Feb. 12, 2014
Who knew 159 years old could look so fantastic? Sure, I suppose there has been a facelift or two throughout the years and even a couple of name changes, but dang, MSU is looking pretty awesome (though snow covered) on its birthday.
That’s right, in addition to Abe Lincoln and Charles Darwin, Michigan State University is celebrating its birthday today, more officially called Founders’ Day.
On Feb. 12, 1855 Michigan Gov. Kinsley S. Bingham signed into law an act for the establishment of the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan, now known as Michigan State University. It was the prototype for 69 land-grant institutions established under the Morrill Act of 1862.
All these years later, MSU is looking remarkable. Yes, the campus is beautiful, but what’s really remarkable is so much deeper than the surface of pretty buildings and lovely grounds. What’s remarkable is just how much impact this place has had in the world since that day 159 years ago. I wonder if anyone back then truly grasped the importance of what they were doing or just how much a difference one college could make.
How many hundreds of thousands of students have passed through these doors and gained knowledge and experiences that forever changed their lives? How many people got solid foundations of learning and skill that allowed them to leave here and go out and change this world for better?
Students like sophomore Lindsey Beaver who wants to use her strengths and passions to create lasting social change. She credits MSU’s RCAH for giving her direction and the ability to merge all of her passions and skills that will allow her to be useful in the world today. Read her STUDENT VIEW: Looking to create lasting change, and watch her video to learn more about her.
Think of the lives that have been saved by doctors who went here. Think of all the children who are taught every day by those wonderful K-12 teachers who graduated from MSU. Or the countless people helped by social workers, psychologists, counselors, trainers and nurses who are proud Spartans. Think about how many people are entertained and enlightened by musicians, poets, actors and authors who started their careers here in East Lansing. Think about all of the scientific advances and discoveries that have been made by MSU alumni.
The bottom line is that MSU’s impact goes far, far beyond just those students who graduate from here.
And then there are the faculty and researchers. Every single day, in labs all over campus and out in the field all over the world, MSU faculty and researchers are working to solve problems—problems like hunger, disease, environmental concerns, social ills and so many more.
Did you know that Cisplatin, one of the most widely used cancer-fighting drugs, was discovered here at MSU? Think of how many lives have been saved by that discovery alone. And I’m sure some of those lives saved have gone on to make their own positive changes in the world.
Or how about how many lives have been saved by MSU's Terrie Taylor? She’s an internationally recognized expert on malaria, which she refers to as the “Voldemort of parasites,” and has been waging a battle with it for the last 28 years. She has spent six months of each of these years in the African nation of Malawi conducting malaria research and treating patients, the vast majority of whom are children. What might have happened to so many of those children in the last 28 years had MSU never existed? Read her FACULTY VOICE: One head cannot hold up a roof, to learn about just one day in her fascinating life.
So on today’s Founders’ Day, I’m not eating birthday cake. I’m not singing, wearing a birthday hat or even having a party. Instead, I’m feeling proud, a little sentimental and reflecting on just what an incredible impact my university has had on this world. I'm also feeling very grateful to those original founders.
John Hannah, past president of MSU, said, "Always remember that Michigan State College stands as a great memorial to a great idea fostered by a great system of democratic government. As a living mechanism for service to the people of Michigan, this nation and the world, it has great, exciting tasks to perform.“
I think we're off to a pretty good start.
Photo of College Hall, completed in 1856, the first classroom building at Michigan Agriculture College, is courtesy of University Archives and Historical Collections.