Wayne State University has been an innovative urban center of higher learning since 1868, when a group of Civil War doctors envisioned a better world through better medicine. Today, Wayne State is one of the 50 largest public universities in the United States, offering nearly 375 degree and certificate programs through 13 schools and colleges. The research conducted by our faculty and students has saved lives and changed the world, and our 300,000 alumni have gone on to lead in nearly every field.

Historical timeline

1868  The Detroit Medical College, forerunner of the School of Medicine, is established.

1881  The Detroit Normal Training School, forerunner of the College of Education, is established.

1917  The Detroit Junior College, offering a two-year program in general education, is established in Old Main. It later becomes the College of Liberal Arts.

1923  The Detroit Normal Training School becomes a four-year degree-granting institution under the name of the Detroit Teachers College. The first degrees are granted in 1924.

1924  The College of Pharmacy is organized.

1933  The College of Engineering and the Graduate School are established.

1933  The Colleges of Liberal Arts, Education, Engineering, Medicine and Pharmacy and the Graduate School are united by action of the Detroit Board of Education into a university organization, temporarily called the Colleges of the City of Detroit.

1934  The name Wayne University is adopted, taken from Wayne County and, ultimately, from General Anthony Wayne.

1935  The School of Public Affairs and Social Work are organized. It becomes the current School of Social Work in 1950.  

1937  The Law School, established in 1927 as Detroit City Law School, becomes part of the university.

1945  The first doctoral programs are authorized in the fields of chemistry, physiological chemistry and education.

1945  The College of Nursing, which began as a program in the College of the City of Detroit, becomes a separate college.

1946  The School of Business Administration, originating in the College of Liberal Arts, becomes the university’s 10th academic unit.

1956  Wayne University becomes Wayne State University by Act 183 of Michigan Public Acts of 1956. Three years later, it becomes a constitutionally established university by a popularly adopted amendment to the Michigan Constitution.

1967 The South End replaces The Daily Collegian as Wayne State’s student newspaper and expands coverage outside of the university to topics such as civil rights and the Vietnam War.

1974  The College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions was formed from merger of the College of Pharmacy and the Division of Allied Health Professions, School of Medicine. In 2001, it is renamed the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

1985  The School of Fine and Performing Arts and the College of Urban, Labor and Metropolitan Affairs are established; in 1989, they are combined to create the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts.

1993  The College of Science is established. In 2004, it merges with the College of Liberal Arts to form the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

1994 The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recognizes Wayne State as a top-tier (R1) research university.

1999 Warriors replace Tartars as the university’s mascot.

2004 TechTown, Wayne State’s small-business incubator, opens its doors just north of campus. 

2008  The Irvin D. Reid Honors college is created.

2009  The School of Library and Information Science is created. In 2017, it is renamed the School of Information Sciences to better reflect its role in education professionals for the information field.

2011  The Warrior football team makes its first appearance in the NCAA Division II championship game. 

2015  The Integrative Biosciences Center, a $90 million facility dedicated to eliminating health disparities in Detroit, opens. 

2018  The Mike Ilitch School of Business opens its new facility in The District Detroit. 

2019  Wayne State opens the Anthony Wayne Drive Apartments, which add 841 beds for Wayne State students. 

2021 The Wayne State Fieldhouse opens, serving as the new home for Warrior basketball and the Detroit Pistons’ G League team.

