Eastern Michigan University commemorates 175 Years of academic excellence with a series of celebratory events

archival photo of old main and the conservatory
The Conservatory and Old Main. (Photo courtesy EMU Archives)

YPSILANTI — This year, Eastern Michigan University will celebrate its 175th anniversary—a rich legacy of academic excellence that began in 1849. The anniversary festivities will extend throughout the academic year, featuring various events and an exclusive website showcasing the university's journey.

“We’re thrilled to kick off a series of events over the next nine months that will both celebrate Eastern’t history and look forward to its future,” said Leigh Greden, EMU's chief of staff and anniversary committee chair. “Eastern carries profound significance for countless individuals, and we aim to relive some pivotal moments that have shaped alumni and the University’s trajectory.”

Greden is working alongside an EMU faculty and staff anniversary committee to ensure a memorable celebration. Their goals include honoring EMU's history and achievements through engaging events, fostering pride among students, employees, alumni, and the community, and providing opportunities for alumni to witness the latest transformative version of EMU.

Founded in 1849 as the Michigan State Normal School, EMU has evolved, becoming Michigan State Normal College in 1899, Eastern Michigan College in 1956, and officially earning university status in 1959. Eastern was the first American Normal School to award bachelor's and master's degrees and the first to offer a four-year curriculum. EMU President James Smith is the 22nd president to preside over the University, not including interim appointments.

According to Jim Egge, associate dean for programs at EMU’s College of Arts and Sciences, Eastern’s history is a testament to the university’s commitment to education and inclusivity. “When we opened our doors as the Michigan State Normal School, we immediately became a national leader in strengthening teacher preparation and expanding educational opportunities. Also, from the beginning, we admitted students without restriction by sex or race,” Egge added.

Christina Trotta, a junior at EMU, has an affinity for EMU because of its rich history and her family legacy.

“Attending a university with such a significant presence in Michigan's history is a source of pride,” said Trotta. As a native Michigander, I know EMU has greatly affected our state's history.”

“One thing I remember on my tour of EMU was the rich history of all the campus buildings. In my free time, I love to look through the archives and research all of the buildings around campus, including some that no longer exist. One interesting fact I found out was that the former owner of the Detroit Tigers paid for the construction of Briggs Hall as a physical education building.”

Casey Lamont, an MBA student at Eastern, said the culture and history influenced her decision to attend Eastern. “EMU's history is so diverse and full of significant individuals who sought to better the development of the university and the communities around them,” said Lamont. “The impact of these individuals is sewn into the culture of EMU, and it is always interesting to learn more about them.”

To kick off the anniversary celebration, a "birthday party" will take place at the Student Center on Thursday, March 28, 2024, marking the 175th anniversary of Founders Day. The event, which runs from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., features music, photo booths, and much more. Students can also participate in creative activities, including designing a branded pennant. 

"We encourage students, faculty, and staff to partake in a fun and relaxed celebration, uniting the campus community through engaging activities, music, and cherished memorabilia from the University Archives," said Greden.

“I am grateful to be part of a community that values academic excellence and fosters a sense of belonging,” said Trotta. “Here's to celebrating 175 years of EMU's legacy and looking forward to many more years of growth and success.”

Visit the 175th anniversary website


About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 13,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and its graduate school. National publications regularly recognize EMU for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. Visit the University’s rankings and points of pride websites to learn more. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website. To stay up to date on University news, activities and announcements, visit EMU Today.

March 15, 2024

Written by:
Melissa Thrasher

Media Contact:
Melissa Thrasher