Always Leading. Forever Valiant.

Behind the scenes

From research to sports to music to medicine: the University of Michigan has a 200-year-old tradition of excellence. Learn more about the U-M people and programs that made history.

  • Endowed in 1917 by alumnus and Regent Levi Lewis Barbour, the Barbour Scholarships for Oriental Women were later deemed “one of Michigan's unique possessions” by President Alexander G. Ruthven. The scholarship is awarded to outstanding female students from Asian countries to study science, medicine, mathematics and other academic disciplines at the University of Michigan and then return to their home countries ready to use the knowledge and skills they obtained. The Barbour Scholarships, which mark their centennial in 2017, are an early example of U-M’s commitment to diversity and outreach.

    Barbour Scholars: East Meets West

  • Long before African Americans achieved full equal rights in America, the University of Michigan was enrolling black students. George Jewett was one of those early trailblazers. The son of a successful Ann Arbor blacksmith, Jewett enrolled in 1890 with plans to become a doctor. Accomplished and well-liked, he was captain of the football, baseball and debate teams, as well as valedictorian of his class, at Ann Arbor High School. He also spoke four languages: German, Italian, French and English. In two seasons (1890 and 1892), he started as both a fullback and halfback, and was Michigan’s top scorer, rusher and kicker – as well as its first African American player. When Medical School Dean Victor Vaughan insisted he could not play football and attend medical school at the same time, Jewett transferred to Northwestern University, earning his medical degree and becoming the first black player in that school’s history as well.

    George Jewett, Trailblazer

  • Polio entered the national consciousness in 1916, when the first major epidemic struck: 27,000 people were paralyzed and 6,000 people died. Increasing numbers of outbreaks occurred every year thereafter, and American parents were terrified, since the disease mostly affected children. When Thomas Francis, Jr. announced on April 12, 1955 that a vaccine developed by Jonas Salk was “safe, effective and potent,” the whole country celebrated. Francis, director of the Poliomyelitis Vaccine Evaluation Center at the U-M School of Public Health, supervised the field trials of his former student Salk’s polio vaccine. This action still stands as the largest peacetime mobilization of volunteers in American history, involving 325,000 doctors, nurses, educators and private citizens. World Polio Day brings awareness to the continuing campaign to end polio, which still threatens children in the developing world.

    Polio Meets Its Match

  • The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and work has had a profound influence on the United States. He is one of many notable figures who have spoken at U-M; the list ranges from human rights activists including the Dalai Lama to American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell to President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who gave the “Great Society” speech at the 1964 commencement. King visited on Nov. 5, 1962 and spoke to a capacity crowd at Hill Auditorium on “Moral Issues in Discrimination”; he also spoke later in the evening on “The Future of Integration.” “We must learn to live together as brothers or we will die together as fools,” King told the Hill audience, urging students to take action and join the growing civil rights movement. His visit was part of a lecture series on civil liberties, which also included six-time Socialist Party presidential candidate Norman Thomas.

    MLK on Campus

  • Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy had been campaigning all day, and all he wanted to do after arriving at U-M at 2 a.m. on Oct. 14, 1960 was go to sleep. But 10,000 students were waiting to hear the young, charismatic politician. So he spoke to them from the steps of the Michigan Union and issued a challenge: How many would be willing to serve their country and the cause of peace by living and working in the developing world? From that powerful idea grew the Peace Corps. Since 1960, nearly 200,000 Americans—including 2,200 U-M graduates — have lived abroad in the service of world peace, making a difference in the lives of others.

    “A Greater Purpose”: JFK and the Peace Corps

  • The Apollo 15 moon mission, which launched July 26, 1971, was the ninth manned mission in the Apollo program and the first to use the Lunar Roving Vehicle. Apollo 15 was notable for another reason, too: All three members of the flight crew were holders of U-M degrees. While the crew —Col. David R. Scott, ’49-’50, commander; Maj. Alfred Worden, MS ’63, command module pilot; and Col. James Irwin, MS ’57 — didn’t leave a Michigan flag on the moon’s surface, as legend has it, they did leave a certificate that read: “The Alumni Association of The University of Michigan. Charter Number One. This is to certify that The University of Michigan Club of The Moon is a duly constituted unit of the Alumni Association and entitled to all the rights and privileges under the Association's Constitution.” The lunar club joins the hundreds of other U-M groups that today comprise more than 575,000 alumni.

    Apollo Goes Blue

  • A life-threatening condition known as tracheobronchomalacia causes the windpipe to periodically collapse, preventing normal breathing. There is no cure and life expectancy figures have historically been grim. But that’s changing, thanks to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. In 2012, a 3-month-old boy made national headlines after having surgery to implant groundbreaking 3D-printed devices known as “bioresorable splints” that help keep airways open. “Before this procedure,” said one of the researchers, “babies with this disease had little chance of surviving. Today, our first patient is an active, healthy preschooler with a bright future. The device worked better than we could have ever imagined.” The 3D splint is one of the latest innovations from the U-M Hospitals & Health Centers, nationally ranked in 12 adult and eight pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report.

