Opened for enrollment in 1966, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) was created to serve the overflow of students from the Baltimore area seeking admission to UM College Park. From its beginning the new commuter campus faced a surfeit of problems. Sited on free land taken from a suburban state hospital for insane criminals, the campus was not sponsored or protected by any political constituency. There were already nine other campuses in the metropolitan area, which often opposed funding and the creation of new programs at UMBC. Located a few miles from the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus, there was no chance UMBC could develop the array of professional schools common to research universities. Its County name, an afterthought, was more consistent with two-year schools than a Ph.D.-granting institution. Yet as UMBC approaches its 50th anniversary, it has become a national role model for new American universities. Improbable Excellence describes how this remarkable development took place.