In 1944, the McCandless family designated a gift to support medical and biological research at Emory University; in its stipulations, a "University Committee on Research" was to be established to oversee the distribution of the funding. The University Research Committee (URC) was formed shortly after to carry out their wishes. Over the years the University Research Committee has widened its charge and sources of funding to nurture and recognize the entire spectrum of research disciplines to include funding for grants in the social sciences and humanities, beginning with the support of the graduate school in the 1970's.

Since its inception, the University Research Committee has functioned under the auspices of the Faculty Council as a standing committee, and as an initiative supported by the Office of the Provost.