In 1959, a small Michigan State Honor’s College opened on the border of Pontiac Township and Rochester. The campus was home to 570 students and three buildings.
Today, that piece of land is known as Oakland University and is home to 19,749 students.
The university just completed construction on its 38th building and broke the ground for its 39th building last week.
During the past 55 years, Oakland has grown by leaps and bounds. We have hosted political rallies, and Pulitzer Prize winning authors.
Students went from cheering on Pioneer Pete to cheering on Grizz and Clawzz.
Our athletic teams have grown into Division I contenders, winning a combined 22 regular season titles, 46 tournament championships and making 34 NCAA tournament appearances.
The university became politically involved hosting a Republican Party primary debate in 2011 and numerous political speakers, including former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush, and former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.
Oprah Winfrey, Mitch Albom, Al Roker and James Earl Jones, among others, have all graced the OU stage as part of the Student Life Lecture Board’s lecture series.
Several people have been at the helm of OU since it opened in 1957, including the current and longest tenured president in OU’s history, Gary Russi.
But the people who helped make OU what it is today are what define the institution.
A maintenance worker at Meadow Brook and Michigan State named George Karas coordinated the construction of the first buildings on campus, oversaw additions to the library and lived in a cottage on the Meadow Brook estate for seven years.
Matilda Wilson, a multi-millionaire, donated her Meadow Brook estate in order to make OU possible.
It has been truly amazing what the university has been able to accomplish during the past 55 years. However there, is still more work to do.
As we reported last week, 19,089 of the 19,749 students attending Oakland are Michigan residents. If the university is to continue its expansion and contend with larger universities, they need to be able to attract students on a national basis.
In 2011, 18,506 of the University of Michigan’s 42,716 students came from out of state.
In the future, OU’s student distribution needs to be more like the University of Michigan’s in order for the university to continue to grow.
OU will also have to diversify their student body.
According to information attained from the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment 80.3 percent of all students are White.
To help address these problems, OU will have to fix the current student-housing issue (more on this to come soon).
And they need to address parking, which has become an ever deteriorating situation, with more people on campus daily than spots — it is an issue which will only increase as enrollment rises.
As we look toward the future we would just like to say happy 55th birthday Oakland, we look forward to the next 55 years and beyond.