Lawrence Tech History
A Proud Heritage
It was a firm belief in the future that motivated Russell E. Lawrence to found a university in 1932—in the midst of the economic chaos of the Great Depression. While less farsighted individuals made predictions of gloom, Russell Lawrence and his brother, E. George Lawrence (who led Lawrence Tech from 1934 to 1964), turned a dream of preparing students for leadership in the new technical era into reality.
For 80 years, Lawrence Tech has continued to prosper and accelerate its growth, hone its educational philosophy of theory and practice, build important community and professional alliances, and forge partnerships with the firms, organizations, and industries who hire Lawrence Tech alumni.
Wayne H. Buell, who served as president from 1964 to 1977 and as chair of the board and chief executive officer until 1981, worked to build a firm foundation for the University’s early emergence as a technological leader. He first advanced the notion that Lawrence Tech was a private college serving a public purpose.
Lawrence Tech’s first housing center, the Buell Management Building, the Don Ridler Field House, a major addition to engineering facilities, the return of graduate programs, and the massive growth of computer facilities marked the presidency of Richard E. Marburger, who served as president, 1977–93, and also as chair of the Board of Trustees and chief executive officer, 1981–93.
Charles M. Chambers became president in 1993 and served as chancellor in 2006. During his presidency, he oversaw significant enhancement of the University’s international reputation as a distinguished center of technological education and research. A Strategic Plan and Campus Master Plan were adopted to guide the University. Other achievements include: construction of the University Technology and Learning Center, University Housing-North; the A. Alfred Taubman Student Services Center; a redeveloped campus quadrangle; the Center for Innovative Materials Research; establishment of a Faculty Senate; conversion of the computer system to a client server model with full Internet2 connectivity and online library access; creation of Michigan’s first completely wireless laptop campus; and expanded bookstore, dining, and student activity facilities.
Lewis N. Walker was named interim president in February 2006, became president in July 2006, and chancellor in July 2012. He had previously served as provost, the University’s chief academic officer, and executive vice president. Under Walker, Lawrence Tech aggressively expanded programs in emerging economic sectors such as robotics, defense, and sustainability, including “fast track” certificate programs to help professionals retool themselves for new careers. He was committed to developing the leadership skills of Lawrence Tech’s students and worked with faculty to add a leadership component to the curricula of all undergraduate programs. He forged partnerships with universities worldwide that brought international students to campus and provided further opportunities for Lawrence Tech students to study abroad. He also oversaw the reinvigoration of student life and return of varsity sports to campus.
Virinder K. Moudgil, Lawrence Tech’s seventh president, assumed office in July 2012. He has had a long career as a professor and university administrator and was an active researcher in the molecular mechanisms of steroid hormone action and the hormonal regulation of breast cancer. He previously served as senior vice president and provost at Oakland University.
Lawrence Tech was founded on the principle that every person should have the opportunity for a college education. From the beginning, there were no restrictions on entering students relating to race, sex, color, creed, or national or ethnic origin—only the requirement that students qualify for admission and have the desire to succeed. Working students could earn a baccalaureate degree by attending evening programs, day programs, or a combination of the two—a feature unique in 1932 and still remarkable today.
The school was originally called Lawrence Institute of Technology. Its present name, Lawrence Technological University, was approved on January 1, 1989, by the State of Michigan, and more clearly describes Lawrence Tech’s undergraduate and graduate mission.
Lawrence Tech was founded as a college of engineering with only a few hundred students and a handful of faculty. Today it offers over 100 programs in four colleges, with a total enrollment of approximately 4,500 students, and employs over 400 full- and part-time faculty. In terms of enrollment, Lawrence Tech is among Michigan’s largest independent colleges.
In 1950, associate programs were added to Lawrence Tech’s baccalaureate offerings. In 1952 the College of Management was created, having its origins in an earlier industrial engineering curriculum. Master’s degree programs in management were launched in 1989. The College of Architecture and Design evolved in 1962 from the former architectural engineering department and in 1993 launched a Master of Architecture program. The College of Arts and Sciences was established in 1967. Master’s degree programs in engineering were begun in 1990 and in Arts and Sciences in 1997. Doctoral programs were launched in 2002.
Concurrently, there has been an enormous expansion and improvement of facilities. The University’s first campus was located in Highland Park, in a building leased from Henry and Edsel Ford adjacent to the huge manufacturing facility where they built the Model T and perfected the moving assembly line. As enrollment grew, the University acquired acreage in Southfield and in 1955 opened its first building on what had been a General Mills research farm. The campus has since expanded to over 100 acres and 12 major buildings, as well as the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Affleck House in Bloomfield Hills, which was donated to the University in 1978.
In 1977, Lawrence Tech shed its “commuter” classification by opening the nine-story University Housing-South residence hall. The 1980s and 1990s were distinguished by the opening of the Wayne H. Buell Management Building and the Don Ridler Field House, numerous improvements to existing buildings, and a substantial increase in state-of-the-art laboratory and computer equipment. The University Technology and Learning Center opened in 2001, University Housing-North in 2002, and the A. Alfred Taubman Student Services Center and the Center for Innovative Materials Research in 2006.
In 2011 competitive athletics returned to campus with the University’s entry into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.