Celebrate Wayne State's 150th Birthday!

Crowded conditions, Mackenzie Hall, Detroit, Michgian

Wayne State University has a big birthday this year – 150 years! Wayne State University has been a critical artery in the heart of Detroit and been vital to the lives of so many in the city and around the world.

Wayne State University has had a complex evolution through one hundred and fifty years. What we now know as Wayne State University has been built through a number of developments and alliances through the decades.

Wayne State University began in 1868 when the Detroit Medical College, forerunner of the current School of Medicine was established. This was a critical development in the state of Michigan as well as the surrounding area – reaching into Canada and Ohio – as serving as a training ground for medical professionals.

Just a short time later – in 1881 – the Detroit Normal Training School, what is now the College of Education, was established. This too was an all-important development for the state of Michigan. The School served as the training ground for educating the ever-growing state populace.

The well-known and iconic "Old Main" building of the Wayne State campus became the setting of the Detroit Junior College in 1917. The Michigan State Legislature authorized a two-year program in general education this year. In this same year what had – by that time – become the Detroit College of Medicine – admitted its first female students, and the Detroit Normal Training School admitted its first married women.

1923 was an auspicious year – with the Detroit Normal Training School becoming a four-year degree-granting institution, becoming the Detroit Teachers College. Its first degrees were awarded graduates in 1924. 1923 was also the year that the Detroit Junior College became the College of the City of Detroit with four year degree programs.

The next few years marked important growth of the University. In 1924 the College of Pharmacy was established. In 1933 the governing body of the University, the Detroit Board of Education combined six of its colleges: Liberal Arts, Education, Pharmacy, Engineering, Medicine, and the Graduate School, into one University – which was the temporarily called the Colleges of the City of Detroit.

The following year – 1934 – the name Wayne University, taken from General Anthony Wayne and also from Wayne County was adopted. Various core programs and schools were added in subsequent years: the School of Public Affairs and Social Work was added in 1935. By 1937 the Law School (first the Detroit City Law School in 1927) became part of Wayne University.

World War Two and the subsequent GI Bill were pivotal for the University – and marked great growth – in programs, student population and diversity of students. Doctoral programs were added in Chemistry, Physiological Chemistry and Education were added by 1945. 1945 also saw the College of Nursing established as a separate college. The School of Business Administration became the tenth academic unit of Wayne University in 1946.
Governor G. Mennen Williams signed Public Act 183, providing for state control and support of Wayne University, establishing Wayne State University in 1956.

Pivotal developments in the University continued through the decades including, importantly, the College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions forming in 1974 from a merger of the College of Pharmacy and the Division of Allied of Allied Health Professions of the School of Medicine.

By 1985 the College of Urban, Labor and Metropolitan Affairs and the School of Fine and Performing Arts were established. In 1993, the College of Science was established. Wayne State’s shining scholars were distinguished by the Irvin D. Reid Honors College by 2008 – named after Wayne State’s ninth President.

Wayne State University’s rich history sets it in a prime spot to fulfill its mission – to be a pre-eminent, public, urban research university known for academic and research excellence, success across a diverse student body, and meaningful engagement in its urban community. The University has – and will continue to follow defining traits, as defined by collaboration, integrity, innovation, excellence, as well as diversity and inclusion. The University continues to build its history through its 260,000 alumni all around the world.

Related Collections:

Reuther Library Vertical Files
Wayne State University Photograph Collection
Wayne State University Student Handbooks
Wayne State University Commencement Programs
Wayne State University Yearbooks
Wayne State University Board of Governors Proceedings
Wayne State University Collegian Newspapers
Wayne State University South End Newspaper Photographs