    Life-saving Surgery for Little Victors

  • Musical theatre students at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD) have the best of both worlds: access to an outstanding conservatory education along with the resources of a top research university. The musical theatre program has a national reputation among professional agents, casting directors and producers as being among the best of its kind. As part of their curriculum, students in musical theatre also study with faculty members in the departments of Theatre and Drama, Voice and Dance. Michigan is one of a select number of schools that promote this degree of collaboration among areas within the performing arts.

    SMTD Students Soar

  • Michigan Athletics celebrated its 150th anniversary during the 2015-16 academic year. With 56 national championships, 310 individual national titles and nearly 400 Big Ten championships—the league leader—Michigan is one of the nation’s sports powerhouses. U-M boasts more national titles in hockey and men’s swimming and diving than any other NCAA Division I program, and in 2005, Michigan’s softball team won its first Women’s College World Series—becoming the first school east of the Mississippi to do so. The iconic winged helmet, fight song and world-famous stadium are all part of a rich athletics tradition that begins and ends with excellence.

    Hailing the Victors

  • In 2015, a Michigan soybean farmer uncovered something on one of his fields that looked like an old fence post. Upon closer examination, it turned out to be the rib bone of a woolly mammoth that roamed the Michigan landscape nearly 15,000 years ago. Paleontology professor Daniel Fisher and his team of students were able to recover about 20 percent of the mammoth’s bones, including the skull and two tusks, numerous vertebrae and ribs, the pelvis and both shoulder blades. It was one of the most complete mammoth finds in Michigan. The bones will be on display at the U-M Museum of Natural History until January 2018.

    A Mammoth Discovery

  • A multidisciplinary University of Michigan team was really thinking “inside the box” when it reimagined a 20-foot by 8-foot shipping container as an ophthalmology pop-up clinic in Jamaica. The team’s idea was to create a clinic environment that would be uniquely self-contained — something that could be outfitted in the United States, shipped complete and unpacked with minimal setup anywhere in the world. The “container clinic” is part of a larger Third Century Initiative grant project administered by Professor and Interim Chair of Human Genetics David T. Burke, who is developing easy-to-use technology to help patients in underserved regions monitor chronic conditions without having to travel to a doctor. The pop-up clinic is one of more than 600 global initiatives currently under way at U-M.

    Thinking Inside the Box

  • The world’s first controlled environment for testing connected and automated vehicles, Mcity sits on a 32-acre site on U-M’s North Campus, with more than 16 acres of roads and infrastructure. The site, which opened in 2015, simulates a wide range of complexities that vehicles might encounter, and includes roads with intersections, traffic signs and signals, sidewalks, benches, streetlights and obstacles such as construction barriers. Mcity was designed and developed by U-M’s interdisciplinary Mobility Transformation Center (MTC), in partnership with the Michigan Department of Transportation. “MTC and Mcity highlight the interdisciplinary strengths of U-M,” said U-M President Mark Schlissel. “The initiative also demonstrates the great potential in working with partners outside the university to address compelling issues of broad impact.”

    Mcity: Driving While Connected

  • The Michigan Marching Band gave its first public performance in 1897 for the Law School’s annual observance of Washington’s birthday. Under leaders like the legendary William Revelli (director from 1935 to 1971) the band has netted a lot of other “firsts” in its history: first Big Ten band to perform at a Rose Bowl game (Jan. 1, 1948); first band to appear in both Yankee Stadium and the Rose Bowl in the same season (1950), earning the nickname “The Transcontinental Marching Band”; first Big Ten band to perform at a Super Bowl (Super Bowl VII, 1973); and the first band to form the “script Ohio”—predating a similar formation later made famous by The Ohio State University Band.

    M Go Band

  • The Plasmadynamics and Electric Propulsion Laboratory (PEPL) is considered one of the world’s leading electric propulsion research centers. The lab has three primary goals: to make electric propulsion devices more efficient and better performing; to understand potential spacecraft integration issues that could impede their use; and to identify non-propulsion applications of EP systems. The centerpiece of the lab is the Large Vacuum Test Facility, a 9-meter-long, stainless steel-clad vacuum chamber, originally called the “Space Simulation Chamber,” which was used in the development of the lunar rover vehicles. PEPL is just one of the College of Engineering's many research labs; other significant centers include the Center for Healthcare Engineering and Patient Safety, the Center for Wireless Integrated MicroSensing and Systems, the Michigan Institute for Plasma Science and Engineering and the S.M. Wu Manufacturing Research Center, to name just a few.

