Meadow Brook Hall honors its past and embraces the future

For over 81 years, it has been tucked away on the eastern side of Oakland University’s wooded campus as a constant reminder of a donation that kick-started the university.

Meadow Brook Hall, along with its surrounding buildings and $2 million, was donated to Michigan State University in 1957 to form a branch of the school that would eventually become OU.

The individual who bestowed that ground-breaking donation upon MSU, Matilda Wilson, became the most influential link in the Hall’s connection to OU. She may have passed away in 1967, but her magnanimous efforts continue on today.

“The farm and estate buildings on east campus, and scattered throughout west campus, are reflective of the life work and values of the university’s founders,” said OU President Gary Russi. “The adaptive re-use of numerous historic buildings and structures is an integral part of what makes Oakland University’s setting unique among Michigan higher education institutions and most other universities nationally.”

Oakland officially took possession of the Hall from the Wilsons’ estate in 1971, and since then, the building has been open to the public as a museum and cultural center.

Students of all class standings are able to experience what the mansion has to offer. During Welcome Week, a midnight tour of the Hall is offered to incoming OU freshmen. The same tour is also available throughout the year, free for students.

One of the longest running events involving Oakland and the Hall is the Meadow Brook Ball, an occasion that sells out every year it has taken place. Last years tickets to the event sold out within two and a half hours of becoming available to students.

“I always say to people that (going to the Ball) is one of the top things you have to do before you graduate from OU. You really need to go and experience it,” said Jean Ann Miller, director for the Center of Student Activities. “We don’t have anything tradition-wise that is comparable to the Ball at Oakland. All colleges and universities have certain traditions, and this is one of the biggest traditions that OU students can relate to and totally remember.”

The yearly event is a continuation of parties that Matilda Wilson would throw for her students when the Hall first aligned itself with OU. Invitations to the balls, held each semester, were so sought after that a ticket lottery was set up for students.

In addition to educational and historical significance, Meadow Brook Hall has become known as a prime destination for production companies to film their movies at.

In 2008, Meadow Brook was the shooting location for “Youth In Revolt” and “The Prince of Motor City,” “Highland Park” was filmed in 2009, and most recently, scenes of “Transformers 3.”

“We have been fortunate of late to diversify our rental business somewhat by serving as a movie set,” said Kim Zelinski, associate director of the Hall. In addition to the revenue, Meadow Brook and OU benefit from the publicity and student involvement. Students have been involved in serving as production assistants on several productions, including ‘Transformers 3.”

When Wilson originally built Meadow Brook Hall, she probably did not have movie making in mind.

“Matilda would no doubt be pleased that the philanthropic vision she and her husband Alfred had in founding the university has touched so many lives,” Zelinski said. “Her incredible educational legacy will outlive all of us.”

More information about the Hall and its founder can be found at