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University to Celebrate Centennial of Founder’s Gubernatorial Inauguration

Woodbridge FerrisFerris State University will mark the 100th anniversary of its founder’s inauguration as governor of Michigan with “Celebrating the Legacy: Gov. Woodbridge N. Ferris” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16.

The centennial celebration, organized by Ferris’ History Task Force and Political Engagement Project, will be held in College of Business Room 111. The event is free and open to the public.

Woodbridge Ferris T-shirt“We are fortunate to have a founder whose vision, leadership and hands-on service are hard to match,” said event emcee Jeremy Mishler, director of Alumni Relations and Advancement Operations as well as executive director of the FSU Alumni Association. “He believed everyone could advance themselves through education and worked tirelessly as an educator and statesman to help all people.”

Many of Ferris’ perspectives and philosophies are still relevant today, Mishler said. Organizers hope the event will help those who attend “better understand the depth and breadth of his legacy and impact on our state and nation’s history.”

As part of the event, Big Rapids Mayor Mark Warba will interact with Gov. Ferris – in the form of Ferris associate professor of music Harry Dempsey – to compare and contrast the issues Ferris faced when he was inaugurated on Jan. 1, 1913 and those faced by the state of Michigan today.

In his inaugural message to the Michigan legislature, Ferris focused on education funding, road infrastructure and the structure of local and state government. 

“This event will allow the audience to come to a stark realization that the critical political, social and economic situations facing Gov. Ferris a century ago and those facing Michigan in the 21st century are tremendously similar,” said Richard Griffin, PEP program coordinator and a professor of political science.

Ferris, the state’s 28th governor and its first Democratic leader in 20 years, was elected to a second term in 1915. During his tenure, the Michigan-Ohio border conflict was resolved, a farm colony for epileptics was created, the Central Michigan Tuberculosis Sanatorium was founded and a bitter copper mine strike was dealt with.

Ferris’ career in politics continued with his election to the United States Senate in 1922; he served until his death in 1928. Ferris also was a candidate for U.S. president in 1924, but did not receive his party’s nomination.

The university, established by Ferris in 1884, is the only one in Michigan named after its founder. Today, more than 14,000 students are enrolled in classes on the main campus in Big Rapids, 19 off-campus sites throughout Michigan and at Ferris’ Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids.

Commemorative T-shirts featuring a fun, graphic depiction of Ferris being inaugurated will be given to those who attend the community event. Refreshments will be served in the IRC Connector following the celebration.