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Ferris State University

Ferris State University
Ferris State University Seal
Former names
Big Rapids Industrial School
Ferris Industrial School
Ferris Institute
Ferris State College
Established September 1, 1884 (1884-09-01)
Type Public
Endowment $40.2 million (2013)[1]
President David L. Eisler
Academic staff
Administrative staff
Students 14,707[2]
Undergraduates 13,469[2]
Postgraduates 1,179[2]
Location Big Rapids & Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States
Campus Main campus: Rural, 880 acres (360 ha)
Grand Rapids: urban[2]

Crimson and Gold[3]

Athletics NCAA
Div I: WCHA (men's hockey)
Nickname Bulldogs[4]
Mascot Brutus the Bulldog[5]
Affiliations AASCU
Website .edu.ferriswww
Ferris State University Logo

Ferris State University (FSU, Ferris) is an American public university with its main campus in Big Rapids, Michigan. Founded in 1884 as the Big Rapids Industrial School by Woodbridge Nathan Ferris, an educator from Tioga County, New York, who later served as governor of the State of Michigan and finally in the US Senate where he remained until his death in 1928. The school was noteworthy at its time for accepting female students beginning with its first graduating class. It is also the only public university in Michigan to be founded by an individual.

Today Ferris is the ninth-largest university in the state[6] with 14,560 students[2] studying on its main campus, at one of the 19 off-campus locations across the state,[7] or online. Two- and four-year degrees are offered through eight academic colleges and graduate degrees from six. Ferris grants professional doctorate degrees via its optometry and pharmacy colleges and a multidisciplinary doctorate of education in community college leadership through the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, and Education and Human Services. The school is known for having a faculty–student ratio of 1:16,[2] and classes that are taught by professional instructors, not graduate assistants.


  • History 1
    • The founder 1.1
    • The school 1.2
    • The college 1.3
    • The university 1.4
  • Campus 2
    • Main campus 2.1
    • Satellite and online locations 2.2
  • Organization 3
    • Administrative structure 3.1
    • Current leadership 3.2
    • Student government 3.3
    • Academic colleges 3.4
    • Academic schools 3.5
    • Honors Program 3.6
  • Athletics 4
    • Sports 4.1
    • Ice hockey 4.2
    • Facilities 4.3
    • Championships 4.4
  • Student life 5
    • Ferris State Torch 5.1
    • Bulldog Radio 5.2
    • Greek life 5.3
  • School songs 6
    • Fight song 6.1
    • Alma mater 6.2
  • Notable alumni 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


The founder

Woodbridge Nathan Ferris, who in 1884 founded Big Rapids Industrial School, forerunner of Ferris State University

Woodbridge Nathan Ferris was born January 6, 1853 in a log cabin near Spencer, Tioga County, New York, the son of John Ferris, Jr. and Stella Reed Ferris.[8]

As a child, Woodbridge attended a rural public school, which he claimed, was the horror of his life.[9] He did learn to read fairly well there, however, and by the age of 10 was reading the Civil War news to his father. His father was slightly deaf, and Ferris had to learn to speak clearly in order for his father to hear, because his father objected to the practice of merely reading loudly. The practice of clear enunciation, learned at an early age, was a great help to Ferris in his later life as a speechmaker.

When he was 14 years old, Ferris entered the academy at Spencer, NY, where he spent nine months.[10] At the age of 16, Ferris attended his first teaching institute at Waverly, NY, and shortly afterwards began his first teaching job.[11] Later, in early spring of 1871, Ferris entered the Oswego Normal and Training School at Oswego, NY. At Oswego (now the State University of New York at Oswego) Ferris came under the tutelage of Hermann Krusi, instructor of drawing and geometry. Krusi was the son of the chief assistant to Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi at Pestalozzi's school in Switzerland.[12]

Oswego Normal during its formative years was pushing the Pestalozzian theory of learning by doing rather than through theory, and Ferris was considerably influenced by it. At Oswego, Ferris met Helen Gillespie, who later became his wife.

In early 1874, Ferris became the principal of Spencer Free Academy. He married Helen Gillespie who also served as a teacher at Spencer. At the end of the second year at Spencer, the Ferrises decided not to continue in public school work but rather to follow his dream of founding a private school.[13] That dream led Mr. Ferris through several ventures involving private education. In 1879, Ferris once again entered public education as superintendent of schools in Pittsfield, IL. He held this position for five years, leaving it vowing never again to be involved in public education.[14] In May 1884, he moved his family to Big Rapids, MI with the intention of opening a private school. The Big Rapids Industrial School, forerunner of Ferris State University, opened on September 1, 1884.[15]

In addition to his role as an educator, Ferris ran for and was elected to the office of Governor of the State of Michigan in 1912. His overwhelming popularity also got him elected to the office of US Senator in 1922.[16]Woodbridge Ferris died on March 23, 1928, eleven years to the day of Helen Ferris' death. A thousand Ferris students and townspeople gathered at the train station standing in the drizzling rain in silent tribute as the funeral train pulled in. All businesses and schools, including the Institute, were closed the day of the funeral. Many state elected officials attended the funeral, including Governor Fred W. Green. Six military companies and the 126th infantry band marched in the funeral cortege to Highland View Cemetery in Big Rapids, where Mr. and Mrs. Ferris are both interred.

