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
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.
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.
Wolverine Pathways launched
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dr. Remus Robinson elected to Detroit school board
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.
Belle Isle Bridge opens
Designed by native Detroiter and U-M’s first dean of architecture Emil Lorch, the Belle Isle bridge opens.
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.
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.
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.
Michigan Establishes Statehood
Under a new state constitution, the University of Michigan relocates from Detroit to Ann Arbor.
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.”
University’s first building is completed
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.
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.