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Ferris State University (FSU, Ferris) is a public university with its main campus in Big Rapidsmarker, Michiganmarker USAmarker. Founded in 1884 as the Big Rapids Industrial School by Woodbridge Nathan Ferris, an educator from New Englandmarker who later served as governor of the State of Michiganmarker 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 with 13,865 students studying on its main campus or at one of the 19 off-campus locations across the state. The focus of education is on preparing students for successful careers. Two- and four-year degrees are offered through ten academic colleges and graduate degrees from six. Ferris grants doctorate degrees via its optometry and pharmacy colleges.

The school is known for its high rate of employment amongst graduates, its faculty-student ratio of 1:15, and that classes are taught by professional instructors, not graduate assistants.

Ferris’ NCAA Division II level sports teams and the Division I men’s ice hockey team are called the Bulldogs. They compete in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) in all sports except ice hockey, in which the team is part of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.


The founder

Woodbridge Nathan Ferris was born January 6, 1853 in a log cabin near Spencer, Tioga Countymarker, New Yorkmarker, the son of John Ferris, Jr. and Stella Reed Ferris.

As a child, Woodbridge attended a rural public school, which he claimed, was the horror of his life. 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. At the age of 16, Ferris attended his first teaching institute at Waverly, NY, and shortly afterwards began his first teaching job. 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 Oswegomarker) 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.

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. 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. 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.

In addition to his role as an educator, Ferris ran for and was successfully 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.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

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.

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.

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.

The university

In November 1987 the institution became Ferris State University. When Ferris became a state college in the fall of 1950, it consisted entirely of one permanent structure, the Alumni Building, and some surplus Army barracks. Fewer than 1,000 students were enrolled, and there were fewer than 50 faculty members. The campus itself covered less than . By contrast, current enrollment is more than 13,000 and the campus contains 115 educational, administrative, and maintenance buildings, student activity facilities, and residence halls.


Ferris State University joined the State’s Higher Education System in 1950. Due to a disastrous fire, the campus was all but destroyed in the same year. The only building to survive the fire was the Alumni Building, built in 1929, which is located at the north edge of campus. Since the fire, however, more than 117 buildings have been built on the approximately 880 contiguous acres of the main campus owned by the University.

Main campus

Located on the southern edge of the City of Big Rapidsmarker, straddling the border between Big Rapids Townshipmarker and the City, the University has a large land area (over 880 acres) for its current main campus student population. 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 rural in character.

The 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.

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

  • 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 & 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.
  • The IRC Connector between the Business School and the Instructional Resource Center (IRC) created a collaborative meeting and lounge space which is heavily used by students at all hours of the day.

The University has of building space on the Big Rapids campus, with in academic use.

Satellite locations

In addition to the main campus site, Ferris State University has a number of programs offered at 19 off-campus locations including Dowagiacmarker, Grand Rapidsmarker, Flintmarker, Lansingmarker, Traverse Citymarker, and University Centermarker. These locations are managed by the College of Professional and Technological Studies.


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.

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 lead by its 18th president, Dr. David L. Eisler, who was in inaugurated on October 2, 2003.

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, administration, and the Big Rapids community." The leadership of the group consists of an Executive Board (president, executive vice-president, vice-presidents of finance, internal assessment, technology and campus affairs along with treasurer and parliamentarian), Senate (representing the various colleges) and a House of Representatives (registered student organizations).

The Finance Division is actually separate from the student government itself, but works together as allocating student funds require the approving votes from the Senate and House. The Finance Division is run by the vice-president of finance, along with a committee of members. The Finance Division seeks to distribute student funds to a variety of student organizations around campus on request, as any campus organization may apply for money. Distribution of all student funds, including major events such as homecoming and Ferris Fest, are directed through the Finance Division.

The Division of Internal Assessment (IA) is a committee within the student government that seeks to provide accountability for all members and assessment of progress for the organization. IA is run by the vice-president of Internal Assessment, along with a committee of members in a similar fashion to that of the Finance Division. The Vice-President of Internal Assessment is in charge of running the committee, approving new members before bringing them to a vote before the Senate and House and initiating expulsion procedures along with organizing all aspects of the elections.

At the start of each semester new ad-hoc committees are created and chairpersons are appointed to chair each committee. Many times a committee may reach for an achievable goal and dissolve upon completion. However, most committees are oriented around goals that may be broad and continuous, such as member recruitment and putting on special events, and thus may need to be re-initiated at the start of every semester.

SGFSU is notable for creating, a cost saving initiative for textbook prices that has gained recognition across student bodies around the United Statesmarker. Created in 2006 by the Textbook Committee, has been presented at state and national student government conferences such as Association of Michigan Universities and COSGA, respectively. Although it currently only feeds textbook information from specific Michiganmarker universities, is in the process of bringing it to the national level. Any student may still use its sophisticated search engine to find the lowest price on the internet for a specific textbook.

