Department of History

Fitzgerald House, Room 101
614 Pioneer Dr.
Rochester, MI 48309-4482
(location map)
(248) 370-3510
fax: (248) 370-3528

An aerial photo of Oakland University's campus.

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 - 9/20 
RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 10/11 
RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 11/9 
RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 1/10 
RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 2/15
RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 3/14

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.


History Comes Alive 2022-2023

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.

How about Two Men Named Francis

Speaker: Bill Cook
Date: Tuesday, September 20
Location: Oakland Center (room TBD)

This talk will look at the life of Pope Francis and how a 21st-century Latin American pope mirrors him in quite a different world and quite a different job.

RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 9/20 

Bounding Chaos: Surveying Eighteenth-Century Colonial America

Speaker: George Milne
Date: Tuesday, October 11
Location: Oakland Center (room TBD)

The rapidly expanding populations of British and French North America led to conflicting land claims, overlapping boundaries and courtroom battles. The use of improved surveying and record-keeping practices help us understand how colonial authorities sought to resolve those conflicts. By using 21st century satellite technology to re-examine those practices, we can see how effective these eighteenth-century techniques actually were.

RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 10/11 

French Footprints within an Indigenous World: The Great Lakes Region

Speaker: Sara Chapman Williams
Date: Wednesday, November 9
Location: Oakland Center (room TBD)

In the 1600s and early 1700s, a diverse array of Indigenous peoples, including the Ojibwe,

Odawa, Potawatomi, Wendat, Miami and Haudenosaunee, inhabited the lands around the Great Lakes. In this same period, French Canadian traders, missionaries and colonial officials followed Indigenous allies and trading partners into the region. The French Canadians established sparsely manned, often temporary outposts at present-day Kingston, Ontario (Fort Frontenac), St. Ignace (Michilimackinac) and Detroit. We will explore the histories of these sites in this early era, situating them within the context of what remained an overwhelmingly Indigenous space.

RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 11/9 

Everyday Life in the Face of Destruction: The Case of the Nazi Ghetto at Łódź

Speaker: Derek Hastings
Date: Tuesday, January 10
Location: Oakland Center (room TBD)

The ghettos established by the Nazis on occupied Polish territory during World War II played a pivital role in the Holocaust. History of the Łódź ghetto gives a glimpse into the nature of everyday life under the constant threat of destruction in these ghettos.

RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 1/10 

The Tulsa Race Massacre and the Fight for American History

Speaker: Scott Ellsworth
Date: Wednesday, February 15
Location: Oakland Center (room TBD)

The horrific 1921 massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma wasn't simply the worst single incident of racial violence in U.S. history, it was also deliberately covered up for more than a half century. Historian and Tulsa native Scott Ellsworth reveals how the massacre finally came to light, and why, if our history is to be a bearer of lessons, we must teach our failures as much as our successes.

RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 2/15

Empire Thwarted: The Un-Manifest Expansion of the Early American Republic

Speaker: Nicholas DiPucchio
Date: Tuesday, March 14
Location: Oakland Center (room TBD)

This project analyzes the failed territorial objectives of U.S. expansionists between the War for Independence (1775-1783) and the U.S.-Mexico War (1846-1848). Historians have argued that between these two conflicts, U.S. policymakers from Benjamin Franklin to James K. Polk pursued a vision of creating a westward-bound, transcontinental nation. But what happens to this conventional (and teleological) narrative when you include the regions that ultimately eluded the United States? My project looks at thwarted expansionist endeavors to argue that U.S. policymakers were far more uncertain and dubious about their republic’s expansion. Examining failed expansionist objectives reveals how Indigenous nations, people of African descent and Spanish American revolutionaries profoundly shaped the ideology of Manifest Destiny and circumscribed the early republic’s boundaries.

RSVP: History Comes Alive Series - 3/14

Past Lectures

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: