DETROIT – Like many college campuses, buildings are named after important local figures or donors to the school. But do you ever walk around campus and wonder, who are these people? I graduated from Wayne State University ( #WarriorStrong 💪 ) but always loved visiting other campuses and learning what makes that school unique.
Wayne State University was formed in 1933 after several established colleges in the city merged. The university wasn’t formally Wayne State until the 1950s. The university is a research institute and has been one of the underdogs in higher education in the state of Michigan.
Related: A look at history behind Detroit statues, monuments
Below are a few buildings on campus that had names of people that I wasn’t very familiar with but had a significant impact on our nation or the city of Detroit.
General Anthony Wayne, also known as “Mad Anthony,” was commissioned as a colonel in Pennsylvania for the Continental Army in 1776. The Continental Army won American Independence under George Washington through various battles, including the French and Indian War.
One of the many battles that Wayne contributed to was the Battle of Monmouth. According to the National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, Wayne was promoted to major general after the war, and that is where he became a planter in Georgia and then was elected to Congress. By 1792 Wayne became the senior commander of the United States Army.
Eugene Applebaum started working at the age of 12 as a stock boy at a drug store in Detroit. By the age of 27, Applebaum opened up his own drug store in Dearborn called Civic Drugs. 11 years later, in 1974, Applebaum owned six drug stores and started to rebrand them as Arbor Drugs. According to the university, by the 80s, Applebaum had the eighth largest drug store chain in the United States. The businessman sold Arbor Drugs to CVS in 1998. In the same year, Applebaum donated $5 million to begin the construction of Wayne State University’s College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions.
Freer House (FRER)
Charles Lang Freer was an American industrialist who also collected Asian art. Freer moved to Detroit in the late 1800s and worked with a railroad car manufacturer. According to the Detroit Historical Society, Freer eventually made his way up in Peninsular Car Works and became the vice president. From there, the company merged with Michigan Car Company. While working in the industrial world, Freer started collecting paintings and works of Asian art. Eventually, Freer gave his collection to the public, which was the beginning of the Smithsonian Freer Gallery of Art.
Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981, Ernie Harwell is one of the legendary broadcasters that many grew up with when attending Detroit Tigers’ ball games. Born in Georgia in 1918, Harwell moved to Michigan in 1960 and was the Detroit Tigers baseball announcer for 42 years. According to the Detroit Public Library, Harwell’s parents passed away six days apart during his first Tigers spring training. Fun fact: a slice of Harwell calling a game can be heard in the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Harwell was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Radio Hall of Fame in 1998. Wayne State University honored Harwell with an honorary degree in 2008.
Clarence B. Hilberry was Wayne State University’s fourth president. He was a professor of English and the dean of administration. Hilberry was appointed as president in 1953 and retired in 1965. According to the university, during Hilberry’s presidency, he oversaw 18 buildings on campus being built and created to take a small city college and turn it into a leading university. The theatre celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012.
Knapp Building (KNAP)
Pauline Wilson Knapp was the president and director of the Merrill-Palmer Skillman Institute from the early 1950s to the late 1960s.
Leon H. Atchison Residence Hall
Leon Atchison was one of the longest-serving members of the Wayne State University Board of Governors. According to the university, Atchison served for 32 years. The university stated that Atchison led the reorganization of the College of Liberal Arts and helped establish the College of Science.
Frederick Linsell House (LINS)
Frederick was the secretary-treasurer of the William Wright Company of Detroit. The William Wright Company specialized in furniture and home decorations. Linsell built the house for him and his wife.
Manoogian Hall (MANO)
Alexander ‘Alex’ Manoogian migrated to the United States in 1920 and moved to Detroit in 1924. According to the Detroit Historical Society, Manoogian founded Masco Screw Products, now known as Masco Corporation. By 1996, the company held 38% of the domestic market for faucets. Manoogian donated over $90 million to educational institutions and various charities during his lifetime.
Manoogian and his wife donated their mansion in the Berry Subdivision Historic District to the City of Detroit. The mansion is also famous due to the former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s excessive partying.
Matthaei Physical Education Center (MATT)
Frederick Carl Matthaei Sr. was a big name in sports. Matthaei was part owner of the Detroit Lions and served as chairman of the Detroit Olympic Committee. Before sports, Matthaei formed his own manufacturing company, American Metal Products Company, in 1917. According to the New York Times, the industrialist and sportsman became the director of the Detroit Bank and Trust Company as well as the McLouth Steel Corporation. Matthaei passed away at the age of 80 in 1973.
Tierney Alumni House
A Detroit native, Thomas Tierney spent his educational years in the Motor City. According to the university, Tierney was part of the school’s ROTC program before serving 11 years in the U.S. Air Force.
In 2015, Tierney donated $2 million to Wayne State University. The school renamed the historic Hecker House in honor of its generous contribution.
The alumni house was formerly known as the Historic Hecker House. The Hecker House is named after Col. Frank J. Hecker, born in Freedom, Michigan. According to Historic Detroit, Hecker served in the Civil War with the Union Army. After the war, he worked for Union Pacific Railway. The location of the mansion used to be rural in the 1870s, and Dexter Ferry had a nursery located on the east side of Ferry Street.
Tom Adams Field
Tom B. Adams was a football star that led Wayne State University’s team in the 1940 season. According to the university, he joined the Navy before he graduated from WSU. Adams received many medals and awards during the time that he served. Adams served as the president of the Wayne State Alumni organization and was on the Wayne State Board of Governors for six years. In 1965, the athlete was part of the Sports Illustrated 25-year All-American team. Adams was also the director of the Economic Club of Detroit.
Walter P. Reuther Library
Reuther was the president of the United Automobile Workers for a little over 20 years. Under Reuther’s leadership, many philosophies were introduced to the UAW. According to Wayne State University, one of the big programs introduced was supplemental unemployment benefits (SUB). Rolled out in 1955, SUB allowed laid-off workers to continue receiving a paycheck equal to 95% of their regular take-home pay. This program was one of the many that changed the nature of the work-life within the auto industry.
Many loved but also loathed Reuther. There were many murder attempts against the president as many didn’t agree with his philosophies.
Reuther was part of the famous “Battle of the Overpass” that took place at the Ford Rouge Plant.
Another aspect that makes Reuther a credible person of history was his idea of utilizing industrial space to help produce aircraft for World War II in Southeast Michigan.
He was called the “white Martin Luther King.” Reuther was a friend of Dr. Martin Luther King and had a personal commitment to civil rights and social justice.
Yousif B. Ghafari Hall
Ghafari was a philanthropist during the 20th century and was sworn in as a U.S. Ambassador to Slovenia in 2008. Ghafari emigrated to the United States from Lebanon and received multiple degrees from Wayne State University. The philanthropist was the founder and chairman of a firm that specialized in aviation, government, manufacturing and commercial projects. The business, GHAFARI, is located in Dearborn and was founded in 1982. According to the Council of American Ambassadors, Ghafari was appointed by former President George W. Bush to be part of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship board. Ghafari was also a founding member of “Partnership for Lebanon.”
Below is a map of Wayne State University’s campus.
Click here for an interactive map with the buildings on the Detroit campus.