The school

Ferris State University seal, prominently displaying the school's year of foundation, 1884

Big Rapids Industrial School, as it was originally named, opened on September 1, 1884 in temporary quarters in the Vandersluis Block (present location of J.C. Penney Co.) in Big Rapids. The goal of the school was to provide students with marketable skills for a changing society. By the beginning of the next semester in January 1885 the school changed its name to Ferris Industrial School. In January 1894, the School moved into and dedicated its new building, Old Main, on the corner of Oak and Ives Streets. At this same time, the school was incorporated with capital stock of $50,000.[8]

In 1898 the institution was again renamed to Ferris Institute. In 1900, W. N. Ferris sold capital stock in Ferris Institute to the public, keeping a controlling interest in his own hands. It remained privately owned until August 25, 1931 when the Board of Incorporators, a group of 39 businessmen, purchased Ferris Institute from the old stockholders and selected a board of trustees from their number to govern the school.[8]

The college

In February 1943, alumnus Colin Smith introduced a bill in the legislature for the state to purchase Ferris Institute. It passed both houses but was vetoed by Governor Harry Kelly. Six years later on May 17, 1949, Governor G. Mennen Williams signed the bill accepting Ferris Institute as a gift to the State of Michigan, which took over its governance on July 1, 1950. But before the state took control, fire destroyed the Old Main and the Old Pharmacy Buildings on February 21, 1950. Only the Alumni Building and some minor buildings were left standing. Immediate rebuilding of the Institute began and on July 1, 1963 it was again renamed, this time as Ferris State College.[8]

The university

In November 1987 the institution became Ferris State University.[8] When Ferris became a state college in the fall of 1950, it had consisted entirely of one permanent structure, the Alumni Building, and some surplus Army barracks. At that time, fewer than 1,000 students were enrolled; there were fewer than 50 faculty members, and the campus itself covered less than 20 acres (8.1 ha). By contrast, current enrollment is more than 14,000, and the 880-acre (360 ha) campus contains 115 buildings, including educational, administrative, maintenance, student activity and residence hall facilities.


Ferris State University joined the state’s Higher Education System in 1950. The campus was all but destroyed by fire the same year. The only building to survive was the Alumni Building, built in 1929, at the north edge of campus. Since the fire, more than 117 buildings have been built on the main campus.

Main campus

Ferris Library for Information, Technology and Education (FLITE)
Timme Center for Student Services
Interdisciplinary Resource Center

Located on the southern edge of the City of Big Rapids, straddling the border between Big Rapids Township and the city, the university has over 880 acres (3.6 km2) for its main campus. The campus begins about four blocks south of the historic central business district. It is bordered on the north by single-family homes built in the early to middle of the twentieth century. North of Perry Street, the university is bordered by strip commercial development. The university is bordered to the south and west by Big Rapids Township. The township is mostly undeveloped and rural.[17]

The main campus is within easy walking distance of downtown Big Rapids with its restaurants, shops, movie theater, art gallery and municipal park. Bicyclists, hikers and in-line skaters have easy access to the White Pine Trail, Michigan's longest "rails to trails" project.[18]

The campus has undergone major changes since 1990. Several new and renovated buildings, reworked roads and parking areas, pedestrian walkways, and greenspace areas have contributed to the changes on campus.

  • The National Elastomer Center was added in 1998 to house the Plastics Engineering and Rubber Engineering Technology programs, utilizing state-of-the-art laboratories and classrooms.
  • The FLITE building (FSU Library for Information, Technology and Education), located at the termination of Perry Street, reintroduced the historic front entrance to the university, and defined the adjacent quad at the campus epicenter.
  • The renovation of the Timme Library to the Timme Center for Student Services consolidated previously scattered student services in one location.
  • The Granger Center for Construction and HVACR, stimulated redevelopment of the northern part of campus. The building was designed with an open layout that left most of the mechanical components open for viewing by the students as a working lab.[19]
  • The IRC Connector between the Business School and the Interdisciplinary Resource Center (IRC) created a collaborative meeting and lounge space which is heavily used by students at all hours.
  • Opening of the new Michigan College of Optometry building in January 2011.

