OU Firsts

First Student
Lynn Anderson Ruth, who was chosen from a pool of students who finished in the top half of their class, registered for classes at Michigan State University - Oakland in 1959 and received student number 000001, making history as the first MSUO student.

Anderson Ruth fondly remembers her college days, especially helping to create the original Student Senate, the OU chorus and Senior Ball at Meadow Brook Hall.

"We only had the Foundation buildings for classrooms. We had no residence halls and no library building. We created all our clubs and wrote our constitutional by-laws. It was fun creating from scratch. You learn so much doing this yourself."

First Employee
George Karas was responsible for the maintenance of Meadow Brook Hall and Meadow Brook Estate and the physical plant at Michigan State University - Oakland. He also coordinated the construction of the buildings for the university, starting with the Foundation Halls and the student center, and helped plan for the additions of the library, intramural buildings for athletics and Dodge Hall of Engineering. He and his wife lived in a cottage on the estate for seven years.

One of the fondest memories Karas, who retired in 1987, has of OU was when he, Woody Varner and MSUO campus planners Milt Baron and Harold Lautner moved the prospective campus from north of Deer Lake on Adams Road to the current location. The decision to move the campus site was made in a half-hour as they were driving around Meadow Brook Farms.

First Chancellor
D.B. "Woody" Varner served as vice president of Michigan State University under President John Hannah and was present at Meadow Brook Hall when Hannah asked Matilda and Alfred Wilson to finalize the donation of their estate to establish a new university.

Varner later served as OU's chancellor from 1958 through 1970.

First Classes
Noncredit continuing education classes started in July 1958 in a converted chicken coop.   

"We took one of the chicken coops and converted it into a classroom," said Lowell Eklund, former dean of Continuing Education.

The coop had ceramic tile and concrete floors with a few stray chicken feathers in cracks in the wall.

First Class, First-Year Students
Michigan State University - Oakland's first convocation was Sept. 17, 1959. First classes began on Sept. 21 with all first-year students. With 570 students and 25 faculty members, the university opened with three buildings, North and South Foundation Hall and a portion of the Oakland Center. The most popular major was teacher education, followed by liberal arts, engineering science and business administration. Tuition and fees were $255 annually. The charter class graduated 125 students.

First Research Grant
Paul Tomboulian, distinguished professor, received the first research grant on campus and initiated the first undergraduate research program in 1960. He introduced biochemistry to the university and the first science-based environmental health major in Michigan in 1966 and obtained the first external department accreditation on campus in 1967.

First Sport
In 1959, Hollie Lepley was hired to shape intramural and recreation activities at Oakland University. The intramural building was completed in 1963, and men's cross country became the first intercollegiate sport offered at Oakland in 1964.

First Mascot
Before becoming the Golden Grizzlies, OU's nickname was the Pioneers and the unofficial mascot was Pioneer Pete. Pete started out in the 1950s as an aerospace pioneer, but when a student drew a buckskin-clad Pioneer Pete, the image stuck. In 1997, Oakland University moved its athletics program from NCAA Division II to Division I and in 1998 adopted the Golden Grizzlies nickname and the Grizz mascot.

First Honors College Graduates
The charter class of Oakland's Honor's College graduated its first six students in 1981.

First Distance Learning
Oakland's first distance learning classrooms were online in fall 1995.

First Performance at Meadow Brook Theatre
John Fernald, an internationally acclaimed director and head of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, was invited to establish a resident professional theatre company at Oakland University. The Fernald Company built a theatre and the curtain rose for the first time on Jan. 4, 1967.

First Performance at Meadow Brook Music Festival
Founding chairperson of Oakland's music program, Walter Collins, posed the idea of a summer music festival to bring the public to see OU's beautiful campus. On Feb. 29, 1964, ground was broken for the new festival, built to be the summer home for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, with money donated from the Kresge Foundation. The pavilion was completed in time for the festival's opening on July 23, 1964. The Howard C. Baldwin Memorial Pavilion borrowed 2,000 folding chairs from Rochester Schools to seat its patrons for the first shows.

First Founders' Day Celebration
In 1997, Oakland began celebrating Founders' Day with an annual event each April. Oakland was founded in 1957.

First Concours d'Elegance
The first Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance was held in 1978 on the grounds of Meadow Brook Hall. It is considered one of the top classic car shows in the world, attracting thousands of spectators each year.

First Cable Hook-up
Cable was installed for the first time in the residence halls in 1996.

First Internet Site
Oakland University joined Merit, a regional research and education network in 1985, connecting the university to the Internet for the first time. Some of the first Oakland websites date back to 1995 and can be viewed thanks to an Internet archive.

Meadow Brook Hall opened to the public
Meadow Brook Hall opened to the public in 1971, four years after Matilda Dodge Wilson's death. Currently, the Hall welcomes more than 100,000 visitors each year to participate in tours, educational programs and a variety of special events.

Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine
In 2011, Oakland established Michigan's first new medical school in 47 years. The charter class of 50 students welcomed the unique opportunity to combine science coursework with clinical training through every step of the program. Designed to train top-notch physicians, the medical school also places great emphasis on compassion and community well-being.

First certified LEED Platinum building
The 172,000-square-foot Human Health Building opened in August 2012. Housing the School of Nursing and the School of Health Sciences, the HHB boasts an energy-efficient and sustainable design that makes it the first higher education building in Michigan to be certified LEED Platinum.

First Horizon League athletic games
Oakland University’s Golden Grizzlies athletic teams made the move to the Horizon League in 2013. This change allows student athletes to compete with other high-level institutions that also value academics. More than half of the Horizon League student athletes have grade point averages of 3.2 or better, and the league exceeds NCAA academic averages in 14 of the 19 sports it sponsors, including men's and women's basketball.