During 2012 we observed the centennial of the founding of the Graduate School at the University of Michigan with special events, large-scale projects and funding opportunities. However, 1912 marked only the formal institution of a graduate school at U-M: it certainly was not the beginning of graduate education at our university. This was immediately evident as we began planning one of the projects we’d use to celebrate our Centennial.
We knew it would be fun to put together an illustrated timeline—and were delighted with what we found. Planning the timeline brought up the question: are we talking only about the history of the Graduate School only or about graduate education at Michigan? We opted for the latter since graduate education here began when the first graduate degrees were awarded at U-M in the 1840s. After all, observing the centennial was not limited to a building or an administrative decision: we were and still are celebrating the entire tradition.
We recognized the opportunity to tell our story in another way, too. No individual at the Graduate School had the time to write a full history of graduate education at Michigan. Instead, the timeline we put together provides a summary of developments for each decade, photographs from the University archives and, on the lower right-hand side of each webpage, a short listing of notable events taking place during that decade. Originally, the timeline appeared regularly during 2012 as posts to the Rackham Blog.
Writing this encapsulated history for each decade also provided the opportunity to answer some of the questions many students, staff and faculty have shared. What does the Graduate School actually do? Why do we need a Graduate School? Did the Graduate School always have that role at the university? What does the Graduate School at U-M do that’s different from other graduate schools at other universities?
Finding material was easy, as anyone who’s even taken a look at the Bentley Library’s website will know. It’s an incredible treasure and if you have an interest in U-M in the recent or distant past you should take a look at what they have to offer: http://bentley.umich.edu/.
The sources used most extensively in developing this narrative summary of graduate education as it developed at U-M over the past two centuries include The Making of the University of Michigan, 1817-1992 by Howard H. Peckham, edited and updated by Margaret L. Steneck and Nicholas H. Steneck (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, 1994). The other resources are digital in format and available through the Bentley Library’s website. If you want to learn more, just click on any of the following: