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Ferris State University History Guide: Getting Started

This research guide is a bibliography listing some of the available reference sources on Ferris State University history. Please note that many of these materials including the Ferris Collection are located in the University Archives.

Using the University Archives

Many of the resources listed in this guide are in the University Archives which is not part of the physical FLITE building.   Any materials with a location code of  Ferris Collection, Michigan Collection or University Archives, are found within the University Archives. If you are looking for information found in FLITE, check the FLITE website for hours available.

Ferris Alumni Building

The University Archives and Records Management Reading Room is located in Alumni 101, in the heart of the oldest building on campus.  To reach the University Archivist prior to your visit please call 231-591-3731 or email, The University Archives typically provides reference service from 8:00 - 12:00 p.m; 1:00 - 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday and by appointment.  Because of the unique materials and the program mandate to preserve those materials, there are special rules concerning use that do not apply to the general library collection.

We are here to assist you in your research to the best of our ability. Limited reference materials are available in the reading room including books from the Michigan Collection, Ferris Collection and some university publications. All other materials are retrieved on an on-call basis and used in the reading room facility. Materials are non-circulating and may only be used under direct supervision of UARMP (University Archives and Records Management Program) staff. Photocopying is done by staff. For further information on using the University Archives, please review the Guidelines for Use of the Ferris State University Archives.


Timeline of Ferris State University History

September 1, 1884   W. N. Ferris and H. G. Ferris open the Big Rapids Industrial School in temporary quarters in the Vandersluis Block (present location of J. C. Penny Co.) in Big Rapids.   

January 1885   Big Rapids Industrial School moves to permanent home at the northwest corner of Michigan and Maple Streets in the Big Rapids Northern National Bank Building.   

January 1885   Name of Big Rapids Industrial School changed to Ferris Industrial School.   

1893   Marius Preysz asks W. N. Ferris for training in pharmacy. His success in passing the state board examination encourages Mr. Ferris to establish a pharmacy department.   

January 1894   Ferris Industrial School moves into and dedicates its new building (Old Main) on the corner of Oak and Ives Streets.   

January 1894   Ferris Industrial School incorporated, with capital stock of $50,000.   

1898   Name changed from Ferris Industrial School to Ferris Institute.   

1900   W. N. Ferris sells capital stock in Ferris Institute to the public, keeping a controlling interest in his own hands.   

1901   Pharmacy Annex Building constructed   

1901   Helen Gillespie Ferris retires as teacher of Ferris Institute.   

1902   Bert Scott Travis becomes secretary and treasurer of Ferris Institute. Gerrit Masselink becomes Vice President of Ferris Institute.   

January 1, 1913   W. N. Ferris inaugurated Governor of Michigan.   

November 7, 1922   W. N. Ferris elected United States Senator from Michigan.

1923   W. N. Ferris sells controlling interest in Ferris Institute to Gerrit Masselink and Bert Scott Travis. Ferris institute is reorganized as a non-profit school with non dividend bearing stock.   

October 30, 1926   First homecoming, sponsored by Phi Sigma Chi fraternity.   

March 23, 1928   W. N. Ferris dies in Washington, D. C.   

March 24, 1928   Gerrit Masselink takes office as second president of Ferris Institute   

April 25,1929   Gerrit Masselink dies. An advisory board of Grover C. Baker, E. M. Clark, K. G. Merrill and E. J. Parr chosen to manage the school. E. M. Clark, as chair of the board becomes acting president.   

September 4, 1929   Alpheus A. Worcester takes office as acting president.    October 19, 1929Alumni building dedicated.    July 1, 1930Wells D. White takes office as fourth president.   

August 25, 1931   The Board of Incorporators, a group of 39 businessmen purchase Ferris Institute from the old stockholders and select a board of trustees from their number to govern school.   

February 12, 1931   Pioneer sports writer Lester "Jap" Williams gives the Ferris Institute athletic teams (notably the Basketball team) the nickname "Bulldogs."   

1931   Wells D. White leaves the presidency, an executive board consisting of E. M. Clark, E. J. Parr and K. G. Merrill chosen to manage the school. E. M. Clark, as chairman of the board is acting president.   

1932   Ernest E. Brown, of Oklahoma takes office as fifth president.   

July 13, 1936   Merle S. Ward takes office as seventh president.    

February 1943   Ferris Institute alumnus Colin Smith introduces a bill in the legislature for the state to purchase Ferris Institute. It passes both houses but is vetoed by Gov. Harry Kelly.  

April 1946   Merle S. Ward leaves the presidency after a misunderstanding with the Board of Trustees.    July 10, 1946Byron J. Brophy takes office as president.   

May 17, 1949   Governor G. Mennen Williams signs bill accepting Ferris Institute as a gift to the State of Michigan, which will take over its governance on July 1, 1950.   

February 21, 1950   Old Main and Old Pharmacy buildings destroyed by fire, only the Alumni Building and some minor buildings left standing.   

July 1, 1950   Ferris Institute becomes a state college.   

September 8, 1952   Victor F. Spathelf takes office as tenth president.   

July 1, 1963   Name changed from Ferris Institute to Ferris State College   

Fall 1968   First Ferris undefeated football team. Bob Leach, coach.   

December 15, 1970   Victor F. Spathelf retires as president.   

March 15, 1971   Robert L. Ewigleben takes office as 12th president.   

1983-1984   Celebration of centennial of Ferris State College.   

June 30,1984   Robert L. Ewigleben retires as president.   

July 1, 1984   J. William Wenrich takes office as 13th president.   

November 1987   Name changed from Ferris State College to Ferris State University.   

September 5, 1988   J. William Wenrich leaves the presidency.   

August 1, 1989   Helen Popovich takes office as 15th president.   

August 1, 1994   William A. Sederburg takes office as interim president.   

August 1, 1995   William A. Sederburg officially appointed the 16th president   

May 2003   William A. Sederburg leaves office to accept position as president of Utah Valley State College   

July 2003   David L. Eisler takes office as the 18th president.

University Archivist/ Special Collections Librarian

Melinda Isler's picture
Melinda Isler
University Archives
Alumni 101
410 Oak Street
Big Rapids MI 49307
(231) 591-3731

Ferris State Alumni Association

This Facebook group by the Ferris State Alumni Association keeps you up to date on current events but also posts items occasionally relating to history.  It is a good way to connect with past Ferris students.