Capsule History

September of 2001 marked the 42nd anniversary for the University of Michigan-Dearborn, which opened as the Dearborn Center of the University of Michigan on September 28, 1959.

The first movement toward what was to become the University of Michigan-Dearborn began with some studies of manpower supply conducted by Mr. Archie Pearson, director of training for Ford Motor Company, in the middle 1950s. He was convinced that serious shortages were looming for the company in qualified, college-trained engineers and junior administrators. Accordingly, he made discreet inquiries of educational institutions in the Detroit area concerning their willingness to adjust their programs to meet these needs. Pearson was particularly interested in a program with a cooperative education component which would provide several periods of full-time work experience, alternating with regular terms of professional academic study. However, his inquiries and those of his associates did not strike the responsive chord they were looking for until they were put in touch with members of the top administration at the University of Michigan. Thus in late 1955 began the negotiations between Pearson, his associates, and University of Michigan officials which led to the establishment of the Dearborn Center of the University of Michigan. During 1956, the details of the proposed campus were worked out by a special committee involving top administrators at both Ford and the University of Michigan. The announcement on December 17, 1956, of a gift of land and capital development money from Ford to the University of Michigan made it obvious that the focus of the agreement between the two was the building of an upper-division and master's level campus of the University which would adopt the cooperative work-study requirement as a part of its regular degree program in engineering and business administration. The University was to provide the regular professional and liberal arts courses necessary to a University of Michigan bachelor's or master's degree, with the co-op work assignments forming an integral addition to the regular academic requirements.

The upper-division cooperative education program, then, was the first important educational emphasis of what is now the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Cooperative education is still a vital part of the professional programs of UM-Dearborn, and not only has it expanded to include liberal arts students, but other kinds of off-campus experience for credit have been added as well. There are now regular program-related internships in political science, economics, social work, humanities, health sciences, and public administration. Nevertheless, it became apparent in the early days that the campus could not afford to be limited to a single focus, and over the years it has gone through several stages of modifying its original purposes and structure.
From its inception in 1956 to about 1962 (the Center's fourth year of operation), the cooperative education program was confidently set forth as a sufficient raison d'etre for the campus, in spite of growing evidence that this admittedly fine and educationally sound opportunity was not drawing a sufficient number of students for economical use of the facilities. In February 1962, William Stirton, the University of Michigan vice-president who was the first chief executive of UM-Dearborn, announced that cooperative education was being extended to the liberal arts areas on an optional basis, beginning in the Fall term, 1962. In reality, however, very few liberal arts co-op work assignments were actually made before 1973, when the present liberal arts co-op program was officially established. Although this early abortive attempt to extend the co-op program to liberal arts was an apparently small episode in the history of the campus, it constituted the last major attempt to build the campus solely on the basis of the co-op programs and the upper-division/graduate structure. Moreover, it came at about the same time as the change in the name of the institution from "Center" to "Campus" (to make its objectives seem less limited). Both events seem to have marked the beginning of a period in the middle sixties characterized by growing uncertainty about the future of the institution. This period ended in 1969 with the recommendations of the Ross Committee (also referred to as the Balzhiser Committee, and officially called the Dearborn Campus Planning Study Committee), which radically changed the direction of the Campus.

The 1969 report of the Dearborn Campus Planning Study Committee, appointed by University Vice-President for State Relations and Planning Arthur Ross to consider the future of the campus, recommended the adding of the first two years and the expansion of non-co-op programs; they recommended other changes as well, most of which were implemented in 1971 to give the campus its present structure. It became at that time a four-year undergraduate institution (newly designated "The University of Michigan-Dearborn") with a continued commitment to some master's level graduate programs, having a chancellor as its chief executive officer; two years later, the old divisions became schools and colleges, and the Division of Education ("Urban Education" for the first few years) was created, with each of the major academic units headed by a dean. The first chancellor of UM-Dearborn, Leonard E. Goodall, was appointed in July 1971.

After that watershed change in 1971, UM-Dearborn grew rapidly from just under 1,000 students to over 6,000 in 1979. During this period there was a scramble just to supply the courses and facilities needed to accommodate the soaring student population. New faculty were added at the rate of 10 to 20 per year, and the face of the campus changed as a whole new set of buildings (the University Mall, the Fieldhouse, and the Library) was planned and constructed to the south of the original four buildings. By April 1981, when the new library building was jubilantly dedicated, the population center of the campus had shifted to this newly developed area. Ironically, however, these years of expansion also ushered in a period of severe retrenchment, when the debt burden of the new structures coincided with a recession and cuts in state aid to the campus. William Jenkins, appointed as UM-Dearborn's second chancellor in 1980, took the helm at the beginning of what may be called the institution's "Years of Consolidation.

