Frank A. Gulley was the first University of Arizona employee appointed by the Arizona Board of Regents. Since the University was a land grant institution chartered in 1885, it is not surprising that he was appointed professor of agriculture and director of the experiment station.
Born near Dearborn, Mich., in 1850, Gulley received his undergraduate and Master of Science degrees from Michigan’s State Agricultural College (now Michigan State University). He worked at what is now Mississippi State University and served as director of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station before coming to Tucson. His salary was $3,300.
Gulley carried out the functions of a president even though there was no official office of the president at that time. He hired faculty for the new institution and oversaw every operation leading to the University’s opening day.
On Oct. 1, 1891 six faculty members and 32 students were present when the University of Arizona actually opened. Six of the students qualified to be freshmen; the rest (since there were no high schools in Arizona) were enrolled in preparatory classes.
During his term, Gulley hired Theodore B. Comstock as the director of the School of Mines. Gulley presided first as president of the faculty and then as chairman at meetings for the faculty of the School of Mines and School of Agriculture.
Gulley issued the University’s first three bulletins on agriculture, which included information about research at the University. This research focused on irrigation, soil analysis and fruit growing. Gulley refused to give the institution’s printing contract to the Tucson newspaper owner, thinking the price was too high.
Louis Hughes, the owner of the Arizona Daily Star, a Tucson city councilman, Pima County attorney and, for a year, attorney general of the Arizona Territory, was appointed to the governorship of the territory on April 14, 1893. In this role he controlled, and therefore appointed members to, the Board of Regents, which on May 30, 1894, officially appointed Theodore B. Comstock as president of the University.
Since the Board also abolished the position of experiment station director, Gulley was forced to resign even though he had dedicated himself for four years to Arizona’s small university. Gulley moved to Phoenix, then St. Louis and later to Alton, Ill., always engaging in agricultural enterprises. In late life he returned to Dearborn to live with his sister. He died there in August 1939 at the age of 89.