The history of the University of Michigan-Flint began in 1944 when the Flint Board of Education requested that a University of Michigan Extension Office open in Flint. Key area citizens, already planning the cultural center, were interested in the idea of higher education in the community. Three years later, the Regents of the University funded a study exploring the possibilities for higher education in Flint.
The community responded enthusiastically to the study, which called for the establishment of a four-year liberal arts college in Flint comparable to the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts on the Ann Arbor campus.
The city assisted the university by supplying buildings and land. Local philanthropist Charles Stewart Mott donated money to build a classroom and office building, and the Sponsors Fund of Flint donated funds for operating expenses.
Cooperation between the community and the University of Michigan brought about the opening of a two-year senior college (located on the land now occupied by Mott Community College) in 1956, which offered baccalaureate degree programs in the liberal arts and sciences and in the professional fields of education and business administration. Approximately 167 junior students enrolled the first semester.
As time passed, there was a call for major changes to the college. The Flint Board of Education proposed that the University of Michigan expand the senior college to a four-year institution. The Board of Regents adopted the proposal in 1964. The first freshman class was admitted the next year making the Flint College – as it was then known – the first four-year University of Michigan program offered outside of Ann Arbor.
In 1970, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools accredited the Flint College. In 1971, the Regents officially changed the name of the institution to the University of Michigan-Flint. That same year, University of Michigan President Robben Fleming appointed the first Chancellor of the University of Michigan-Flint, William E. Moran.
Chancellor Moran commissioned an Academic Planning Board to develop a master plan for the university. Responding to the needs of the community, the Board identified major areas of program development, including professional and career-oriented programs. Subsequent chancellors continued planning and executing strategies for the future growth of the university.
These plans led to the establishment of graduate degrees, new academic units, service units, and the expansion of the campus into downtown Flint. Through the combined efforts of Flint citizens and city government, the university acquired 42 acres along the Flint River in 1971. The campus occupied its first downtown building in 1977. The Classroom-Office Building (renamed the David M. French Hall in 2000) housed a theatre and library. The University Center opened in 1979 and the Recreation Center opened in 1982.
As a result of continued growth and strong support from community and state officials, UM-Flint continued to expand. In 1988, a student parking area opened and the William R. Murchie Science Building was dedicated.
The University of Michigan-Flint took possession of the University Pavilion (formerly Waterstreet Pavilion) from the city in 1991. Many administrative and student services offices moved from locations in French Hall and the Harding Mott University Center to the upper level of the Pavilion; the University Bookstore relocated to the lower level. As a result of generous donations, the Frances Willson Thompson Library opened in 1994.
In 1997, the campus acquired an additional 25 acres immediately north of the Flint River, where the William S. White Building was completed in 2002. A grant from the C.S. Mott Foundation provided the university with funds to assist with the construction and programming of new facilities on the site. The White Building houses the School of Management, the School of Health Professions and Studies, the Department of Communication and Visual Arts, the Early Childhood Development Center, and the Urban Health and Wellness Center.
In 2006, the University of Michigan-Flint celebrated 50 Years of Excellence. In the next half-century, UM-Flint will continue to imagine and "make happen" new programs, new technologies, new resources, and new facilities that will allow our students to become true leaders in an ever-changing world. The most exciting example of UM-Flint's continuous progress took place on August 24, 2008, as 300 students moved into the first residence hall on the UM-Flint campus. The pioneering class of residential students is contributing to an even richer sense of community, both on-campus and throughout the downtown neighborhood.
Just one week before the new residence hall students moved in, a new chancellor arrived on campus to direct UM-Flint's continued growth. Chancellor Ruth J. Person is the first female to hold the position of chancellor in the school’s history.
In December 2011, UM-Flint's School of Management's (SOM) expanded into the Riverfront Center located across Saginaw Street on the west-end of the campus. The school occupies 27,000 square feet of newly renovated space, or three times the amount it formerly had in the William S. White Building.
The University of Michigan-Flint family is proud of our unique history, and eager to explore new ways of benefiting individuals and communities over our next 50 years and beyond.