Detroit city skyline in the evening.

History

Detroit is the birthplace of the University of Michigan where it was founded 1817 as the Catholepistemiad or University of Michigania. At that time, Detroit was the capital of the Michigan Territory. In 1837, the Michigan Territory became the State of Michigan, and the University of Michigan moved to Ann Arbor in the original 40-acre parcel that is our current Diag. U-M has maintained connections to the City of Detroit and its residents ever since.

U-M Detroit Timeline

2019
2019

School at Marygrove

U-M partners with the Detroit Public Schools Community District and others to launch the School at Marygrove, a cradle-to-career educational partnership that will include a state-of-the-art early childhood education center, a new K-12 school, and the introduction of an innovative teacher education program modeled after hospital residency programs.

2018
2018

Brightmoor Maker Space

Brightmoor Maker Space

The Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design partners with the Detroit Public Schools Community District to transform a vacant 3,200-square-foot building into the Brightmoor Maker Space, a place for kids and adults to build their creative skills and nurture business ideas.

2018

Partnership on Economic Mobility

The Partnership on Economic Mobility is established between U-M’s Poverty Solutions initiative and the City of Detroit to identify and implement strategies that improve economic opportunity and reduce poverty in Detroit.

2017
2017

Wolverine Pathways launched

Wolverine Pathways launched

Wolverine Pathways — a college readiness program for 7th- to 12th-grade students that launched in Ypsilanti and Southfield in 2016 — expands to Detroit and awards full-tuition scholarships for four years to students who successfully complete the program and earn admission to U-M.

2017

Horace H. Rackham Educational Memorial Building

The Board of Regents votes to acquire full ownership of the Horace H. Rackham Educational Memorial Building on Farnsworth Street, intended to become a vibrant space for U-M and community activities in Detroit.

2016
2016

U-M researchers work to restore Lake Sturgeon

U-M researchers work to restore Lake Sturgeon

U-M researchers are part of a multi-institution team working to restore lake sturgeon by building rock spawning reefs in two Detroit-area rivers. A set of reefs is completed in December in the Detroit River near Belle Isle.

2016

Poverty Solutions launched

U-M launches Poverty Solutions, an initiative to explore and test models to ease the effects of poverty and broadly share that knowledge. Much of this work takes place in partnership with Detroit residents and organizations.

2015
2015

Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow Consortium Opens in Detroit

Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow Consortium Opens in Detroit

The Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT) Consortium opens in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, with U-M a key partner in the public-private manufacturing insitute. The institute is charged with establishing a regional manufacturing ecosystem to move cutting-edge lightweight metals out of the research lab and into tomorrow’s cars, trucks, airplanes, and ships for both the commercial and military sectors.

2013
2013

Mike Duggan Elected

Mike Duggan Elected

U-M alumnus Mike Duggan is elected Detroit’s mayor.

2011
2011

Michigan Urban Farming Initiative founded

Michigan Urban Farming Initiative founded

U-M students Tyson Gersh and Darin McLeskey found the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative in Detroit’s North End with the mission of using urban agriculture as a platform to promote education, sustainability, and community. With the help of more than 10,000 volunteers, MUFI has grown and distributed more than 50,000 pounds of produce to more than 2,000 households.

2010
2010

Michigan Engineering Zone Opens

Michigan Engineering Zone Opens

The Michigan Engineering Zone (MEZ) opens as a collaboration between the College of Engineering, Detroit Public Schools, and the FIRST Robotics program to encourage young people to pursue careers in science and technology fields.

2009
2009

Semester in Detroit

Semester in Detroit

The Semester in Detroit program begins after four undergraduate students set out to create a program that fulfills a vision of applied education, community engagement, and social justice.

2005
2005

Detroit Center Opens

Detroit Center Opens

The University of Michigan’s Detroit Center opens on Woodward Avenue to support and grow research projects and outreach initiatives while also offering space for an increasing number of university programs involving Detroit citizens and organizations.

