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CMU - A Brief History

Central Michigan University is in its second century as an institution of higher learning focused on creating a caring and engaging environment for students to achieve success.

Central opened its doors on September 13, 1892, as the Central Michigan Normal School and Business Institute, with classes in teaching, business and stenography. At that time, few of the state’s teachers received any formal training in teaching, so school founders made teacher training their mission in founding the state’s second normal school.

Thirty-one students attended classes in second-floor rooms over an office on the corner of Main and Michigan streets in downtown Mount Pleasant. Most students at the time were eighth-grade graduates, attending the “Normal” for a few weeks or months prior to beginning their careers as teachers. Within the first two years, land was acquired and a $10,000 Normal School Building was constructed where Warriner Hall now stands.

In 1895, the Michigan State Board of Education assumed control of the school, which had grown to 135 students, renaming it Central Michigan Normal School. By 1918, the campus consisted of twenty-five acres with five buildings, one of which — Grawn Hall — is still in use, though substantially remodeled. Enrollment had more than tripled in 10 years to 450 students. In 1925, a fire destroyed the school’s main building, and Warriner Hall was built to replace it.

Throughout this time, Central’s educational offerings also were growing more comprehensive. Students completing two years of schooling beyond high school began receiving their life teaching certificates in 1903. The school was accredited by the North Central Association for the first time in 1915. In 1918, the Bachelor of Arts degree was first awarded, followed by the Bachelor of Science in 1927. Central’s first graduate courses were offered in 1938.

Prior to World War II, the school’s name changed again — first to Central State Teachers College, then to Central Michigan College of Education — while enrollment rose to more than 1,800 students.

In the post-war years of 1949-59, the first large student residence halls were built, and Central’s first master’s degree was accredited by the North Central Association.

On June 1, 1959, with 40 buildings standing on a 235-acre campus and an enrollment of 4,500 students, Central was renamed Central Michigan University, a designation that reflected growth in the complexity of the school’s academic offerings as well as its physical growth in the post-war period.

Through the 1960s, enrollment grew from 4,500 to more than 14,000 students. The enormous rate of growth caused significant change in the character of the university. Buildings were constructed on the land south of Preston Street, more than doubling the physical size of the campus.

The gift of Neithercut Woodland near Farwell and the establishment of CMU’s Biological Station on Beaver Island gave the university valuable facilities for specialized studies.

The number and variety of programs also grew. Programs in business and communications were developed and expanded. In 1971, the Institute for Personal and Career Development was established to provide academic programs for students with limited access to traditional forms of education.

The Specialist in Education degree marked CMU’s entry into training beyond the master’s degree level. In the early 1970s, CMU began offering doctoral programs in psychology. Today, CMU provides more than 50 master’s degree programs, two specialist degrees and 14 doctoral programs.

The technological advances of the 1980s spurred further program expansion, especially throughout the sciences. Other construction followed, including the Dow Science Complex, Applied Business Studies Complex and Student Activity Center. CMU’s Global Campus continued to grow as well, and the university offered its first online courses in 1994 to students around the world.
Campus continued to expand with the addition of academic, athletic and residential buildings through the 1990s and the early 21st century. The modern Music Building was opened in 1997, followed by a $50 million expansion of Park Library in 2002, and the state-of-the-art Health Professions Building and several residence halls in 2003.

CMU’s newest buildings are the technologically advanced and LEED-certified Education and Human Services Building, which opened in 2009, and the CMU Events Center, which opened in December 2010. In 2012, CMU opened its College of Medicine Building, where the first class of medical students began taking courses in summer 2013. This first class graduated in May 2017.

In addition, the state-of-the-art Biosciences Building, the largest capital project in CMU history, opened for classes in January 2017. The facility serves students and faculty in the biological sciences disciplines from molecular biology and biochemistry to organismal biology and ecology, houses 40 research-active faculty members, and provides space for classrooms and laboratories.

Renovation and expansion to Grawn Hall, home of the College of Business Administration, was completed in fall 2017. Renovations to the oldest building on CMU’s campus added another 6,600 square feet between two stories. In March 2018, construction began on the new 50,000-square-foot Center for Integrated Health Studies, which will allow CMU health care programs to expand.

And even though so much has changed over the last two centuries, CMU’s values today do not stray from those inscribed upon its seal in 1892: Sapientia, Virtus, Amicitia – wisdom, virtue, friendship.


Presidents of the University

Charles F.R. Bellows 1892 - 1896
Charles McKenny 1896 - 1900
Charles T. Grawn 1900 - 1918
Eugene C. Warriner 1918 - 1939
Charles L. Anspach 1939 - 1959
Judson W. Foust 1959 - 1968
William B. Boyd 1968 - 1975
Harold Abel 1975 - 1985
Arthur E. Ellis 1985 - 1988
Edward B. Jakubauskas 1988 - 1992
Leonard E. Plachta 1992 - 2000
Michael Rao 2000 - 2009
Kathleen M. Wilbur 2009 - 2010
George E. Ross 2010 – 2018
 Robert O. Davies 2018-Present