Friday, September 21, 2012

Central's 120th Anniversary

by Bryan Whitledge

On September 13, Central Michigan University celebrated its 120th birthday. The Institution has come a long way since that first meeting of the students of the Central Michigan Normal School and Business Institute in the Carpenter Building (it would be another year before the Institution moved from Carpenter Building, which was located at the corners of Michigan and Main in the downtown Mount Pleasant area and was later destroyed by fire, to the area where the CMU campus is today).

The 120th anniversary of the opening CMNS & BI has been marked by the University community with various events. The "State of the University Address" by President George Ross was specifically selected to take pace on September 13 to mark the occasion. Prior to the start of the fall semester, the University Communications office began posting historic photos of CMU, broken down into decades on the CMU facebook page. The final posting with images from the 2000s coincided with the week of the anniversary. Several of the images from pre-1980 can be found in the holdings of the Clarke Historical Library. For example, here are some images from the 1920s on the CMU facebook page. To see all of the images, use the timeline feature on the right side of the facebook page to scroll back through the decades.

Celebrating milestones in the history of Central is nothing new. For over 70 years, beginning with Professor Roland Maybee's 50th anniversary research in the 1940s, we have reflected on where the University has come from and how this foundation will allow us to evolve in the future. The 2.5 cubic feet of research materials that Professor Maybee collected to create a 75th anniversary is maintained at the Clarke Historical Library for generations of future researchers to consult.

In the early 1990s, to mark the 100th anniversary of the University, the former director of the Clarke Historical Library, John Cumming published a history entitled, The First Hundred Years: a portrait of Central Michigan University, 1892-1992. This item is available to view in both the Park and Clarke Historical Libraries, and it is also available in a digital format on the Library's digitized documents website, CONDOR. Click here to view a digital copy of John Cumming's book.

A study of the history of our institution does not only give one a sense of the happenings in Mount Pleasant, but it relates to the larger world of higher education and changes in what it meant to be a young person attempting to get ahead in our society. In five years, Central will surely be recognizing the 125th anniversary of its founding and for those looking to study the history of Central Michigan University, there is no better resource than the Clarke Historical Library.