2004
2004

Kym Worthy appointed Wayne County Prosecutor

Kym Worthy appointed Wayne County Prosecutor

U-M alumna Kym Worthy is appointed prosecutor of Wayne County, becoming the first woman and first African American to hold the position. She later successfully prosecutes ex-mayor of Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick on numerous criminal charges.

1999
1999

Detroit Partnership Established

Detroit Partnership Established

A student organization called the Detroit Project — later renamed the Detroit Partnership — is established by U-M students to connect with Detroit-based community partners through service-learning opportunities and on-campus events. This organization establishes DP Day, the largest service-learning day at U-M.

1995
1995

Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center Established

Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center Established

The Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center is established as a collaboration of Detroit organizations and U-M researchers working to improve health equity in Detroit.

1981
1981

Dudley Randall Named Poet Laureate of Detroit

Dudley Randall Named Poet Laureate of Detroit

U-M alumnus Dudley Randall is named Poet Laureate of Detroit. Randall had earlier founded Broadside Press, a company that published many leading African American writers, including Audre Lorde and Gwendolyn Brooks.

1966
1966

Merit Network Established

The university partners with Wayne State University in Detroit and Michigan State University to establish the Merit Network. The network plays a key role in the development of the internet, enabling scale-up and enhancing the interactivity of computer networks.

1959
1959

University of Michigan-Dearborn opens

University of Michigan-Dearborn opens

The University of Michigan-Dearborn opens as the Dearborn Center of the University of Michigan with a gift of just over 200 acres of land and $6.5 million from the Ford Motor Company. Early academic offerings include a cooperative education program between the company and the university for engineering and business administration students.

1955
1955

Dr. Remus Robinson elected to Detroit school board

Dr. Remus Robinson elected to Detroit school board

Graduate of U-M Medical School and chief surgeon at Detroit’s Parkside Hospital, Dr. Remus Robinson is elected to the Detroit school board and becomes its first African American member. As school board president, he fights to end de facto segregation in Detroit classrooms.

1950
1950

WWJ-TV Launches Telecourses

WWJ-TV Launches Telecourses

Working with the Detroit News’ station WWJ-TV, the University of Michigan launches a series of telecourses taught by the faculty. Registered viewers pay a small fee and receive a certificate of participation. U-M offered these courses through 1954.

1948
1948

Bob Mann and Mel Groomes Join Detroit Lions

Bob Mann and Mel Groomes Join Detroit Lions

U-M alumnus Bob Mann joins the University of Indiana’s Mel Groomes as the first two African Americans to play football for the Detroit Lions.

1942
1942

Horace H. Rackham Educational Memorial Building opens Detroit

Horace H. Rackham Educational Memorial Building opens Detroit

The Horace H. Rackham Educational Memorial Building opens in Midtown Detroit as a social and educational meeting place for U-M, the Engineering Society of Detroit, and various Detroit organizations.

1935
1935

New Deal Public Housing Project

New Deal Public Housing Project

U-M alumna Josephine Gomon is head of the Detroit Housing Commission when first lady Eleanor Roosevelt comes to town to launch a New Deal public housing project.

1930
1930

Murphy elected Mayor

Murphy elected Mayor

A 1914 graduate of the Michigan Law School, Frank Murphy is elected mayor of Detroit.

1928
1928

Ambassador Bridge opens

Ambassador Bridge opens

The Ambassador Bridge opens, connecting Detroit to Windsor. Detroiter Cornelius Langston Henderson, the second African American to earn a U-M engineering degree, was responsible for the structural steel design of the bridge from the Canadian side, as well as the massive steel tubes of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, which opened two years later.

1923
1923

Belle Isle Bridge opens

Belle Isle Bridge opens

Designed by native Detroiter and U-M’s first dean of architecture Emil Lorch, the Belle Isle bridge opens.

1919
1919

Henry Frieze Vaughan Becomes Detroit’s Chief Public Health Official

Henry Frieze Vaughan Becomes Detroit’s Chief Public Health Official

U-M graduate Henry Frieze Vaughan becomes Detroit’s chief public health official and leads a proactive public health program known as the Detroit Plan. The strategy helps to substantially bolster a growing Detroit’s capacity to deal with diseases such as tuberculosis, typhus, smallpox, measles, and pneumonia.

