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History

Michigan State University was established in 1855, and by 1862, it stood as the nation’s pioneer land-grant university. Over the decades, the university has continued to be a model of what a land-grant university can and should do. As a university of, for and by the people, Michigan State University began a long tradition of empowering people through educational opportunity.

Founding

Feb. 12, 1855

Dedication

May 13, 1857

First Classes

May 14, 1857 – Five faculty members taught 63 students in three now nonexistent buildings: College Hall, Saints’ Rest and a brick horse barn. MSU was the first institution of higher learning in the United States to teach scientific agriculture.

Morrill Act

1862 – MSU became the nation’s pioneer land-grant university and the prototype for the entire land-grant system created when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act in 1862. The act granted lands to each loyal state to support a college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts . . . in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions of life. 

Name Changes

1855 – Agricultural College of the State of Michigan
1861 – State Agricultural College
1909 – Michigan Agricultural College
1925 – Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science
1955 – Michigan State University of Agriculture and Applied Science
1964 – Michigan State University

Governing Body Changes

1855 – State Board of Education
1861 – State Board of Agriculture
1959 – Board of Trustees

Presidents

  • Joseph R. Williams (1857–1859)
  • Lewis R. Fisk (1859–1862)
  • Theophilus C. Abbot (1859–1862)
  • Edwin Willits (1885–1889)
  • Oscar Clute (1889–1893)
  • Lewis B. Gorton (1893–1895)
  • Jonathan L. Snyder (1896–1915)
  • Frank S. Kedzie (1915–1921)
  • David Friday (1921–1923)
  • Kenyon L. Butterfield (1924–1928)
  • Robert S. Shaw (1928–1941)
  • John A. Hannah (1941–1969)
  • Walter Adams (1969–1970)
  • Clifton R. Wharton Jr. (1970–1978)
  • Edgar L. Harden (1978–1979)
  • Cecil Mackey (1979–1985)
  • John DiBiaggio (1985–1992)
  • Gordon Guyer (1992–1993)
  • M. Peter McPherson (1993–2004)
  • Lou Anna K. Simon (2005–2018)
  • John Engler (2018–2019, Interim)
  • Satish Udpa (2019, Acting)
  • Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.