"The early 1980s at UM-Dearborn were, as in the state of Michigan as a whole, the severest period of financial crisis in UM-Dearborn's existence. From 1979 through 1982, over a million dollars of funds allocated to UM-Dearborn by the state had to be recalled. During that same time, faculty and staff salaries were cut and student tuition rose 44 percent in three years. Nevertheless, student enrollment, after a slight drop from 1982 to 1984, resumed its steady rise and continued through the academic year 1992-93. A new surge in capital fund-raising was instigated as a result of the campus's fiscal problems, and it bore early fruit in 1984 when Ford Motor Company announced the biggest capital gift to UM-Dearborn since its founding: $800,000 to build a computer-aided engineering facility, now known as the Manufacturing Systems Engineering Lab (completed in 1988). By the end of the decade, capital funding from the state (which had been delayed during the recession) was flowing again, resulting in one major new building (the Science Building's Computer Wing, opened in 1991-92) and extensive renovations to provide much-needed additional office space for both faculty and administrators.

Several developments in campus organization, administrative personnel, and academic offerings have highlighted what might be called the "Years of Redirection," from about the time of the inauguration of Chancellor Blenda Wilson (1988) to the present. At the center of this "redirection" has been a program of Strategic Planning, initiated in the summer of 1990 and reinforced by annual planning retreats for the whole campus in the fall terms of 1990, 1991, and 1992. A campus mission statement arose out of the first retreat that rearticulated UM-Dearborn's commitment to providing an experience of academic excellence for a diverse body of students from the metropolitan Detroit area, encouraging full community attention to the traditions of free intellectual inquiry, critical thinking, and ethical behavior through interactive teaching, research, creative and applied scholarship, and service. From the second retreat emerged the principal points of a newly articulated set of Goals for the Undergraduate Experience.

In consonance with these statements of institutional purpose, organizational changes were made to strengthen the funding base for the campus, to consolidate and streamline academic programs, and to coordinate and strengthen student services under a new vice chancellor for student affairs. In July, 1991, Robert Simpson took office as only the second fully appointed chief academic officer of the campus, succeeding Eugene Arden, who began as Dean of Academic Affairs in 1972. Provost Simpson has energetically promoted the identification and implementation of those measures of academic improvement which are most appropriate to the newly stated purposes of the campus. Under his leadership, a new statement of UM-Dearborn's Learning Goals was completed in 1993; a new fiber-optic cable was laid for a campus computer network, with the director of the Mardigian Library being given oversight of Information Technology Services; and, after a self-study (1991-93) using the campus's Strategic Plan as the focus, UM-Dearborn was officially re-accredited by the North Central Association in March 1994.

James C. Renick was appointed as the fourth chancellor of UM-Dearborn in January 1993, following the resignation of Chancellor Wilson in the summer of 1992 to assume a new post in California. Chancellor Renick emphasized the importance of making UM-Dearborn more fully an "interactive campus" with the community it serves, southeastern Michigan. He focused on four areas in order to further the mission of the University: (1) expand our capacity as a truly interactive university, responsive to educational, cultural, economic, intellectual issues and needs of the region; (2) build on our strong commitment to students; (3) solidify external support; and (4) expand the uses of information technology to enhance teaching and learning. In his administration, UM-D experienced several important developments: (1) a new Mission Statement was formulated; (2) a new set of Campus Bylaws provided for a Faculty Senate for the first time in the campus's history; and (3) funds were received from the State for the construction of four major new facilities for the School of Engineering, the College of Business, the Center for Corporate and Professional Development, and the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters. The first three of these four buildings were completed between 1994 and 1997, and the fourth, for CASL, was opened in the summer of 2001.

UM-D's commitment to preserving and wisely using its 70-acre Natural Area continued in the 1990's with two successive large-scale, grant-supported educational programs on the Rouge River Watershed, coordinated by UM-D's professor of biology and Director of Natural Areas, Orin Gelderloos. The cooperation during these projects between UM-Dearborn, Wayne County, the State of Michigan, several cities along the banks of the Rouge, and various industries and businesses gave additional support to the building of a new Environmental Interpretation Center at UM-D, which was dedicated in May, 2001.

UM-Dearborn's fifth Chancellor, Daniel K. Little, was appointed in July of 2000, after Chancellor Renick accepted the presidency of another institution. Chancellor Little has continued cultivate the interaction between UM-D and surrounding communities and to emphasize the need for long-term campus planning and non-State funding. He has refocused attention on the quality of undergraduate education at UM-D, and is leading discussions related to doctoral education and the potential for creating a residential environment on campus.

Enrollment at UM-Dearborn reached a record high of 8,484 during the fall term, 2000, reflecting a continuing high demand for the expanded programs and facilities of the campus. Graduate programs have been the fastest growing segment of the curriculum, with the addition of over a dozen new master's degrees, including the first three ever on this campus in the liberal arts and science. The University of Michigan-Dearborn has begun the new millennium and its forty-third year of operation with fresh facilities and programs, but a recommitment to its basic goals from the beginning: maintaining the quality of faculty and instruction appropriate to the University of Michigan and serving the particular educational needs of the Detroit metropolitan community.