Ferris to Host 140th State History Conference Sept. 26-28 in Big Rapids

Ferris State UniversityFerris State University is the statewide sponsor and host of the 140th annual meeting and state history conference Sept. 26-28 in Big Rapids.

The Historical Society of Michigan events are being held in conjunction with the 130th anniversary of the 1884 founding of Ferris. Event sponsors include Chemical Bank, the City of Big Rapids and the Mecosta County Historical Society. Event supporters also include Ice Mountain, the Schuberg Insurance Agency and Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital.

The state history awards will also be presented during the conference. Each year, HSM presents a state history award to individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the appreciation and understanding of Michigan history.

The goal of the State History Conference is to explore significant people, places and events that have shaped Michigan’s past. Organizers achieve this goal through a diverse offering of keynote speakers, breakout sessions, workshops and tours. The conference is hosted in different Lower Peninsula locations to highlight the history of that area and to address notable statewide historical matters. HSM also hosts the Upper Peninsula History Conference, which focuses on the history of the U.P. and Michigan in Perspective: The Local History Conference, which concentrates on Southeast Michigan and statewide history.

Highlights of the State History Conference:


Friday, Sept. 26

9 a.m. to 12 p.m. – Pre-conference workshop

12 to 4 p.m. – Registration/check-in

1 to 4 p.m. – Concurrent pre-conference tours (the tour cost is $15)

  • Tour 1: The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, Art Walk and Archives
  • Tour 2: Old Jail, Mecosta County Historical Museum, Bergelin House and Highland View Cemetery
  • Tour 3: Historic homes walking tour

4:30 p.m. – President’s reception at the Michigan College of Optometry building

6 p.m. – State History Awards Banquet at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Center

The keynote address will be on the subject of, “Using Objects of Intolerance to Teach Tolerance and Promote Social Justice.” The address will be delivered by David Pilgrim, vice president for Diversity and Inclusion, and founder and curator of Ferris’ Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia


Saturday, Sept. 27

8 a.m. to 12 p.m. – Registration/check-in

8:30 a.m. – Annual Historical Society of Michigan business meeting

9 a.m. – Welcome and opening keynote address delivered by Gleaves Whitney, director of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University. Whitney will discuss Russell Kirk, known as the “Wizard of Mecosta County.” She will highlight his impact both locally and nationally. The welcome will be delivered by Mark Warba, mayor of Big Rapids, and Mariann Hahn of the Mecosta County Historical Society.

10 to 11:15 a.m. – Concurrent breakout sessions (I)

11:15 to 11:45 a.m. – Exhibits and networking time

11:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. – Luncheon and keynote address delivered by Denise M. Reiling, a professor at Eastern Michigan University. Her topic is titled, “The Business of Being Amish.” The welcome will be delivered by David Eisler, president of Ferris.

1:45 to 3 p.m. – Concurrent breakout sessions (II)

3 to 3:30 p.m. – Refreshment break and exhibits open

3:30 to 4:45 p.m. – Concurrent breakout sessions (III)

7 p.m. – Celebration banquet featuring Larry B. Massie, author and storyteller, discussing the topic, “The Color of Michigan’s Past.” This event is not included in the conference registration and requires a special ticket. Members pay $21 while non-members pay $26.


Sunday, Sept. 28

9:30 to 10:45 a.m. – Walking tour of downtown Big Rapids

The conference registration deadline is Friday, Sept. 19. After that date, registrations will be available only at the door, but meal tickets will not be available. No refunds will be given after Sept. 19.