Eastern Michigan University Commencement collection

Summary Information

Eastern Michigan University Archives
Clinton, Bill, 1946-
Eastern Michigan University
Estleman , Loren D.
Laurence N. Smith
Wallace, Christopher
Commencement records
Date [bulk]
Bulk, 1881-2015
Date [inclusive]
7.6 Linear feet 6 record center cartons, 4 archive boxes

Preferred Citation note

Please cite materials from the University Archives in the following manner: Item. Collection Title. Eastern Michigan University Archives.

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Biographical/Historical note

Established by the State of Michigan in 1849, Eastern Michigan University opened its doors as the Michigan State Normal School in 1853. Michigan had only been a state for 10 years, but as its state constitution made clear, education was to be of primary importance in the region. The new Michigan State Normal School was the first teachers' training school west of the Allegheny Mountains. Unlike today's University, the Normal School initially taught students at a basic secondary level, instructing them in teaching methods and material to cover at a variety of levels.

One hundred and twenty-two students started classes March 29, 1853. Almost half were men. Students could choose from two standardized programs of study instituted by the State Board of Education and outlined in the Michigan State Normal School Catalogue. The first was a two-year plan of study called the English Course. This program sought to instill in teachers a broad range of academic subjects that they would need to cover in primary schools. The second was a three-year degree called the Classical Course. This course focused primarily on language instruction for teachers who would teach at a secondary level or for students who wished to go on to college.

Students entered Normal School at much earlier ages than today. Admission requirements stated that those who wished to take the English Course must be at least 14 years of age and those who wished to study the Classical Course must be at least 13 years of age. When it opened, Normal could admit students with high school diplomas, or students without diplomas who were able to pass the entrance exam. Normal could therefore grant high school diplomas, as well as teaching certificates to qualified graduates. The first commence ceremony at Michigan state Normal college in 1854.

Above all, teaching was the primary focus of the school. Some students might come to Normal as preparation for college, but most were encouraged to enter teaching as profession. Even the tuition codes nudged students toward education. Students preparing to be teachers paid $3 per term or $4 for Classics. Those not planning to teach but preparing for college paid $8 a term for Classics and $6 for English.

Over the next 40 years, Michigan State Normal School grew rapidly, both in numbers of students and in variety of classes offered. During the 1880s, dissention tore the school as professors debated the proper focus of a teaching school. One faction, lead by Charles Fitz Roy Bellows, initiated a movement in 1870 that stated a teaching school should focus primarily on pedagogy, or the art of teaching, and the specific techniques used for this end. The opposition faction believed that teachers also needed a broad academic background in order to offer their students a well-balanced education. After over two decades of divisive debate, Richard Gause Boone, then the principal of the school, set the school on a course toward a broader education. His decision set the stage for today's large, broad-based university.

None of the original buildings survive from Normal’s formative years. Many were wood frame buildings that did not age well. Slowly, the older buildings at the heart of the campus were torn down and others rebuilt on the same land. Only Starkweather Hall and Welch Hall remain from Normal’s early years. These two masonry buildings were constructed in 1896, 43 years after the school opened its doors, and dedicated in March 1897. Their construction signals the profound growth that Normal had experienced in that time. By the mid-1890s, the teacher’s school in Ypsilanti had expanded enough to support not only a larger laboratory school, housed in Welch, but also a building devoted to religious life on campus, housed in Starkweather.

Another important change took place at the end of the nineteenth century. In 1899, Michigan State Normal School changed its name to Michigan State Normal College. This seemingly insignificant change actually describes an important shift in the mission of the school. Richard Gause Boone lobbied to establish Normal as four-year college, rather than a glorified secondary school. Normal entered the twentieth century as Michigan's premier teacher-training school and had become the first teacher-training school in the United States to have a four-year degree program.

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Scope and Contents note

The collection of Eastern Michigan University Commencement records contains programs, invitations, clippings, transcripts from commencement events held on campus. Records span from 1854 when the Eastern Michigan University was known as the Michigan State Normal School until December 2013. The collection is arranged into four series:  Event Audio/Visual,  Event Photographs,  Press Releases & Clippings, and  Programs, Transcripts and Ehpemera. Records date from 1854-2013.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Eastern Michigan University Archives 2011 October 3

Halle Library, Room 310
Ypsilanti, Michigan, 48197

Revision Description

  2014 March 11

Conditions Governing Access note

Researchers are asked to request materials 24 hours prior to visiting the the University Archives.

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Controlled Access Headings


  • Eastern Michigan University
  • Michigan State Normal School

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Technical Requirements Note

Materials in box 1, series Videos require the use of a VCR. Materials in box 2, series  Microfilm require the use of a Microfilm reader.

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Collection Inventory

Event Audio/Visual 1998-2003 

Box Object

Winter Commencement. Speaker: Chris Wallace 1998 

Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Wallace, Christopher
1 1

Winter Commencement. Speaker Laurence N. Smith 1999 

Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Laurence N. Smith
1 2

Morning Commencement 2000 April 30 

1 3

Afternoon Commencement. Speaker President Bill Clinton 2000 April 30 

Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Clinton, Bill, 1946-
1 4-5

Winter Commencement. 2000 

1 6

Morning and Afternoon Commencement 2001 April 29 

1 7

Fall Commencement 2001 

1 8

Spring Commencement. Speaker Loren D. Estleman 2002 

Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Estleman , Loren D.
1 9

Winter Commencement. 2002 

1 10

Spring Commencement 2003 

1 11

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Event Photographs 

Box Object

1999 December 19 

2 3-6

2000 December 17 

2 7-10

2000 April 30 

2 11-19

Photographic Archival Record 

Box Object


2 2
Box Folder


2 1

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Press Releases & Clippings 


Box Folder


3 1


3 2


3 3


3 4


3 5


3 7


3 8


3 10


10 2


10 4


10 5


10 6
Box Folder


3 6


3 9


10 1


10 2-3


10 4-7

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Programs, Transcripts and Ephemera 

Folder Object

Oversized Programs 1881-1913 

1 1-6
Box Folder


4 1


4 2


4 3


4 4-8


4 9


4 10


4 11

Week Schedule 1871 

4 12


4 13


4 14-18


4 20-84


5 1-8

 January, June 

5 9-20


5 21


5 22


5 23

 January, June 

5 24-27


5 28-30

1965- 1969 January January, June 

5 31-40

 December, April 

5 41-60

 1981 August 

5 61

 December, April 

    Box Folder
Text (32307023996565)   8 1-3
    Box Folder
Text (32307023996557)   7 1-12
    Box Folder
Text (32307023996540)   6 1-24
    Box Folder
Text (32307023996581)   5 62

Box Folder

Graduate List 2001 

8 4

 December, April 

    Box Folder
Text (32307024653413)   11 1-5
    Box Folder
Text (32307023996573)   9 1-11
    Box Folder
Text (32307023996565)   8 5-11

Box Folder

December, April 2014-2015 

11 6-7

December 2015 

11 8

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