Happy 130th, Ferris

A look at how Ferris has changed

This year, Ferris State University is celebrating its 130 anniversary.

Two of Ferris’ longest-serving faculty members shared the changes they’ve experienced over the years.

“When I came here, the Science Building was the Pharmacy Building,” said Dr. Robert Friar, the biology professor whom many students may remember if they attended his Sex and the College Student lecture their freshman year. “I came in ’67 and they moved into the new building in 1970. The Arts and Sciences Commons did not exist. There was the Starr Building and there was the Science Building and student enrollment was increasing.”

Friar described some of the different plans for expansion, including one plan to extend the two buildings, a plan to connect the two buildings with more classroom and laboratory spaces and finally a plan to build the offices of the ASC building that stands today.

Another change Friar described was the addition of the College of Optometry in 1974. The program moved into the new Optometry Building on State St. in 2009 and the old building was scheduled for implosion.

After 47 years, during which he impressively used no sick leave, Friar’s time at Ferris is drawing to a close. He plans to retire after this semester, though he will continue to teach his Human Sexuality class part-time in the Spring semester.

“The library was brand new the first year I was here,” Friar said. Coincidentally, another of FSU’s longest-serving employees works in the library and has firsthand knowledge of the changes it has undergone.

“People years ago found out that they might have to spend hour after hour in a library to find something,” said Ann Breitenwischer, a reference librarian at FLITE who has worked on campus for 45 years. “Obviously, now with all the computers, it goes much faster. You don’t have to do things by hand like you used to.”

Students using the library’s online catalog today can search not only the library’s physical collection, but also a wide variety of online databases and journals.

Breitenwischer remembers the very first computer brought into the library and the process of updating the building’s technology.

“The big thing there was computerization, which actually started in the mid-‘70s,” Breitenwischer said. “It was very exciting to get the first computer in the place. We basically were working to transform card files—which was the way that you went about finding books—into a computer approach. That occurred in 1989. We were able before the decade of the ’90s began [to] literally get rid of the card catalog, and then it was all on computers.”

Another major change for the Ferris Library was the construction of FLITE. The groundbreaking ceremony for the new building took place in 1999 and library staff was able to move into the building in March of 2001.

Before FLITE, the Timme Center for Student Services was home to the university library. After the move, major renovations were needed to transform Timme into the student services building it is today.

Both Friar and Breitenwischer have witnessed a number of changes for Ferris, including several university presidents, the installment of new buildings and technology, and the school’s name change from Ferris State College to Ferris State University. Undoubtedly, there will continue to be changes in the university’s future.

“I foresee more and more online instruction,” Friar said. “I worry about this. One of the very important roles of a teacher is to be a role model. It is very difficult to be a good role model in online teaching.” Friar is also in hopes that we will start teaching students how to handle money wisely and manage debt.

“One of the things that is predicted is that the people who could be recruited to go to Ferris or any university in the United States is going to be a very varied group of people,” Fran Rosen, Acquisitions and Collection Development Librarian who also works for the Diversity and Inclusion Office, said. “I hope Ferris develops along with that and I really hope Ferris finds a way to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce, like faculty and staff. I don’t think that’s a place where we’ve really been keeping up.”

Some other more obvious changes for the university include the construction of the new Student Center, which will officially open next semester.

While Friar may be scheduled to retire after this semester, Breitenwischer has no plans to leave Ferris for the time being.

“I think that some good things are happening here and that’s one of the reasons why I’m not willing to pull away just yet,” Breitenwischer said. “I think what we need to do is keep working together, and, by that, I mean faculty, staff and students. What is it that is going to be best for the next group of students that come along?”