The University has 3,483,298 square feet (323,609.0 m2) of building space on the Big Rapids campus, with 1,764,658 square feet (163,942.1 m2) in academic use.[17]

Satellite and online locations

In addition to the main campus, Ferris State University has programs offered at 19 off-campus locations including Dowagiac, Grand Rapids, Flint, Lansing, Traverse City, and University Center. Although the main campus of the university is located in a rural setting the satellite locations are all located in larger, more urban communities. Some programs, such as the Doctor of Pharmacy program, are split between locations having students take the first 2 years of study at a campus in one city and the next 2 years at another.[20] These locations are managed by the division of Extended and International Operations under the heading Ferris Statewide and Online.[7]


Administrative structure

Ferris State University is governed by a Board of Trustees which has general supervision of the institution and controls and directs institutional expenditures. Members of the Board serve eight-year, staggered terms as appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the State Senate.[21]

The President of the University is appointed by the Board of Trustees as its principal executive officer and serves at its pleasure. The President is an ex-officio member of the Board without the right to vote.

Current leadership

At present, the University is led by its 18th president, Dr. David L. Eisler, who was inaugurated on October 2, 2003.[22]

Student government

The mission of the Student Government of Ferris State University is to represent student interests in all aspects of campus life as well as maintain open channels of communication between students, faculty, staff, administration, and the Big Rapids community.[23]

The General Assembly of Student Government is composed of two voting bodies; a House of Representatives and a Senate. Each registered student organization (RSO) in good standing is eligible to hold one seat on the House of Representatives. Senators are elected by the students in their respective academic colleges.[24]

The leadership rests in the Cabinet; president, executive vice president, treasurer, director of finance, and director of internal assessment.[24]

Academic colleges

College of Business building
Carillon Tower and Music Center

The university has 8 colleges offering more than 170 educational programs — Arts and Sciences, Business, Education and Human Services, Engineering Technology, Health Professions, the Kendall College of Art and Design, Michigan College of Optometry, and Pharmacy. Program offerings lead to bachelor's and associate degrees and certificates. Master's degrees in Information Security and Intelligence, Career and Technical Education, Criminal Justice, Business Administration, Curriculum and Instruction, Nursing, and Fine Arts are available. Ferris also offers doctoral degrees in Optometry, Pharmacy, and Community College Leadership.

Kendall College of Art and Design offers graduate and undergraduate fine arts degrees as well as a B.S. degree in Art History. Kendall’s campus is in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The Michigan College of Optometry is one of 16 schools or colleges of optometry in the United States and the only college of optometry in Michigan. MCO doctors and student interns deliver eye-care to patients in the region. Graduates receive a Doctor of Optometry degree.

The College of Pharmacy graduates comprise more than half of Michigan’s practicing pharmacists. Graduates receive a Doctor of Pharmacy degree.

Academic schools

Within the Colleges there exist some schools of specialized education. These Schools exist to provide focused education for specific careers.

Housed in the College of Education and Human Services, there are three areas of concentration for undergraduate degrees: Corrections, Generalists, and Law Enforcement.

Housed in the College of Education and Human Services. There bachelor's degree programs in early childhood, elementary, and secondary education in addition to master's degrees with several concentrations.

Housed in the College of Health Professions, the School of Nursing offers BSN and MSN programs.

Honors Program

The Honors program includes students from every college and school at Ferris except Kendall — students from almost every major participate in the Honors program. About 1/3 of the Honors students major in Pre-Pharm or similar disciplines, but there is a large number of students in the College of Business, College of Health Professions and the College of Engineering Technology. Honors students live in specialized residence halls (mostly in single rooms), take enhanced general education courses, attend cultural events, and complete 15 hours of community service per semester.


Ferris State Bulldogs logo

The Ferris State Bulldogs are the athletic teams for the university. Ferris State offers an intercollegiate athletic program which includes 14 men’s and women’s sports at the NCAA Division II level, except for men's ice hockey which competes in NCAA Division I. Ferris States is a member of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) in all sports except men's ice hockey, in which the team is part of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

Year in and year out, nearly 400 student-athletes have the opportunity to compete for the Bulldogs on a regional and national level for conference titles and NCAA Championships. Ferris’ men’s club ice hockey won the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division 2 national title in 1994.


