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Chancellor’s Office | University of Michigan-Dearborn Archives

Name: Chancellor’s Office

Historical Note:

Early History of the Campus

The idea for a University of Michigan campus in Dearborn was formed in 1956 when the Ford Motor Company approached the University of Michigan with a proposal to provide quality educational opportunities in the Dearborn area.  The company was experiencing a shortage of qualified employees and wished to increase the number of University of Michigan graduates, particularly in professional fields.

Ford Motor Company offered to give University of Michigan the 210-acre Fair Lane, the former estate of Henry Ford, and funding in return for the university’s commitment to work cooperatively with Ford and local community colleges to establish an upper division campus in Dearborn.  This commuter college offered junior and senior level classes which lead to the completion of degrees in business administration, engineering, education, and literature, science, and the arts.

The University of Michigan’s portion of the agreement included constructing, within the limits of the gift, facilities for approximately 2,800 students, providing programs of study and instructional staff of equal caliber to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, conferring degrees parallel to those conferred on the Ann Arbor campus, offering a complete program of studies in engineering and business administration, consulting with business and industry in the planning and administration of the cooperative programs, and securing their own operating funds.

Construction of the buildings began on May 22, 1958 and was completed by the fall of 1959.  Facilities for the new campus, known as the Dearborn Center, included a four-building complex--a faculty office building, a classroom and office building, a student services building which housed the library and food service, and an engineering laboratory building. The Henry Ford mansion, Fair Lane, eventually held a student coffee shop, and restaurant, and was used as a convention center.

Dr. William Stirton, Vice President of the University at the Ann Arbor campus, took over duties as director of the new Dearborn Center in 1958.  His background and interest in the cooperative education concept of study and professional “on-the-job” training influenced Dearborn Center’s early direction.  The first executive committee, authorized by the Regents bylaws, consisted of Ann Arbor campus faculty representatives.  Over a period of time the Executive Committee became composed of Dearborn faculty and ultimately, the Dearborn Center was recognized as a self-governing faculty. 

Opening on September 28, 1959, the Dearborn Center’s first class had only 34 students, far below the anticipated 500. By the time Stirton retired in 1968, the number of enrolled students had climbed to over 700.  The institution was still only a two-year degree completion program and relied on transfer students from community colleges and other four-year institutions, mostly within the state of Michigan, to fill its classes.

Dearborn Center became the Dearborn Campus in 1963.  Soon afterward, in 1964, the first graduate program was added, a master of science in mechanical engineering.  Also in 1964, the Dearborn Campus moved away from it’s solely commuter college status with the construction of a 30-unit student apartment building.  This was the first addition to the physical campus since its construction in 1958.

In May 1968, Dr. Norman R. Scott, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus was named dean at Dearborn after the departure of Dr. William Stirton.  During Scott’s tenure, Arthur M. Ross, University Vice President for State Relations and Planning, appointed an eight-member Dearborn Planning Study Committee to evaluate the operation of the campus and to plan for its future development.

The Committee, comprised of academic, student, and community representatives, met frequently and consulted with a number of outside resource people for over four months before releasing a report that made nine specific recommendations to the Board of Regents.  The report stated that:

1. Special attention should be given to developing academic programs that meet the needs of the western Detroit metropolitan area.

2. Four year academic programs should be offered in the liberal arts and sciences, education, business administration and engineering.

3. Master’s level programs should be initiated where faculty strengths and resources permitted.

4. The name of the campus should connote the autonomy of the campus and facilitate its future transition to independent status, yet still indicate that it is governed by the Regents of the University of Michigan.

5. The chief executive officer of the campus should have a title other than dean.

6. The campus should be advised by a citizens’ committee appointed by the Board of Regents.

7. The campus should plan for a growth to 5,000 full-time students by 1980.

8. A capital building program should be initiated with most urgent needs including a new library building, student activities facilities, and additional campus housing.

9. A long-range plan for campus physical development should be undertaken that would provide for the projected enrollment.

Establishing the Chancellor’s Office

The first of the Committee’s recommendations was put into effect in April 1971 with the renaming of the campus to The University of Michigan-Dearborn.  Next, a chancellor was recruited.  Leonard E. Goodall was approved by the Regents at their June meeting.  Dr. Goodall, who had been Vice Chancellor at the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, was a specialist in urban politics and public administration. He began his administration on July 1, 1971.

Under the direction of Goodall, UM--Dearborn became a four-year program and accepted its first freshman class of 250 students in 1971.  Within the next three years, the campus recognized a 500 percent enrollment growth, as increasing numbers of freshman, transfer students, and graduate students decided to attend UM--Dearborn.  This expansion in enrollment necessitated the development of additional buildings and facilities to accommodate the larger student body. 

An outside consulting firm was enlisted to devise a campus master plan.  The $19 million development program called for the construction of several new buildings, including a Library and Learning Resources Building, a General Instructional and Laboratory Building, a University Center, a Physical Education facility, and a Performing Arts Center.  Howard Conlon was appointed as Assistant to the Chancellor and placed in charge of the campus planning.

Unfortunately, funding for the projects was never granted by the main campus nor by the state, and the development program as presented by the consulting firm was never implemented.  Instead, the University of Michigan-Dearborn began a series of self-financed renovations.  During Goodall’s administration, construction began on the Fieldhouse/Arena, University Mall, and the University Library.

Dr. Goodall also created the Dean of Academic Affairs position in 1971,which was filled by Eugene Arden in 1972.  Arden was responsible for handling the administrative details of running the campus while Goodall concentrated on procuring funding for the new buildings.  A reorganization of academic units also occurred during this time period.

