Founders’ Day Address Considers Ferris’ Mission and Future, Ice Cream Social, Extravaganza Entertain Community

President Eisler at Founders' Day
Ferris State University President David Eisler addresses attendees at his Founders' Day "State of the University" address on Thursday, Aug. 29.

Ferris State University’s 135th-anniversary celebration began in earnest Thursday, Aug. 29, as Founders’ Day activities dominated the center of the Big Rapids campus.

In a late morning address, Ferris President David Eisler noted that the university’s founders, Woodbridge Ferris and his wife Helen Gillespie Ferris, showed great foresight and tenacity by establishing the Big Rapids Industrial School, in September 1884.

“We are so blessed to have founders who believed in so many things that are still important today,” Eisler said. “Their school was set up to provide opportunity to those who may have missed their first chance to succeed. What Mr. Ferris did was absolutely extraordinary.”

Eisler said recent initiatives to increase the diversity of the student body and constrain costs have been successful. He added that limiting student debt remains a leading university goal.

“A New York Times opinion piece, published earlier this year, called Ferris one of 14 top-performing schools in the nation, in terms of percentage of graduates compared to their expected graduation rate,” Eisler said. “Those who are learning and teaching here, and all those who work in support of our students, should be proud of this accomplishment and continue their outstanding efforts.”

President Eisler also pointed to master plan initiatives, such as the Virtual Learning Center and the Center for Athletics Performance as ways that Ferris’ academic and athletic successes can continue in the future.

Fast-moving late-summer storms arrived near the conclusion of the annual Ice Cream Social and Extravaganza, which moved those activities in the University Center building. Mecosta County Administrator Paul Bullock enjoyed a dish after offering his time as a celebrity server, which he described as a joy rather than an obligation.

“Ferris does so many things for our community that when there is a chance to give back, I am always happy to be able to do it,” Bullock said. “It is a pleasure meeting with students who stop by for ice cream. I ask where they are from, and learn that it is from around the state, the Midwest and even other countries. They are happy to talk about their courses of study and how they enjoy being at Ferris. I believe I have participated in each ice cream social since this tradition was re-established, and every student says ‘Thank You’ after they were served.”

Founders’ Day activities are part of the Bulldog Beginnings schedule of events arranged each year to welcome students back onto campus. Those events continue through Sunday, Sept. 8.