Top Taggart Field, Ferris State's football stadium
Men's Sports Women's Sports
Basketball Basketball
Cheerleading Cheerleading
Cross Country Cross Country
Golf Golf
Ice Hockey
Tennis Tennis
Track & Field Track & Field

Ice hockey

Ferris State's 2009-10 ice hockey starting lineup before a game against Michigan at Yost Ice Arena

The 2011–12 season marked the first time in school history that the Bulldogs reached the NCAA Division I Ice Hockey National Championship Finals. In the national championship match at the Frozen Four the Bulldogs lost 4–1 to Boston College in the title contest at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The season came to a close with a 26–12–5 overall record and included a trip to the Frozen Four and a national runner-up finish. Ferris State's 26 wins were the second-most in school history, and the season highlights also included the school's second-ever Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) Regular-Season Championship and a Midwest Regional crown.[25]

Prior to the 2011–12 season, the program's best season performance in the NCAA Division I was the 2002/03 campaign with a school-best 31–10–1 overall record. The Bulldogs also claimed their first-ever CCHA Regular-Season Championship title with a first-place 22–5–1 league mark and advanced to the NCAA Championship Tournament's West Regional title game in their initial NCAA Tourney appearance. Ferris State also earned the distinction of being the nation's first team to reach the 30-win plateau in 2002/03 and also competed in the CCHA Super Six Championship Tourney for the first time since 1993.[26]


The Ferris Ice Arena and Sports Complex features basketball courts, volleyball courts, hockey rink and a general ice-skating rink located in the Ewigleben Arena, named after former college president Robert Ewigleben. This sports complex hosts university and high school competitions as well as community sports programs.


National Runners-up:

  • 1989: Wrestling—NCAA Division II
  • 2004: Women's Golf—NCAA Division II
  • 2006: Women's Golf—NCAA Division II
  • 2012: Men's Ice Hockey—NCAA Division I

Club Sports National Championships:

  • 1994: Men's Ice Hockey—ACHA Division 2

Student life

Carlisle Hall
Taggart Hall
Vandercook Hall

Ferris State Torch

The Ferris State Torch is a student run newspaper first published in 1931. It is a weekly publication between 16 and 28 pages in length with a circulation of just under 5,000. The Torch has been completely student governed, with the exception of a faculty adviser and business manager. The Department of Languages and Literature acts as a liaison between the publication and the rest of the University.

Bulldog Radio

Bulldog Radio is a student organization on the Big Rapids campus. It operates on Channel 21 through Mecosta County Charter Communications, Channel 21 through the campus cable TV provider, and through a live webcast. Bulldog Radio broadcasts information about the campus to the general public. It also airs music and talk programming. Bulldog Radio is available free, 24 hours a day, to Ferris State University, Mecosta County, and the world.

Greek life

There are 28 Greek organizations on campus, subdivided into four different groups: Interfraternity Council fraternities, Black Greek Council Fraternities & Sororities, Panhellenic Council Sororities, and Professional Fraternities & Sororities.

Organizations in the Interfraternity Council include: Alpha Sigma Tau, Alpha Xi Delta, Delta Zeta, Phi Sigma Sigma, Sigma Lambda Gamma and Zeta Tau Alpha, and honorary member Lambda Kappa Sigma. The profession fraternities and sororities include: Delta Sigma Pi, Gamma Epsilon Tau, Kappa Psi, Lambda Alpha Epsilon, Lambda Kappa Sigma, Phi Alpha Delta, Kappa Kappa Psi, Phi Alpha Theta, and Alpha Psi Omega.

School songs

Fight song

The first performance of the new fight song, "Fighting Bulldogs" was at Homecoming in 1958.[27]

30 second sample from Ferris State College Marching Band

Problems playing this file? See .
Cheer those Bulldogs
Watch them fight.
Boost those Bulldogs
They're all right.
We'll stand by the Crimson and Gold
Fight! Fight! Fight!
Bulldogs of Ferris
Cheer that Bulldog varsity
Steer that team to victory.
Fight you Ferris Bulldogs
And gain another victory.
Fight! Fight! Fight!
Fight for Ferris

Alma mater

The adoption of the new Ferris alma mater song, "Ferris Fidelity" and its first performance under direction of composer Graham T. Overgard were at the Christmas concert in 1957.[27]

30 second sample from Ferris State College Mens Glee Club

Problems playing this file? See .
As constant as the Northern Star
Our faith we pledge to thee.
Our word, our bond, our oath, our trust to you fidelity.
From promise of the crimson dawn
To sunset's mellow gold,
Thy spirit shall prevail
We pledge allegiance as of old.
Alma Mater, Hail!
As changeless as the earth and sea
Our faith shall fix our way.
God's truth, our guide, confirms our will
For steadfastness we pray.
Forever in our soul enshrined
These youthful learning days
Our future to secure.
To keep endeavor, strong and true,
Life and purpose pure.

Notable alumni

See also


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  5. ^ Mascot Program
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External links

  • Official website
  • Official athletics website
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