2021 is a year of celebration for Lake Superior State University, as it’s the 75th anniversary of the university, and also the 50th anniversary of the nursing program. More details will be shared soon about what alumni and friends can expect in regards to the celebratory events. In this edition of the Laker Log, we take a look at the foundation of LSSU.
Fort Brady, abandoned after the Second World War, with its 73 acres and 52 buildings, formed the core for what was to become Lake Superior State University. Michigan College of Mining and Technology (now Michigan Technological University), under the able leadership of President Grover C. Dillman, and bolstered by strong local support, petitioned the federal government to cede the abandoned fort to his institution in order to establish a branch in Sault Ste. Marie. This branch would help educate the surge of enrollment caused by the G.I. Bill. Indeed 90 percent of the first class at Michigan Tech, Sault Branch, were veterans.
Thus, with the help of local citizens, the first students arrived at the Sault Branch in October 1946 to begin their classes with Extension Director Fay L. Partlo and Professor H.W. Risteen in charge. Seventy-seven academic courses were offered during the first year with registrar Harry L. Crawford overseeing the proper liaison with Michigan Tech. There were 17 faculty members and most of the 347 students were enrolled in engineering curricula.
On August 25, 1953, Dr. Crawford was named resident director, having served as branch registrar since 1946. The fight for the Branch’s survival, a familiar refrain in the legislature continued. Relations with Michigan Tech’s Board of Control were also tenuous, until Judge James J. Fenlon of Sault Ste. Marie was appointed to that board in 1957. A staunch supporter of the Branch, Fenlon was the driving force in the establishment of four year programs in Sault Ste. Marie.
Harry L. Crawford, announced his retirement effective July 31, 1965. Dr. Kenneth J. Shouldice was appointed by Dr. Raymond L. Smith, president of Michigan Tech, as successor. During the Crawford era, in addition to curricular expansion, enrollment grew from 286 to more than 700 and a $750,000 science building was added.
Dr. Kenneth J. Shouldice, played a dominant role in the development of Lake Superior State University. He persuaded Michigan Tech to grant Sault Branch faculty more control of the curriculum, a new library was built, and programs in technical areas were supplemented with those in the liberal arts and sciences as the Sault Branch moved to complete autonomy from Michigan Tech.
Just as the academic program faculty and facilities were expanding, so too was student life. Dr. Shouldice supported athletic director Bud Cooper’s request to add a varsity hockey team in 1966. Ron Mason was named the inaugural coach.
In June 1968, the institution awarded its first baccalaureate degree. With the support of Governor William Milliken, the legislature and Michigan Tech, on January 1, 1970, Lake Superior State College was established as a separate degree granting institution of higher education in Michigan. Dr. Kenneth J. Shouldice became the college’s first president in February, 1970.
Large portions of this story were obtained from: A Superior Legacy: LSSU The First Fifty Years.