Academic colleges

The University has 10 colleges offering more than 170 educational programs — Allied Health Sciences, Arts and Sciences, Business, Education and Human Services, Engineering Technology, Michigan College of Optometry, Pharmacy, College of Professional and Technological Studies, University College; and Kendall College of Art and Design. Program offerings lead to bachelor and associate degrees and certificates. Master degrees in Information Systems Management, Career and Technical Education, Criminal Justice, Business Administration, Curriculum and Instruction, Nursing, and Fine Arts are available. Ferris also offers doctorate degrees in Optometry and Pharmacy.

Each college encompasses a cluster of related programs that are targeted to prepare students for specific careers, responsible citizenship and lifelong learning. The colleges operate in facilities that have been specially designed and equipped to support their missions.

The College of Allied Health Sciences offers a wide range of degrees for future health care professionals. Students benefit from small class sizes, state-of-the-industry equipment, and clinical or internship experiences. Graduates are in high demand both locally and nationally.

The College of Arts and Sciences is noted for its graduates’ high rates of acceptance into prestigious medical, dental, law and graduate schools. In this college are the cultural programs and enrichment activities that Ferris offers in the arts and sciences disciplines.

The College of Business provides career-oriented business education. Responsive to the changing needs of the business world, the college’s curriculum focuses on preparing its graduates for dealing with real issues as members and leaders of tomorrow’s workforce.

The College of Education and Human Services is a leader in education, criminal justice, recreation, and television production. The college is unique in Michigan because of its leadership in a number of partnerships that foster specialized professional education for all it students within the community and state.

The College of Engineering Technology is one of the largest in the nation. The college has world-class labs and state-of-the-art equipment made possible by on-going financial support from industry. Some of Ferris’ technology programs are one of a kind in Michigan and the nation.

Kendall College of Arts 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 state-of-the-art eyecare to thousands of 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. The college is equipped with exceptional facilities and resources. Graduates receive a Doctor of Pharmacy degree.

The College of Professional and Technological Studies extends the reach of the University beyond Big Rapids as it delivers academic programs that meet the rapidly evolving needs of education, business, industry and the state through a network of more than 20 sites. Programs offered include associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees, professional development certificates and distance learning opportunities at sites that include Alpena, Big Rapids, Clinton Township, Dowagiac, Escanaba, Flint, Garden City, Grand Rapids, Harrison, Howell, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Midland, Muskegon, Port Huron, Scottville, Traverse City, Warren and online. In addition, CPTS provides conference and professional services to the University as well as outside businesses and organizations.

University College houses Ferris’ Honors Program and the Academic Support Center and assists students with instruction in study skills, reading and career exploration. It is also home of the Educational Career and Counseling Center and the Socio-Cultural Holistic Learning and Retention mentoring program.

Academic schools

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

Housed in the College of Education and Human Services, the mission of the School of Criminal Justice is that "through partnerships with agencies within and related to the criminal justice field, creates the fundamental preparation for successful careers and responsible citizenship. The academic pursuit of excellence for both students and faculty is provided in a learning environment that combines the theoretical knowledge with the practical application."There are three areas of concentration for undergraduate degrees: Corrections, Generalists, and Law Enforcement.

Housed in the College of Education and Human Services, the mission of the School of Education is to prepare students for careers as quality educators whose contributions will enrich lives through dedication to leadership, life-long learning, reflection, and collaboration in the classroom, school and greater community. 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 Allied Health Sciences, the School of Nursing offers BSN and MSN programs that are fully accredited by the National League of Nursing Accreditation Commission.

Student life


Ferris offers an intercollegiate athletic program which includes 14 men’s and women’s sports at the NCAA Division II level as well as Division I men's ice hockey. 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 ice hockey won the American Collegiate Hockey Association national title in 1994.

Ferris State's ice hockey program turned in its best season performance ever in the program's NCAA Division I history for 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. FSU 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.

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

Club Sports National Championships:
  • 1994 - Men's Ice Hockey - ACHA Division II

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 via FSU Info 530, an AM radio channel, on Channel 21 through Mecosta County Charter Communications, Channel 21 through the campus cable 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 27 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 Chi Rho, Delta Chi, Kappa Psi, Lambda Chi Alpha, Phi Sigma Kappa, Pi Kappa Alpha, Pi Lambda Phi, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Sigma Phi Epsilon, and Sigma Pi. Black Greek Council fraternities and sororities on campus are: Alpha Phi Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Phi Beta Sigma, Phi Delta Psi, and Zeta Phi Beta. Panhellenic Council member organizations are: Alpha Sigma Tau, Alpha Xi Delta, Delta Zeta, Phi Sigma Sigma, and Zeta Tau Alpha. The profession fraternities and sororities include: Delta Sigma Pi, Gamma Epsilon Tau, Kappa Psi, Lambda Alpha Epsilon, Lambda Kappa Sigma and Phi Alpha Delta

School Songs

Fight song

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

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.

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


  1. Granger Center for Construction and HVACR | | accessed April 17, 2009
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External links

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