History & Tradition


Founded in 1817 as the “Catholepistemiad of Detroit,” the University of Michigan was the first public university in the Northwest Territories. Three Native American tribes, through the Treaty of Fort Meigs, ceded land to U-M that was sold to provide a significant part of Michigan's permanent endowment. Although the land was given "believing they may wish some of their children hereafter educated," the three donor tribes - Ojibwe (Chippewa), Odawa (Ottawa) and Bodewadimi (Potawatomi) - never received direct benefit. Generations later, in the 1990s, a group of students initiated a campaign to erect a memorial to the tribes that provided the land that helped fund the university's start.

Ann Arbor was a farm town of only 2,000 people when the university was relocated from Detroit in 1837. The town’s founders, John Allen and Elisha Rumsey, chose the name in honor of their wives — Ann Allen and Mary Ann Rumsey — and to recognize the massive oak trees in the area that created a natural arbor. The Ann Arbor Land Company donated the original 40-acre campus (bounded by State Street, South University, North University, and East University avenues) to the university.

U-M enrolled its first students in Ann Arbor in 1841. The university had only two professors who taught six freshmen and one sophomore. The five campus buildings consisted of four faculty homes and one classroom/residence hall building. The faculty’s farm animals grazed over the campus, and much of the campus was fenced in to keep the city’s and the university’s animals separated.

By the 1860s, U-M was viewed as a model for younger state and public universities because it was the largest (with 1,205 enrolled students) and most successful. It remained an all-male school until Madelon Stockwell was admitted in the winter of 1870.

Today, U-M is one of the most distinguished public universities and a leader in higher education attracting top students and faculty from all over the world. Its size (more than 40,000 students), academic strength, impressive resources, and quality of its research provides an environment where students not only learn but also grow and challenge themselves by engaging with new people, cultures and ideas.

The first American to walk in space, the creator of the iPod, the co-founder of Google, and the 38th U.S. president are all Michigan alumni.

School Motto: Artes, Scientia, Veritas (Arts, Knowledge, Truth)
Nickname: Wolverines
Colors: Maize & Blue
Mascot: Currently, None (“Biff”, a live Wolverine, served in the 1920s)
Song: The Victors

The U-M Heritage Project
The U-M Heritage Project is a multimedia site showcasing stories, photos and videos of U-M's past.
U-M is committed to creating a campus environment of equity and inclusion where students, faculty, and staff with diverse backgrounds live, learn, and work together.
U-M Bicentennial
In 2017, the University of Michigan celebrated its bicentennial: two centuries of academic excellence and discovery since its founding.
Uniquely Michigan
Being a member of the U-M community, as in any culture, means knowing the language — U-M isms.

U-M's Museum of Natural History houses permanent exhibits on dinosaurs and other prehistoric life, Michigan wildlife, anthropology, geology, changing temporary exhibits, and a Planetarium. Many U-M students work and conduct research here.