gardens awarded International Peace Pole
– Lost funding for Homeless Literacy Project

1997 – Secondary School Mentoring Program funded by City of Manhattan and YES Fund
– SHARE governance returned to Flint Hills Breadbasket


2001 – UFM received Mayor’s Sustainability Award

2002 – Paid off loan and KSU Foundation on January 15, 2002; new loan with Kansas State Bank
– Became Representative Payee for Social Security Disability clients

2004 – Paid off mortgage on 1221 Thurston on April 30, 2004

2005 – Named Provider of the Year by American Red Cross

2006 – Garden recognized as the oldest Community Gardens in Kansas by American Garden Association
– Howie’s bought West Garden. Plots were reorganized in the winter months

2007 – Recipient of the Caroline F. Peine Foundation Grant to renovate the Solar Addition

2008 – Added Photovoltaic cell array—first small organization in Kansas to be on the grid.
– Celebrated UFM’s 40th Anniversary

2009 – Recipient of the Caroline F. Peine Foundation Grant as collaboration to create a Learning Garden at Northview Elementary School
– Peace Pole was located in UFM yard as a gift from the K-State Campaign for Nonviolence


2010 – Discontinued Social Security Representative Payee Services
– UFM was recognized by Students for Environmental Action for efforts in sustainability and volunteer efforts at the K-State Volunteer Center annual recognition celebration.
– UFM began coordinating the Osher Institute in collaboration with K-State Division of Continuing Education and the University of Kansas.

2011 – Began KONZA Internet Radio project as an MP3 download service. This project was suspended in 2013 due to lack of funding and community support.

2012 – Collins Lane Garden began. Howie’s bought the remaining North Garden.
– Project EXCELL (Extending College Education for Lifelong Learning) came under UFM umbrella

2013 – UFM’s Teen Mentoring Program receives the Regional Association of Continuing Higher Education (ACHE) Outstanding Noncredit Program Award.
– UFM received a Caroline F. Peine Foundation Grant to complete facility upgrades including repair of the basement leak, repairing the front porch and installing new windows throughout the building.

2015 – UFM’s Teen Mentoring program receives the National Association of Continuing Higher Education (ACHE) Outstanding Noncredit Program Award. CRA funding discontinued.

2016 – UFM receives the Greater Manhattan Community Foundation Nonprofit Service Award
– UFM/Project EXCELL received the National Association of Continuing Higher Education (ACHE) award for Underserved Populations


2017 – UFM upgraded the classroom technology adding internet accessibility to the televisions in all four room. Ordered new staff office furniture for all staff.
– UFM received the Community Engagement Award from the Central Region UPCEA. Kayla Savage, UFM Education coordinator receives Outstanding Online Student Award from the same organization.

2018 – UFM Community Learning Center celebrates its 50th anniversary.