Most of the time, when people think of the United States auto industry, it’s Detroit, Michigan that comes to mind, not the small city of Rochester, about 25 miles to the auto capital’s north. However, Rochester has the widow of car manufacturer John Dodge to thank for one of the city’s most notable locations: Oakland University.
John Dodge was the co-founder of Dodge Brothers Motor Cars, a company which quickly gained prosperity in the early days of the auto industry. Dodge and his wife Matilda purchased a 320-acre farm in Rochester in 1908, and when Dodge died in 1920, Matilda became a wealthy widow with a large parcel of land. After Matilda married lumber broker Alfred Wilson, the two expanded the farm into a 1,500-acre estate on which they built a mansion they christened Meadow Brook Hall. In 1957, the Wilsons donated the estate and $2 million to Michigan State University with the aim of establishing a new college in Oakland County.
Oakland University opened in 1959 as a branch of Michigan State University, enrolling 570 students. In 1963, the first graduating class of 125 students received diplomas, and that same year, the college’s name was changed to Oakland University.
In 2009, the public university canceled classes for several days at the start of its fall semester due to a faculty strike, but professors soon returned to the classroom after reaching an agreement with the university on a three-year contract.
Today, Oakland University’s enrollment averages more than 18,000 students each fall, and the college counts more than 80,000 graduates among its alumni.
Though there is an abundance of activities in which to participate on-campus, college students who wish to take a break from campus life can browse one of downtown Rochester’s salons, restaurants, shops, and other businesses. Nature lovers can visit any of the city’s three parks and hike or bike on the trails, or they can simply take in the beauty of the waterways that surround Rochester, a city situated in the Clinton River Valley amid the Clinton River, Stoney Creek, and Paint Creek.