The entire campus expanded under Goodall’s leadership with the student population growing to over 5,000 students, 15 new academic programs were added, and over 100 faculty members were recruited.  Fair Lane was also reopened to the public as tours resumed. 

Goodall left Dearborn for a post as President of the University of Nevada in Las Vegas in April1979 and Bernard Klein was appointed interim chancellor.  Klein, a professor of political science and former comptroller of the City of Detroit, had been hired in 1971 to head the University of Michigan-Dearborn Center for Urban Studies.  He acted as interim chancellor four times during his UM--Dearborn career.

A new chancellor was appointed in 1980.  Dr. William Jenkins came from the University of Colorado at Denver where he served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Acting Chancellor.  Jenkins had the misfortune of taking over the helm just as the recession caused severe financial constraints. Money allocated by the State of Michigan was called back and the faculty and students were outraged at annual salary decreases and tuition increases brought about by Dearborn’s need to cut the budget and raise money for operating expenses.

Because budgetary woes were being felt throughout the University of Michigan system, the Campaign for Michigan was developed to raise money for all of U of M’s campuses.  UM--Dearborn had its share of success in the fundraising arena and continued to make improvements to the campus.

Construction concluded on the Library, which was opened and dedicated in 1981. The four-story building housed traditional library services as well as study and teaching areas, audio and visual materials, and a television studio.  In 1987, the building was rededicated as the Edward and Helen Mardigian Library, soon shortened to simply the Mardigian Library.

Other contributions generated by the Capital Campaign for Michigan were combined to create endowments for faculty and student support and to finance operations and campus physical improvements.  Larger gifts were earmarked for specific projects or scholarships such as the $800,000 given by Ford Motor Company for the construction of a new CAD/CAM Laboratory.

The recruitment and retention of students was made more difficult by the tuition increases.  In an effort to raise morale and provide recognition for outstanding individuals, the first Honors Convocation was held in 1983.  This became an annual event honoring students who were scholarship recipients or who had earned distinguished academic records.  The Incentive Scholarship Program was also developed to encourage students in Detroit Public Schools to attend college.

In 1982, the refurbishment of Henry Ford’s mansion, Fair Lane, began.  Donn Werling was appointed Director of Henry Ford Estate-Fair Lane to raise money for this endeavor, which was to be financed solely through gifts and grants.  Besides falling into disrepair, the original furnishings had been removed after Mrs. Ford’s death in 1950.  Donations of furniture, supplies, and money enabled the mansion to be restored to some extent, and made it a desirable conference venue.

In 1988, Jenkins retired, leaving behind an institution that was financially sound with increased name recognition, stronger legislative support, a growing base of development support, and an expanded student enrollment of about 1000 students.  During the search for a new chancellor, Bernard Klein once again acted as interim chancellor.

Dr. Blenda Wilson came from the Colorado Commission on Higher Education and served as Chancellor from 1988 to 1992.  She increased the visibility of the Chancellor’s Office by being an active leader in civic organizations and spending much of her time in Lansing and Washington DC lobbying for increased funding for education.  Considered a visionary, Wilson applied the phrase “Best in Class” to the University of Michigan-Dearborn and hired a marketing consultant to help promote the campus as a place of quality educational opportunities. 

Wilson’s innovations paid off when in 1991, The University of Michigan-Dearborn was listed in U.S. News and World Report as one of the top 15 comprehensive universities in the Midwest.  Besides enhancing the institution’s reputation, Wilson oversaw the increase of minority enrollment and the strengthening of ties with the community.

Wilson’s tenure was not, however, without its controversies.  Some faculty members felt that Wilson spent too much time on activities that kept her away from campus.  Her innovations and eagerness to affect change also caused a sense of unease, especially when tuition increased and top administrators were replaced.  She was also criticized for having an administrative, rather than a teaching, background.

In 1992, after modernizing the budget and planning methods, increasing donations to $2.2 million, and bringing in more funding from the state, she was recruited by the California State University at Northridge to be its new President.  Again, Bernard Klein provided his services as interim chancellor.

James C. Renick, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Academic Initiatives at George Mason University, became the new chancellor in 1993.  In his inaugural address he vowed to be a facilitator as well as a leader, working with the best people to build a quality university. Chancellor Renick resigned in 1999 to become President of Central Illinois State University, a traditionally black college. He was replaced during the search for a new chancellor by Prof. Bernard M. Klein.  Daniel E. Little, of Bucknell University, became the fifth Chancellor of UM-D July 1, 2000. 

The University of Michigan-Dearborn continues to attract students primarily from southeastern Michigan, although students from the entire country and foreign countries also attend.  The University of Michigan--Dearborn strives to provide quality education in a metropolitan area.

For more information about the history of the University of Michigan-Dearborn, see A Gift Renewed by Elton Higgs, and the Fact Books which are found in this record group.

University of Michigan-Dearborn Leadership

William Stirton, Director 1958-1968

Norman Scott, Dean 1968-1971

Leonard E. Goodall, Chancellor 1971-1979

Bernard Klein, Interim Chancellor 1979-1980

William Jenkins, Chancellor 1980-1988

Bernard Klein, Interim Chancellor 1988

Blenda Wilson, Chancellor 1988-1992

Bernard Klein, Interim Chancellor 1992-1993

James Renick, Chancellor 1993-1999

Bernard Klein, Interim Chancellor 2000

Little, Daniel E., Chancellor 2000-to present

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