    Space Research: The Final Frontier

  • The first U-M courses in architecture were offered in 1876. The program was recognized as a formal course of study in 1906 and became an official department in 1913, boasting renowned professors like Eliel Saarinen. Courses in landscape architecture were introduced in 1939, and a graduate program in urban planning was added in 1946 — one of the first in the nation. The architecture program at the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning recognizes the multiplicity and changing nature of future roles open to the architect and urban designer. Whatever the exact nature of those roles might be, the programs are designed to prepare students to perceive the ordered relationship of people and their environment and to translate that order into design for the enrichment of human experience.

    Constructing a World: Architecture at U-M

  • Meet MARLO, a freestanding, two-legged robot developed at U-M whose innovative feedback control algorithms should help other two-legged robots — and powered prosthetic legs — gain similar capabilities. MARLO can walk down steep slopes, through a thin layer of snow and over uneven and unstable ground — moving in any direction in an action known as 3D walking. “Getting a robot to walk well in 3D can be a very frustrating process,” said mechanical engineering doctoral student Dennis Da, who developed a way to control the robot with two 2D algorithms. “This method could help many researchers speed up the process of achieving stable walking on their robots.” MARLO is being spearheaded by students and researchers from the departments of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering, which are ranked 6th and 5th in the nation, respectively, by U.S. News & World Report.

    MARLO: Walking the Walk

  • Cheerleading at the University of Michigan has a long and storied history. The cheer team began in 1894, a mere 15 years after the first football game was played. The students of the Cheer Team have achieved impressive accomplishments on the national competitive cheer stage, including four consecutive National Cheerleaders Association championships. The Cheer Team performs at football games in the Big House, as well as at men’s and women’s basketball games at the Crisler Center.

    Team Spirit

  • The Clinical Simulation Center at U-M is an innovative instructional environment and learning laboratory that provides challenging, immersive training for medical students, physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals. Training programs offer maintenance and development of clinical skills in treating cardiopulmonary arrest, airway management and ultrasound guided vascular access; the programs are free to U-M healthcare professionals. Simulator operation courses provide a wide range of simulators for realistic, hands-on training in a risk-free environment. Also offered are classes in advanced cardiac life support and pediatric advanced life support, among other options.

    Innovating Medicine

  • With its superb acoustics, Hill Auditorium is one of the jewels of the University campus. The concert hall was built in 1913 by famed Detroit architect Albert Kahn. It has hosted many of the world’s best-known performers and musicians, including Enrico Caruso, Leonard Bernstein, Cecelia Bartoli, Bob Marley, Yo-Yo Ma and Aretha Franklin, and has been the site of lectures and readings by such luminaries as Eleanor Roosevelt, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Garrison Keillor and Allen Ginsberg. Hill today hosts a robust series of programs, including two local favorites: a performance of Handel’s “Messiah” in December and the Ann Arbor Folk Festival in January.

    Hosting the Finest Voices

Michigan Voices

The following members of the Michigan community can be heard giving voice to our PSA.

  • Jim Bernstein, Director of Screen Arts and Cultures Screenwriting Program
  • Leslie Stainton, editor of the School of Public Health’s “Findings Magazine”
  • Catherine Brown, Affiliate Professor of Classical Studies
  • Gillian Eaton, Assistant Professor of Theatre
  • Ken Fischer, President of the University Musical Society
  • Anita Gonzalez, Professor of Theatre & Drama
  • Malcolm Tulip, Assistant Professor of Theatre
  • Neal Kelly, Graduate of the U-M BFA Acting Program
  • Jesse Peri, Graduate of the University of Michigan’s BFA Acting Program
  • Leon Howard, Program Manager in the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs
  • Philip Maxwell, Graduate of the U-M BFA Acting Program
  • Malinda Matney, Director of Assessment, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching
  • Justin Choi, Current Student in the U-M BFA Acting Program
  • Steve Schram, Executive Director and General Manager of Michigan Public Media
  • Yeidy Rivero, Professor of Screen Arts and Cultures
  • Jim Toy, LGBTQ Activist and Founder of the Spectrum Center
  • Jim Harbaugh, J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach
  • Simon Longnight, Current Student in the U-M BFA Musical Theatre Program
  • Kevin Corbett, Current Student in U-M BFA Acting Program (appears only in :60)
  • Jane Bruce, Graduate of the U-M BFA Acting Program (appears only in :60)
  • Jagadeesh Sivadasan, Assoc Professor of Business and Economics and Public Policy
  • Ashley Lucas, Associate Professor of Theatre & Drama
  • Trelawny Boynton, Director of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs