WMU News

WMU celebrates its 100th anniversary

May 27, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- Exactly a century after Michigan Gov. Aaron Bliss signed legislation that created Western Michigan University, WMU officials are announcing plans for a four-month series of fall centennial events that will begin Sept. 3 with an opening gala and the inauguration of a new president.

May 27 marks 100 years since the state authorized the establishment of Western State Normal School to serve the west side of Michigan. Just days later, on June 3, 1903, members of the Kalamazoo community gathered to launch an effort to have the new school located in Kalamazoo, and on Aug. 28, the city received the nod from the state Board of Education as the site of the new school.

The University's celebration of its 100th birthday will officially begin Wednesday, Sept. 3, with a kick-off gala in Miller Auditorium and the inauguration of Dr. Judith I. Bailey as WMU's seventh president. The evening will include musical performances, video presentations and appearances by former WMU presidents, Diether H. Haenicke and Elson S. Floyd. Following the gala, the celebration will move outside Miller to the Fine Arts Plaza for an open-air concert tailored for students.

The Sept. 3 festivities will signal the start of four months of special events, exhibits and activities that will revolve around WMU's 100-year history as well as its direction for the next century. Events range from a Centennial Lecture Series and the introduction of commissioned art and musical works to a Centennial Football Game against the University of Virginia and a Centennial Homecoming that will reprise such popular traditions as a Homecoming parade through the community.

Planning for the celebration has been under way for more than two years. Spearheading the effort are Drs. Ed and Ruth Heinig, retired faculty members who lead a campuswide committee that includes faculty, staff and students.

"It's been a long time coming," says Ed Heinig. "But the celebration is about to begin, thanks to the dedication of a whole lot of people. Ruth and I are just ready to say, 'Let the good times roll.'"

A partial list of major centennial events and activities includes the following.

Famed WMU alumnae and Broadway stars Marin Mazzie and Barbara Marineau will be on campus for concert appearances Sept. 4 and 5 in Shaw Theatre.

WMU's annual CommUniverCity celebration, Sept. 6, will feature a football game against the College of William and Mary as well as a halftime salute to the Kalamazoo community's historical ties to the University.

A Centennial Lecture Series, set to begin Sept. 18, will bring to campus speakers that range from Pulitzer Prize winning author and illustrator Art Spiegelman to renowned U.S. diplomat Warren Zimmerman and acclaimed Michigan artist Ed Gray.

A Centennial Football Game Sept. 13 will feature a gridiron battle with the University of Virginia. The event will include pre-game tailgating, special halftime ceremonies featuring a musical show and a post-game fireworks display.

An Oct. 5 performance in Miller Auditorium will feature opera diva and alumna Susan B. Anthony in concert with the WMU Symphony Orchestra.

Homecoming festivities the weekend of Oct. 10-12 will include a centennial Homecoming parade, pre-game tailgating, a football game, observance of the 40th anniversary of the Distinguished Alumni Awards and the fifth annual Homecoming Campus Classic Race/Walk.

There will be several centennial receptions in December, including a holiday reception for invited guests marking the conclusion of the Centennial Capital Campaign; a WMU Board of Trustees' reception for faculty and staff; and a University reception for WMU students.

In addition to the events scheduled, a number of other Centennial initiatives are under way. They include: the publication this summer of a centennial history of WMU by Michigan historian and alumnus Larry Massie; the re-creation and installation near the Bernhard Center of a car from Western's famed East Campus trolley; construction of a Habitat for Humanity home near campus by WMU students; historical displays across the campus; introduction of a commissioned musical composition and a centennial sculpture; and production of numerous commemorative works, such as a musical CD, yearbook and videos.

For a more complete list of centennial events and a wealth of historical facts about WMU and information on campus traditions, past presidents, campus trivia and memorabilia, visit the WMU Centennial Web site at <www.wmich.edu/centennial>.

Media contact: Matt Kurz, 269 387-8400, matt.kurz@wmich.edu

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