Ferris State University

Ferris State University
Former names
Big Rapids Industrial School
Ferris Industrial School
Ferris Institute
Ferris State College
Type Public
Established September 1, 1884 (1884-09-01)
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
43°41′51″N 85°29′02″W / 43.69739°N 85.4839°W / 43.69739; -85.4839Coordinates: 43°41′51″N 85°29′02″W / 43.69739°N 85.4839°W / 43.69739; -85.4839
Campus Main campus: Rural, 880 acres (360 ha)
Grand Rapids: urban[2]
Colors Crimson and Gold[3]
Athletics NCAA:
   Division II: GLIAC
   Division I: WCHA
Nickname Bulldogs[4]
Mascot Brutus the Bulldog[5]
Affiliations AASCU
Website www.ferris.edu

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.


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 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 13 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.


Main article: Ferris State Bulldogs
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 State 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
Ice Hockey
Tennis Tennis
Track & FieldTrack & Field

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

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, Alpha Kappa 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, 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.[25]

"Fighting Bulldogs" (1958)
30 second sample from Ferris State College Marching Band

Problems playing this file? See media help.

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.[25]

"Ferris Fidelity" (1957)
30 second sample from Ferris State College Men's Glee Club

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Notable alumni

See also


  1. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2013 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2012 to FY 2013" (PDF). National Association of College and University Business Officers. January 23, 2014. Retrieved February 5, 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Ferris Factbook" (PDF). Ferris State University Institutional Research. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
  3. "Ferris Graphic Standards" (PDF). Ferris State University Marketing and Communication. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  4. "Why are we the Bulldogs?". Ferris State University. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  5. Mascot Program
  6. "Enrollment Report Fall 2010" (PDF). Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  7. 1 2 "Ferris Statewide". Ferris State University. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 "Ferris State University Historical Timeline". Ferris State University Alumni Office. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  9. "Country School Days". The Autobiography of Woodbridge N. Ferris. Ferris State University. Retrieved April 16, 2009.
  10. "Academy School Days". The Autobiography of Woodbridge N. Ferris. Ferris State University. Retrieved April 16, 2009.
  11. "Early Teaching Experiences". The Autobiography of Woodbridge N. Ferris. Ferris State University. Retrieved April 16, 2009.
  12. "Owego Academy". The Autobiography of Woodbridge N. Ferris. Ferris State University. Retrieved April 16, 2009.
  13. "Teaching Experience at Spencer, New York". The Autobiography of Woodbridge N. Ferris. Ferris State University. Retrieved April 16, 2009.
  14. "Freeport, Dixon and Pittsfield, Illinois". The Autobiography of Woodbridge N. Ferris. Ferris State University. Retrieved April 16, 2009.
  15. "Founding Ferris Industrial School at Big Rapids". The Autobiography of Woodbridge N. Ferris. Ferris State University. Retrieved April 16, 2009.
  16. "My Political Experience". The Autobiography of Woodbridge N. Ferris. Ferris State University. Retrieved April 16, 2009.
  17. 1 2 "2009 Master Plan" (PDF). Ferris State University. Retrieved April 17, 2009.
  18. "WMTGC Fall 2009 Newsletter" (PDF). West Michigan Trails & Greenways Coalition. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  19. "Granger Center for Construction and HVACR". Ferris State University. Retrieved April 17, 2009.
  20. http://www.ferris.edu/michigan-college-of-pharmacy-doctorate-degrees-programs.htmM
  21. "Trustees". Ferris State University. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
  22. "David L. Eisler Inauguration as 18th FSU President". Ferris State University. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
  23. "Student Government". Ferris State University Student Government. Retrieved January 24, 2011.
  24. 1 2 "Student Government Constitution" (PDF). Ferris State University Student Government. Retrieved January 24, 2011.
  25. 1 2 "History of Music at Ferris". Ferris State University. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  26. VanOchten, Brian (January 18, 2011). "Ex-Creston star Carlton Brewster signs with Chicago Rush of Arena Football League". The Grand Rapids Press. Retrieved January 3, 2011.
  27. "Exclusive Interview with The Alpha Male". Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. June 18, 2004. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved April 7, 2007.
  28. 1 2 3 4 5 "Notable Ferris Alums". Ferris State Torch. Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan. September 30, 2009. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  29. "Cody Chupp Signs Tryout Contract With Texas Stars" (Press release). Ferris State University Athletics. March 26, 2010. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  30. "John D. Gruden". Legends of Hockey. Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  31. Staff. "Butch Jones Making His Mark in Division I Football". Alumni Success Stories. Ferris State University. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  32. Staff (2008). "Dave Karpa". hockeyDB.com. Retrieved May 10, 2009.
  33. "Chris Kunitz among Hobey Baker Hat Trick Finalists" (Press release). Ferris State University. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  34. Staff. "Profile". Official Website. Stacy Erwin Oakes. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  35. "Model of the Week: Karen McDougal". AskMen.com. Retrieved October 20, 2006.
  36. Staff (2008). "Andy Roach". hockeyDB.com. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  37. Staff. "Gary Waters, Basketball, 1972–89". Ferris State University Bulldog Hall of Fame. Ferris State University. Retrieved March 25, 2007.
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