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The Name Changes

Governor Romney signs name changeOne of the most significant events to occur at Ferris in the 60's was its name change.

Official action making Ferris Institute "Ferris State college" was completed when Gov. George Romney signed the bill specifying the name change. With him were Pres. Victor F. Spathelf and Rep. Fred Olsen of Sheridan and Sen. Emil Lockwood of st. Louis, sponsor of the Measure.

There is still some confusion in the minds of students and alumni about Ferris Institute becoming a state institution of Michigan in 1950 and becoming Ferris State College in 1963. But that's the way it was.

Spathelf had first approached the Legislature to change the name of college in 1959 after he had completed the accreditation project.

By 1959 the word "Institute" had a different connotation from the one Mr. Ferris used: "A school which offered short-term education in numerous fields, especially technical ones."

By 1959 the Institute was getting in the news, and people who didn't know better were assuming that Ferris Institute was some sort of health care facility, mental hospital, or prison, or maybe an engineering school.

Spathelf felt that the time had come when people should instantly recognize Ferris as a college. He had been playing around with the name, "Ferris Institute, a State College of Michigan." He even coined a term, "Ferris Institute, Michigan's most unique college," until someone pointed out that "unique" is absolute and thus had no comparative or superlative form.

His 1959 attempt to have the name changed met with such opposition in the Legislature that he withdrew the motion.

Some alumni and legislators objected to removing the name Institute, and one even went so far as to suggest the name be changed to Ferris State Institute.

At the turn of the century Mr. Ferris had had just as much objection from the college's constituents when he changed the name from Ferris Industrial School to Ferris Institute. In Mr. Ferris' case, all he had to do was make the decision to change the name, but by 1959 things were much more complicated.

Changin name on entrance signAs the name change legislation was in the works, students anticipated what the entrance sign would look like.

At the January 1963 Board of Control meeting, a petition for legislative action to again try to change the name was drafted.

In March the petition of the Board of Control to change the name of Ferris Institute to that of Ferris State College was translated into action as Senate Bill 1039, introduced by the region's Sen. Emil Lockwood. This was Sen. Lockwood's first bill as a legislator.

There was some bantering on the floor between members of the state Senate, but the bill passed 30-2.

The bill then went to the House of Representatives where it remained inactive until the House disposed of more pressing legislation.

In the meantime Don VanderWerp, who had co-authored the bill to make Ferris a state institution, had completed his senatorial duties with the state and was now serving in the House of Representatives as a member of the Education Committee.

VanderWerp was violently opposed to the name change on the grounds that when he wrote the bill he never intended for the name to be changed. He never intended the school to become a university.

VanderWerp did have a justifiable concern. Central, Western and Northern, the state's normal schools, recently had changed their status from college to university, and it was logical to believe that Ferris was going to follow suit.

The word "Institute" had a different connotation from the one Mr. Ferris used.


VanderWerp, an alumnus of Ferris, succeeded in bottling up the Senate Bill No. 1039 in the education committee almost to the deadline for reporting the bill out of committee.

Sweatshirts that say Ferris State College
Campus sweatshirts in for some quick retouching. The students with the magic markers were Lynda Hartman, Gary Brewer, Nancy Gates and Paula Rees.

At the last minute VanderWerp's fear that the name would be changed to college in 1963 and university in 1964 was assuaged by an amendment, which read:

"Because of the specialized educational function of Ferris Institute in changing the name of Ferris Institute to Ferris State College, it is expressly understood by the Legislature that the college will not at any time in the future request that it be established as a state university."

With the aid of legislative friends at the 11th hour, five voters were corralled to permit the presentation of the amendment and a 10-minute oral presentation. This time the committee voted 5 to 4 recommending the change.

Final action by the house resulted in a vote of 98 to 6 in favor of the name change. On the final roll call Rep. VanderWerp voted for the change.

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