A Short History of the Board of Trustees

From the Michigan Manual

Established as the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan by Act 130 of 1855, the Board of Instruction (professors and teachers) of the college acted as the first governing board of the institution. The act empowered the board to establish rules and regulations for the government of the college, subject to alteration or approval by the Board of Education.

Act 188 of 1861 reorganized the college, created a 6-member state board of agriculture to govern it, defined the board's powers and duties, and named and appointed the first board (D. Carpenter, Gage, Parsons, Wells, Yerkes, and Rich), allowing those members to determine their terms of office by lot, 2 members each serving terms of 2, 4, and 6 years. Subsequent terms were 6 years in length. With the enactment of Act 308 of 1905, the membership of the board was increased to 7.

In the Constitution of 1908, new sections 7 and 8, relative to the state board of agriculture, had the effect of making the governing body a constitutional board elected by the people instead of a statutory board appointed by the governor. Bauer v State Board of Agriculture, 164 Mich 415 (1911). The number of board members was reduced to 6. The first elected board consisted of 2 members each elected to terms of 2 (W. Carpenter, Oberdorffer), 4 (Doherty, Graham), and 6 (Wallace, Waterbury) years. Subsequent vacancies were filled at the regular biennial spring election for terms of 6 years.

In 1959, the name of the governing board of what had become Michigan State University of Agriculture and Applied Science was changed to "board of trustees." On April 6, 1959, voters approved Joint Resolution 2 as an amendment to the Constitution of 1908.

Under the Constitution of 1963, the membership of the board of trustees was increased to 8 and members' terms were lengthened to 8 years. To facilitate the transition of board operations, Act 23 of the 2nd Extra Session of 1963 extended the terms of the sitting board (Smith, Harlan, Stevens, Merriman, Huff, Nisbet) by 1 year and provided for the governor's appointment of 2 additional members to serve 1-year terms only. The election of the first board members under the provisions of the Constitution of 1963 occurred at the general election in November 1964.