July 3, 2018
It started with a friend asking me if I wanted to visit her older sister at college. And so, as a high school junior, I made my first trip to MSU. We got a little lost coming in on Trowbridge Road, stayed overnight at Shaw Hall, ate at El Azteco (back when it was in the basement), had Melting Moments ice cream and got a parking ticket. I thought it was the coolest place ever.
And that’s how my history with this incredible place began. Sure, growing up in Metro Detroit I knew about it pretty much my whole life, but that weekend was truly the beginning of my time as a Spartan.
I didn’t return to East Lansing until my orientation on a hot July day. During a break in sessions, my friends and I decided to see what Campbell, my assigned residence hall, looked like. Except the distance there from Wonders Hall looked a lot shorter on the map they gave us. We ended up having to jog most of the way but once I saw the ivy-covered Gothic buildings of West Circle, I forgot all about the stitch in my side. This was exactly what college was supposed to be.
After that, my path as a Spartan took a lot of sharp turns. I lived my first year on campus, got married, moved to a military base and finally returned to finish up the final years of my college career. Along the way, I turned my husband (a former Wolverine) into a Spartan and he earned his degree from here as well. Our history together is deeply interwoven with the history of MSU. Our daughter’s first song was “Victory for MSU,” learned when we bundled her up and took her to games making the trek from Metro Detroit.
A proud alumna who never forgot her Spartan roots, I couldn’t pass up working for my alma mater when the opportunity arose. So we moved back to East Lansing and I started my career in Olds Hall. I’ve done so many incredible things since that day and met truly inspiring people. I’ve had really fantastic days and some that felt so dark I wasn’t sure if light would come again. But, if history has shown me anything, it’s that as a Spartan you don’t sit in the dark waiting, but work as hard as you can to make tomorrow brighter. So, that’s what I do. That’s what Spartans do.
My history here is only a small speck on the timeline of this incredible institution. Thousands and thousands of earlier Spartans roamed these hallowed grounds, worked in these buildings (or those that are now just memories), had good days and bad, opened their minds, sought opportunity and made discoveries. And while recent events have been incredibly distressing, the Spartans I know will use the events of the past to inspire them to create better tomorrows for everyone.
So just how did MSU’s long history begin? It started in 1855 with a bold experiment in higher education that sought to bring education to the masses, not just the privileged class. It was also the first to bring agriculture into the classroom and laboratories. It was so successful that when President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act creating land-grant universities and revolutionizing higher education in America, Michigan Agricultural College (later known as MSU), was the model, making MSU the nation’s pioneer land-grant institution.
Yesterday was the 156th anniversary of the signing. A couple of my talented colleagues created an awesome video to celebrate the day. Check out the MSUTODAY FEATURE: Land-Grant Roots, to get a short, fun history lesson.
Thomas Jeitschko is a professor of economics who is doing his part in writing today’s history of the university. As dean of the graduate school, he knows that graduate education is a key driver of innovation and success. Read his FACULTY VOICE: The impact of a graduate education, to learn more about the importance of these future research leaders.
Kara Headley, a sophomore professional writing major, is spending her summer writing an incredibly exciting chapter in her Spartan history. She’s taking part in an education abroad program, “Environmental Communication and International News in Peru.” While there, she’s literally reached new heights, climbing a mountain she never thought she could. Read her inspiring STUDENT VIEW: Life lessons, to learn more about this motivating young woman.
Kara says, “What’s the point of only half climbing? It’s go big or go home.” If that doesn’t exemplify the true Spartan spirit, I don’t know what does. Way back in 1855, the founders of MSU certainly felt that way. Today, on campus and all over the world, Spartans are doing the same in their fields – forging ahead, finding solutions and changing lives. And while it’s important to respect our history, it’s the history we’re making now that truly matters. Go big or go home. Spartans Will.
Photo by Michael Samsky with special thanks to University Archives and Historical Collections."The Spartan," as seen when unveiled by Leo MacCropsey (senior class president) and Susan C. Averill (Associated Women Students president) on June 9, 1945, and more recently where its replica stands. The original statue now is located in the lobby of Spartan Stadium.