University History

University of Michigan-Dearborn was founded in 1959 with a gift of just over 200 acres of land and $6.5 million from the Ford Motor Co.

Since registering our first class of 34 students, we’ve continued to grow—setting new enrollment records annually since 2014—and refine our vision for southeast Michigan.


UM-Dearborn Center opened to students, with its first regular term starting on September 28.

Junior, senior and first-year graduate students enrolled in three degree programs: Industrial Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Business Administration.


Throughout the 60s, we expanded our engineering and business offerings, introduced new programs in liberal arts and sciences and teacher education, and strengthened our emphasis on experiential learning through co-ops.

In October 1962, 20 students received their degrees at our first graduation ceremony.

Four-year degree options were approved in 1969 and implemented in 1971, when our name changed to University of Michigan-Dearborn.


The new decade ushered in an era of exponential population growth; we grew from 1,000 students in 1971 to 6,000 in 1979.

We opened our Child Care Center (which later became the Early Childhood Education Center) in 1971 and, in 1973, announced plans for opening the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters and Schools of Management, Education and Engineering.


In the 80s, we pioneered several education programs and improved sustainability efforts on campus. With the creation of a five-year strategic plan, we focused on continued growth and engagement with surrounding communities.

In 1981, the Holocaust Survivor Oral History Project began.

1985 was a momentous year, marked by a $2.15 million gift from the Annenberg Foundation and Corporation for Public Broadcasting, our largest foundation grant yet. The University of Michigan also announced plans to link all three campuses and create the largest telecommunication network in higher education.


The early 90s marked UM-Dearborn’s “Years of Redirection,” in which we created a new campus mission statement affirming our commitment to academic excellence for students in metropolitan Detroit.

In 1990, we celebrated the accreditation of our Child Development Center by the National Academy of Early Childhood Programs, making it one of just 34 programs nationwide to hold such distinction.

Our newly created Faculty Senate first met in 1993, the same year we received a $50,000 grant to help fund minority scholars transfer to UM-Dearborn.

By the time of our 30th anniversary in 1994, we reached 19,000 alumni.


The new millennium saw the university’s renewed commitment to doctoral programming and focus on inclusion and diversity. As we look ahead to the decades before us, we are as committed as ever to strengthening our reputation as a nationally recognized university making a metropolitan impact.

In 2003, we purchased the Fairlane Center on Hubbard Drive from Ford Motor Co. to house our School of Education and School of Management. Classes began at our new location Winter 2004.

We offered our first doctoral program in 2008, with our first Ph.D. conferred in 2012. UM-Dearborn celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009.

The Corporation for National and Community Service named UM-Dearborn to the 2009 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. It is the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for commitment to volunteering.


In 2012 our first doctoral degree was awarded to Xuan Zhou, who earned a Ph.D. in automotive systems engineering.

In 2013, we announced the evolution of the School of Education into the College of Education, Health, and Human Services. A private developer also opened the doors to a brand new, state-of-the-art student housing apartment complex, the Union at Dearborn, just across Evergreen Road from campus.

Athletics nickname was changed from Wolves to Wolverines in 2013.

University receives its largest gift in 2014, $13.5 million from the Arthur and Mary Kochoff estate.

University celebrates its 50,000 graduate in 2015.

In 2016, the Natural Sciences Building opens, a $51 million state capital outlay project and the Engineering Fabrication Center opens inside the Manufacturing Systems Engineering Lab.

University’s doctoral programs become affiliated with U-M Rackham Graduate School.

University’s strategic plan, Go Blueprint for Success, including an Urban Futures initiative launched in 2019.


In March 2020, COVID-19 pandemic forces university to move to on-line learning. Remote learning continues in various percentages through fall 2021 semester.

Engineering Lab Building opens in March 2021, a $90 million state capital outlay project.

Go Blue Guarantee comes to UM-Dearborn in 2021, providing free tuition to students meeting specific academic and financial criteria. 

In 2021, university receives second largest gift, $8 million from anonymous donor.

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