By Nicole Niemiec, MSU Alumni Association
Michigan State alumnus Betty Wallin celebrated her 100th Birthday on August 4th, 2017. Wallin attended MSC (Michigan State College) in the late 1930’s. She graduated in 1939 with majors in Mathematics, Economics, and Social Studies. Wallin, in reference to her financial situation, said “...[Graduating was] possible with the assistance of a 4H scholarship, a job at the dorm cafeteria, and an NYH office job.”
The banks of the red cedar have seen a lot of change in the last 78 years. In 1939, the MSU Union, Olin Memorial Health Center, and Auditorium were constructed on campus. In March of 1940 the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt made an address in the newly completed Auditorium. Also in 1939, MSU gained two new dormitories: Abbot and Campbell Halls. Abbot was set to be a new men’s dormitory and Campbell, a women’s dormitory. Jenison Fieldhouse was completed in 1939 and would remain to be the main arena for the men’s basketball team until the Breslin Student Events Center was constructed in 1989. The first game ever played in Jenison was on January 6, 1940 where MSC defeated Tennessee, 29-20. Earvin “Magic” Johnson led the Spartans to a 1979 NCAA National Championship, using Jenison Fieldhouse as their home court along the way.
During the collegiate days of Betty Wallin, Michigan State was officially “Michigan State College of Agriculture of Applied Science” (MSC). Those who supported MSC were referred to as the “Aggies.” Journalists and those attending the institution wanted to change that nickname but were unsure of what would be the right fit. They started to go by “Michigan Staters” and then eventually adopted “Spartans.” Land grant colleges were once compared to those of ancient Sparta, and therefore Spartans made sense. Within a couple of years, the Spartans really caught on and they even changed the lyrics in the fight song to reflect this new title.
Today, most American colleges, as well as MSU, have more female than male students. The trend of female majorities in colleges began in 1979, far after Wallin’s time at MSC. In the 1940’s, women’s college education was just getting a foothold in America and was a hot political issue at the time. In the 1939 Yearbook there were zero female students studying engineering. Also, there were no male students studying home economics. In 1940 the total number of female college students was about 600,953 in the United States. By 2016, that number had eclipsed 10 million and is still growing today. Women account for roughly 57% of all American college students.
Here's to 100 great years!