The Michigan Constitution of 1850 called for the creation of an "agricultural school," though it was not until February 12, 1855, that Michigan Governor Kinsley S. Bingham signed a bill establishing the United States' first agriculture college, the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan. Classes began on May 13, 1857, with three buildings, five faculty members, and 63 male students.
The first president, Joseph R. Williams, designed a curriculum that required more scientific study than practically any undergraduate institution of the era. It balanced science, liberal arts, and practical training. The curriculum excluded Latin and Greek studies since most applicants did not study any classical languages in their rural high schools. However, it did require three hours of daily manual labor, which kept costs down for both the students and the College. Despite Williams' innovations and his defense of education for the masses, the State Board of Education saw Williams' curriculum as elitist. They forced him to resign in 1859 and reduced the curriculum to a two-year vocational program.
Land Grant Pioneer
In 1860, Williams became acting lieutenant governor and helped pass the Reorganization Act of 1861. This gave the college a four-year curriculum and the power to grant master's degrees. Under the act, a newly created body, known as the State Board of Agriculture, took over from the State Board of Education in running the institution. The college changed its name to State Agricultural College, and its first class graduated in the same year. As the Civil War had begun, there was no time for an elaborate graduation ceremony. The first alumni enlisted to the Union Army. Williams died, and the following year, Abraham Lincoln signed the First Morrill Act of 1862 to support similar colleges, making the Michigan school a national model. Shortly thereafter, on March 18, 1863, the state designated the college its land-grant institution making Michigan State University one of the nation's first land-grant college.
showing the first federal land-grant colleges
The college first admitted women in 1870, although at that time there were no female residence halls. The few women who enrolled boarded with faculty families or made the arduous stagecoach trek from Lansing. From the early days, female students took the same rigorous scientific agriculture courses as male students. In 1896, the faculty created a "Women Course" that melded a home economics curriculum with liberal arts and sciences. That same year, the College turned the Abbot Hall male dorm into a women's dormitory. It was not until 1899 that the State Agricultural College admitted its first African American student, William O. Thompson. After graduation, he taught at what is now Tuskegee University. President Jonathan L. Snyder invited its president Booker T. Washington to be the Class of 1900 commencement speaker. A few years later, Myrtle Craig became the first woman African-American student to enroll at the College. Along with the Class of 1907, she received her degree from U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, commencement speaker for the Semi-Centennial celebration. The City of East Lansing was incorporated the same year, and two years later the college changed its name to Michigan Agricultural College (M.A.C.).
Big Ten University
During the early 20th century, M.A.C. expanded its curriculum well beyond agriculture. By 1925 it had expanded enough it changed its name to Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science (M.S.C.). In 1941, the Secretary of the State Board of Agriculture, John A. Hannah, became president of the College.
After World War II, he began the largest expansion in the institution's history, with the help of the 1945 G.I. Bill, which helped World War II veterans gain college educations. One of Hannah's strategies was to build a new dormitory building, enroll enough students to fill it, and use the income to start construction on a new dormitory. Under his plan, enrollment increased from 15,000 in 1950 to 38,000 in 1965.
In 1957, Hannah continued MSU's expansion by co-founding Michigan State University–Oakland, now Oakland University, with Matilda Dodge Wilson. Hannah also got the chance to improve the athletic reputation of M.S.C. when the University of Chicago resigned from the Big Ten Conference in 1946. Hannah lobbied to take its place, gaining admission in 1949.
Six years later, in its Centennial year of 1955, the State of Michigan renamed the College as Michigan State University of Agriculture and Applied Science. Nine years afterward, the University governing body changed its name from the State Board of Agriculture to the MSU Board of Trustees. The State of Michigan allowed the University to drop the words "Agriculture and Applied Science" from its name. Since 1964, the institution has been Michigan State University.
In 1957, the donation of 1,500 acres (6.1 km2) in Pontiac Township, Oakland County, Michigan prompted creation of Michigan State University – Oakland. That campus became the independent school, Oakland University, in 1970.
Global Leadership Initiative, 2012 and Beyond
Since the end of the Hannah era in 1969, Michigan State shifted its focus from increasing the size of its student body to advancing its national and global reputation. In September 2005, president Lou Anna Simon called for MSU to become the global model leader for Land Grant institutions by 2012. Her plans included creating a new residential college and increased grants awarded from the National Institutes of Health past the US$100 million mark. While there are over 100 Land-grant universities in the United States, she stated she would like Michigan State University to be the leader.
Michigan State, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University created the University Research Corridor in 2006. This alliance was formed to transform and strengthen Michigan's economy by reaching out to businesses, policymakers, innovators, investors and the public to speed up technology transfer, make resources more accessible and attract new jobs to the state.
USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal
In 2016, a police report was filed alleging that in 2000, USA Gymnastics team doctor and MSU sports physician Larry Nassar (also a professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine) had sexually assaulted a minor named Rachael Denhollander under the guise of medical treatment. The allegation led to the arrest and eventual conviction of Nassar. He was sentenced in January 2018. Between the police report filing and the time of sentencing, 156 victims including Olympic gymnasts and MSU student athletes came forward to speak of abuses inflicted by Nassar. The Detroit News reported that 14 MSU representatives – including athletic trainers, coaches, a university police detective, and then-president Lou Anna Simon – had been alerted of sexual misconduct by Nassar across two decades. Michigan State and USA Gymnastics have been accused of enabling Nassar's abuse and are named as defendants in civil lawsuits that gymnasts and former MSU student athletes have filed against Nassar. On May 16, 2018, it was announced that Michigan State University had agreed to pay the victims of Nassar $500 million.
MSU's role in the scandal led to the resignations of president Simon and athletic director Mark Hollis in January 2018. In March 2018, William Strampel was arrested and charged with felony misconduct in office and criminal sexual conduct for allegedly groping a student and storing nude photos of female students on his computer. Strampel is the former dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine and oversaw Larry Nassar's clinic. On November 20, 2018, former university president Simon was charged with two felonies and two misdemeanor counts for lying to the police about her knowledge of sexual abuse committed by Nassar. In January 2019, interim president John Engler, who had replaced Simon, resigned after a pattern of controversial comments about the ongoing scandal including that Nassar's victims were "enjoying" the spotlight.