2023 Dr. Kimberly Andrews Espy, Wayne State’s 13th president and first female president, is appointed.

Notable developments and alumni

  • AZT, created by Wayne State professor and researcher Jerome P. Horwitz, was the first federally approved treatment for AIDS.
  • Hugh Downs, the long-running anchor of the television news program 20/20, graduated from City College, a predecessor to Wayne State.  
  • Alumna Dorothy Comstock Riley was the first female justice to serve on the Michigan Court of Appeals and the first Hispanic woman to be elected to a state Supreme Court. 
  • Alumnus Lloyd Richards was the first African American to direct a play on Broadway. Richards earned a Tony Award nomination for A Raisin in the Sun and won two Tony Awards for Fences.
  • In 1950, Wayne State opened first university computational lab in the Midwest.
  • Wayne State was the first American college to offer a B.S.N. covering nursing fundamentals, medical-surgical, maternity, pediatric, psychiatric, public health, principles and methods of teaching, and fundamentals of administration.
  • Alumnus Abraham Nemeth developed a Braille code for math and science notations, allowing blind scholars to pursue studies in many fields. 
  • Wayne State researcher Forest Dewey Dodrill, M.D., and General Motors engineers designed a machine to temporarily replace the blood-pumping function of the heart, making open-heart surgery possible.
  • Alumnus Jihad Mustapha is known as “the leg saver” for his groundbreaking work with peripheral vascular disease. He holds more than 30 patents for alternative treatments to prevent limb amputation.
  • Law School alumna Cora Brown was the first African American woman in the country to be elected to a state senate.
  • The Labor History Archives at Wayne State University was founded in 1960. Now the Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs, it is the largest labor archive in North America, with more than 75,000 linear feet of archival holdings. 
  • Alumna Jeanne Omelenchuk is the only woman to hold a spot on three Olympic speedskating teams (1960, 1968 and 1972). She won 16 national titles — more than any other individual in the history of the sport.
  • Alumnus Emmett Leith received the National Medal of Science for his work in holography — uncovering the principles of the hologram and improving its use.
  • Alumnus Robert Hayden was the first African American to hold the distinguished title of U.S. Poet Laureate.
  • In 1973, Wayne State diver Dacia Schileru became the first woman to ever compete in an NCAA championship.
  • WSU faculty members Robert Harr and Paul Karchin were part of the research team that in 2013 was awarded the Nobel Prize for discovering the Higgs boson, also known as "the God particle" — the most sought-after particle in the history of physics.
  • In the 1960s, the Wayne State Tolerance Curve established the head injury criterion for federal motor vehicle safety standards.
  • Alumnus William O’Neill, M.D., was the first in the country to perform an aortic valve replacement through a catheter. A leader in interventional cardiology, Dr. O’Neill pioneered the use of angioplasty to treat heart attacks.
  • Alumnus Garth Fagan received the Tony Award for Best Choreography for his work on the Broadway musical The Lion King.
  • In 2010, Wayne State became the first university in the nation to offer an electric-drive vehicle engineering program.
  • Alumnus Rashida Tlaib was the first Muslim-American woman to serve in the Michigan legislature, and the second Muslim woman in the nation to be elected to a state legislature.

Ceremonial traditions and symbols

Hymn to Wayne

To thee, our Alma Mater,
Homage we bring.
Brave hearts raise grateful voices
Thy praise to sing.
Young art thou, young and strong;
Renowned shalt thou live, and long;
Honors to thee will throng-
And Fame to thee cling.
We laud thee, Alma Mater,
Guardian of Right.
Thou art our guide, our mentor-
Thy name shines bright.
Keep Learning's light aflame,
And hold Truth a sacred name,
Honor, thy steadfast aim.
All hail to thy might.

- Nicholas Stanley Oates '29

WSU Victory Song

The Green and Gold of old Wayne U.
flies over the field today.
Our hearts are light for with our might
A vict'ry is on its way.
The team is strong, for them we'll cheer,
Wayne U. will march along.
And at the end our voices blend
in Wayne U.'s vict'ry song.

- Don Gragg

Wayne State Medallion

The Wayne State presidential medallion was first presented Oct. 28, 1965, at the inauguration of the university's fifth president, William Keast. Handcrafted of sterling silver, it features the wreathed insignia of the university and the name of each of the university's presidents and the years they served.

Wayne State University Seal

The Wayne State University Seal is the oldest surviving visual symbol of our institution. It features a torch above an opened book with a banner reading “INDUSTRY – INTELLIGENCE – INTEGRITY” and 1868, the year of Wayne State’s founding.

The WSU Mace

The Academic Mace of Wayne State University is a ceremonial scepter whose features relate to the ancient maces used by universities worldwide. The 51-inch mace consists of layers of carved ebony held in place by a tubular shaft. It serves as a symbolic weapon to protect and proclaim the ideals of harmony, truth, justice and learning.

Campus traditions

Shield sculpture

An iconic photo spot, the Shield sits proudly at the entrance to our campus on Warren. It welcomes students and guests to our campus and proudly proclaims that this is the home of the Warriors. 

‘W’ hand sign

Our version of a Wayne State handshake A way for all Warriors to recognize each other and celebrate their pride, the hand sign is our version of a Wayne State handshake. 

W the mascot

Seen cheering on the Warriors on game day or interacting with students and guests at events, W is a unique and lively addition to the Wayne State campus.