The University of Michigan was established in 1817 by the Michigan legislature, by way of a land grant that the Michigan Territory's Native Americans signed away. It has provided a diverse student population with a diverse set of educational opportunities, including academic and professional programs, intramural and NCAA sports programs, and more cultural activities than most residents of Ann Arbor can exploit.
The University of Michigan is often called "The Harvard of the Midwest", a title also claimed by the University of Chicago, Truman State University, and Macalaster College, among others. In response to the comparison, Harvard is often called "The Michigan of the East" by University students, alumni, and staff.
A condition of the treaty that forms the basis for most of the land grant schools in Michigan was that the education of all of the state's Native Americans would be guaranteed in perpetuity. Whether the state's obligation has been met is a topic for debate.
The university in 2003 has 51,000 students and 5,600 faculty in three campuses. The University of Michigan system includes the main Ann Arbor campus as well as two others, the University of Michigan, Dearborn and the University of Michigan, Flint. The university claims to be the largest pre-medicine and pre-law university in the country and to have the largest yearly research expenditure of any university in the United States. It is one of two colleges to have both engineering and medical schools ranked in the U.S.'s top ten. In the 1990s the University of Michigan claimed to have the largest assemblage of Apple Macintosh computers outside of the main factory. Michigan also has the highest tuition of any American state school.
In 2003 a lawsuit involving the school's affirmative action admissions policy reached the U.S. Supreme Court. President George W. Bush took the unusual step of publicly opposing the policy before the court issued a ruling, though the eventual ruling was in its favor.
Famous alumni of the University of Michigan include:
- Ann Coulter, conservative author and attorney, graduated from Michigan Law School in 1988.
- George Crumb, composer, completed his doctorate in music there in 1959
- Gerald R. Ford, 38th U.S. president, studied economics and political science. He played center on two national-championship American football teams and was the team's most valuable player in 1934. He received his B. A. degree in 1935.
- Richard Gephardt, United States House Minority Leader, graduate of UM Law School.
- David Allen Grier, actor
- James Earl Jones, actor
- Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems.
- Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber) earned a Ph.D in mathematics at the University of Michigan in 1967
- Lawrence Kasdan studied creative writing and won four Hopwood Awards
- Jack Kevorkian received a medical degree with a specialty in pathology in 1952
- Christine Lahti, actress
- Lucy Liu, actress
- Madonna won a scholarship while in high school to study dance at the University of Michigan; she left the university in the late 1970s
- William Mayo, co-founder of the Mayo Clinic
- Arthur Miller, playwright, author of Death of a Salesman, The Crucible
- Larry Page, co-founder of Google
- Iggy Pop, rock star
- Gilda Radner, actress / comedian
- Claude E. Shannon, "father of information theory"
- Mike Wallace, TV Journalist
- Chris Webber, NBA star, currently with the Sacramento Kings
- Thomas and John Knoll, Co-Creators of Adobe Photoshop
The University of Michigan Health System includes three hospitals: C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, University Hospital, and Women's Hospital, as well as nearly 150 clinics and MCare, an HMO. The university opened the first university-owned hospital in the United States in 1869. The EKG, gastroscope, and Jonas Salk's polio vaccine were invented at the university.
The University of Michigan is often referred to simply as UM and U of M. The latter term is also used to refer to the University of Minnesota, the University of Montana, the University of Missouri and the University of Maryland. (Note, however, that Missouri is more often referred to as UMC or Mizzou.) University of Michigan students, faculty, and alumni are often heard to assert that only the University of Michigan is "really" the "U of M", or that it has a better claim to that appellation than the others have. The claim has no justification.