1911
1911

Herman Keifer Hospital opens

Herman Keifer Hospital opens

Herman Keifer Hospital, a public hospital for Detroit’s neediest residents, opens. Kiefer was a U-M Regent and longtime Detroit physician.

1910
1910

Robert Toms Graduates from U-M Law School

Robert Toms Graduates from U-M Law School

Future Wayne County Prosecutor Robert Toms, who would later also prosecute Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg trials, graduates from U-M Law School.

1887
1887

Frederick Blackburn Pelham receives his degree

Frederick Blackburn Pelham receives his degree

Detroiter Frederick Blackburn Pelham — U-M’s first African American engineer — receives his degree.

1879
1879

The Wolverines Play in Detroit

The Wolverines Play in Detroit

Between 1879 and 1901, U-M football regularly plays its games in the city, drawing the biggest crowds of the season thanks to U-M alumni in Detroit who turn out for games. The Wolverines typically play on the grounds of the Detroit Athletic Club, then located west of Woodward Avenue between Forest and Canfield streets.

1877
1877

Clarence Darrow attends U-M Law School

Clarence Darrow attends U-M Law School

Famed attorney Clarence Darrow attends U-M Law School. In 1925, Darrow defends Ossian and Henry Sweet, Detroit brothers charged with killing a white man. The first trial ends in a hung jury; a second trial, charging only Henry Sweet, brings an acquittal.

1873
1873

Sarah Gertrude Banks graduates from U-M Medical School

Sarah Gertrude Banks graduates from U-M Medical School

Sarah Gertrude Banks graduates from the U-M Medical School, where she is in the second group of women to earn a medical degree. She goes on to serve as resident physician at the Women’s Hospital and Foundlings’ Home in Detroit before opening a private practice, establishing herself as one of the city’s foremost physicians, and becoming a strong advocate for women’s suffrage.

1854
1854

Detroit Observatory is Built

Detroit Observatory is Built

With gifts from Detroit business leaders, the Detroit Observatory in Ann Arbor is built expressly for scientific study, helping to transform U-M into one of the first U.S. research universities.

1837
1837

Dr. Zina Pitcher Serves Three Terms as Mayor of Detroit

Dr. Zina Pitcher Serves Three Terms as Mayor of Detroit

Dr. Zina Pitcher, army surgeon, botanist, teacher, and politician, serves three terms as mayor of Detroit. He is the driving force behind the city’s first public school system and an active member of U-M’s Board of Regents from 1837-52.

1837

Michigan Establishes Statehood

Under a new state constitution, the University of Michigan relocates from Detroit to Ann Arbor.

1824
1824

Detroit’s First Mayor Elected

Detroit’s First Mayor Elected

John R. Williams is elected Detroit’s first mayor and serves as one of the original trustees of U-M.

1821
1821

Lemuel Shattuck returns to New England

Lemuel Shattuck returns to New England

After four years in Detroit, Lemuel Shattuck returns to New England, where he becomes a leader in public health. According to a testimonial letter from the time, Detroit citizens praise him for growing the young U-M “from its infancy to that state of maturity and usefulness.”

1818
1818

University’s first building is completed

University’s first building is completed

The “University of Michigania’s” first building is completed, paid for by citizens and standing two stories tall. It is home to teachers Lemuel Shattuck at the primary level, and Hugh M. Dickie at the more-advanced classical academy — in effect, a high school.

1817
1817

Bates Street Cornerstone

On September 26, a cornerstone is placed on Bates Street near Congress Street in Detroit — the territory’s capitol at the time — signaling the “University of Michigania’s” physical presence in the city.

1817

University Founding

The university is founded in Detroit as the Catholepistemiad, or University of Michigania, by Augustus Woodward, Rev. John Monteith, and Rev. Gabriel Richard.

Sources of information used to compile this timeline include The University of Michigan, An Encyclopedic Survey; The Making of the University of Michigan, 1817-1992, by Howard H. Peckham; Board of Regents proceedings; contemporary newspaper accounts; and the Lemuel Shattuck papers in the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library.