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History Comes Alive Series

Special Thanks to Founding Sponsors John and Annette Carter

Join us for History Comes Alive, an informative and entertaining series offered by OU’s Department of History and endowed by John and Annette Carter. All History Comes Alive lectures will be held at 7 p.m. in the Oakland Center at Oakland University. We encourage you to RSVP to reserve a spot below.

RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 9/19
RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 10/17 
RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 11/15
RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 1/9
RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 2/13
RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 3/13

Oakland University History

Oakland University opened its doors to 570 students in 1959 with 2 buildings, North and South Foundation Halls, and 24 pioneering faculty members.

The campus weaved into the Meadow Brook Estate, home to OU’s founder Matilda Dodge Wilson. Wilson, widow of automotive pioneer John Dodge, had lived at Meadowbrook with her second husband, Alfred Wilson, since the late 1920s. Her gift of 1400 acres and $2 million  in 1957 laid the foundation for Michigan State University Oakland, which later became the independent OU of today.

The very first courses were offered in Fall 1958 including, home economics, history, sociology, English and basic college subjects, held in a building of the Meadow poultry farm. Wilson even enrolled in the speed reading class. The first convocation took place on September 14, 1959 in the Oakland Center, which was the third building constructed on campus.

Today, nearly 20,000 students continue to find educational opportunities at OU, preparing them for a rapidly changing workplace and society. Rooted in OU’s foundational pioneer spirit, there are more than 2,000 world-class scholars and researchers that offer students and the community experiential, thought-provoking guidance.

More information about OU’s history is available through Kresge Library’s Early History.


Back to an in-person format, History Comes Alive welcomes students, faculty and the surrounding community to take part in any of the free lectures offered, involving religion, colonial America, Indigenous peoples of the Great Lakes, Nazi ghettos and the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Women in the Revolutionary War

Speaker: Lorri Glover, Saint Louis University
Date: 7 p.m. Tuesday, September 19
Location: Banquet Room A, Oakland Center

When Americans remember the Revolutionary War, they usually imagine General Washington crossing the Delaware or valiant Minutemen facing down regiments of Redcoats. But what did the long, brutal war mean for American women? And what did they mean for a war where the front lines and the home front blurred? This talk recenters women to reimagine warfare, independence-seeking, and patriotic service in our nation's origins.

RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 9/19

The Italian context for Bohemond's Crusading Adventure

Speaker: James Naus, Oakland University
Date: 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 17
Location: Banquet Room A, Oakland Center

Often seen as an outlier among crusade leaders, Bohemond of Antioch held different motives for taking the cross. But how well supported is this viewpoint in the sources? This lecture will consider this question by attempting to set Bohemond in a southern Italian context. Stripping away later narrative descriptions that celebrate Bohemond’s crusade legacy, this lecture suggests that a better understanding of his initial crusading ambitions can be found in the political and cultural landscape of late 11th century Italy. When set in this context, Bohemond comes across as less remarkable than often imagined, his ambition and opportunism less out of touch with other crusade leaders. He appears very much the product of his world.

RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 10/17

"Klansmen" and "Thugs:" Rationalizing Violence in the Arsenal of Democracy

Speaker: Karen Miller, Oakland University
Date: 7 p.m. Wednesday, November 15
Location: Banquet Room A, Oakland Center

In 1942, Detroit was struck by the Sojourner Truth Riots, a violent episode that pitted white middle class families against Black defense workers. This eruption threatened the image of Detroit as a place where patriotic workers selflessly contributed to the war effort, focusing only on victory in Europe and the Pacific. The result was the construction of a myth: Detroit's troubles were caused by uncouth southerners who had tarnished Detroit's good name.

RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 11/15

Bernardino Ochino: Navigating Exile in Sixteenth-Century Europe

Speaker: Andrea Wenz, Oakland University
Date: 7 p.m. Tuesday, January 9
Location: Banquet Room A, Oakland Center

In 1542, the former Italian Catholic preacher, Bernardino Ochino, was forced into exile by the Roman Inquisition after being suspected of heretical teachings. This talk explores the ways that Ochino navigated his life of exile through the use of the printing press and publishing his writings for an international audience. As such, his experiences prompt us to reconsider what it meant to be a religious exile in the 16th century and how, even amidst challenging circumstances, individuals could be deeply engaged in the major religious changes and developments of the day.

RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 1/9

Poison, Women, Slavery and the Stories Lost to Time

Speaker: Erin Dwyer, Oakland University
Date: 7 p.m. Tuesday, February 13
Location: Banquet Room A, Oakland Center

Poison has been called “a woman’s weapon” in fiction and historical records alike. In the antebellum-South, enslaved cooks and nurses, usually female, were most likely to be accused of wielding poison any time a slaveholder fell ill suddenly or died of unexplained causes. This talk will explore the gendering of poison as a weapon; the treatment of accused female poisoners by enslavers, courts and abolitionists; and the challenges of recovering their stories.

RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 2/13

Masters of the Air

Speaker: Donald L. Miller, Lafayette College
Date: 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 13
Location: Banquet Room A and B, Oakland Center

Masters of the Air is the riveting history of the American Eighth Air Force in World War II, and the story of the young men who flew the bombers that helped bring Nazi Germany to its knees. Based on Professor Miller’s book, “Masters of the Air'' is an upcoming Apple TV+ miniseries produced by Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. Professor Miller will be discussing the history of the American Eighth Air Force and showing a preview of the miniseries.

RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 3/13

The History Comes Alive series has intrigued and enchanted Oakland University’s students, faculty and surrounding community since 2003. Please explore some past topics for a look into the lively and thought-provoking discussion it inspires:

Department of History

Varner Hall, Room 415
371 Varner Dr.
Rochester, MI 48309-4482
(location map)
(248) 370-3510
fax: (248) 370-3528