The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.

1956-63: The Dearborn Center

In 1956, the Ford Motor Company approached The University of Michigan with a proposal to establish a branch campus in the Dearborn area in order to provide University of Michigan quality educational opportunities in the area. The company's objective was to increase the number of University of Michigan graduates, particularly in professional fields, in order to relieve severe shortages of manpower in Detroit area business and industry. The company offered to provide land and money for buildings on a 210-acre site of the former estate of Henry Ford. The University responded by proposing the establishment of an upper division campus (with junior and senior classes only), offering degree programs in business administration, engineering, and literature, science, and the arts. An integral feature of the new campus would be its cooperative internship program in which students alternated semesters between the classroom and the professional world of business and industry. On December 17, 1956, the University and the Ford Motor Company Fund announced the gift of 210 acres of land and $6,500,000 for the construction of the Dearborn Center. The land included portions of the late Henry Ford's estate and his former residence Fair Lane.

In accepting the gift, the University committed itself to a series of mutually agreed upon features of the new Center:

  • 1. to provide, within the limits of the gift, facilities, including laboratories and libraries, for approximately 2,800 students;
  • 2. to attempt to provide cooperative work-study opportunities for undergraduates — and probably graduates — in mechanical and industrial engineering, and business administration;
  • 3. to offer only the junior and senior years of work and one year of graduate work in engineering and business administration;
  • 4. to work cooperatively with Henry Ford Community Page  88College to provide four years of college work in the Dearborn community;
  • 5. to provide an instructional staff that was not inferior to the University's faculties;
  • 6. to offer programs of study that were not inferior in quality, although they may be somewhat different from those offered on the Ann Arbor campus;
  • 7. to confer degrees parallel to those conferred for comparable work on the Ann Arbor campus;
  • 8. to provide at least a minimum of student service facilities;
  • 9. to consider the "quarter" system instead of the "semester" plan;
  • 10. to offer a complete program of studies in engineering and business administration in each of the four quarters;
  • 11. to consult with business and industry in the planning and administration of the cooperative programs;
  • 12. to secure adequate operating funds.

Facilities for the new campus included a four-building complex — a faculty office building, a classroom and office building, a student services building (housing the library and food service), and an engineering laboratory building. Construction on the buildings began on May 22, 1958, and was completed by the fall of 1959.

Initial academic development of the new Center was handled through the loaning of personnel from the Ann Arbor campus. The first executive committee, authorized in the Regents By laws, consisted of Ann Arbor campus faculty representatives. Over a period of time the Executive Committee became composed of Dearborn faculty, and ultimately the Regents By laws recognized Dearborn as a self-governing faculty. Three academic divisions — engineering, business administration, and literature, science, and the arts — were organized. The governing faculty of each division was granted the power to determine suitable admissions requirements, the curriculums, and appropriate graduation requirements for undergraduate degrees.

Page  89On September 28, 1959, the Dearborn Center opened its doors to a first class of 34 students, somewhat below the anticipated 500. From its inception, the campus operated on a year-around calendar with semesters beginning in June, October, and February. Administering the Center was a small staff, headed by University Vice-President Dr. William E. Stirton. Dr. Stirton's influence on the Center's early development was pervasive. The cooperative education concept of study and professional "on-the-job" experience was a keystone of Stirton's educational philosophy.