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The Year in Maize and Blue

This year was a historic one for U-M.
Read time: 3 minutes

This year was a historic one for U-M, kicking off with a polar vortex that canceled classes and ending with the men’s basketball team winning the Battle 4 Atlantis under first-year coach and U-M alumnus Juwan Howard. From academics to athletics and beyond, Michigan Alumnus guides you through the biggest events of 2019.


Jan. 30-31

For only the third time in the past 40 years, U-M cancels classes on the Ann Arbor campus because of bad weather. Temperatures in Ann Arbor break a century-old record on Jan. 30 as a polar vortex caused a daily low of 13 degrees below zero.


Feb. 4

U-M President Mark Schlissel announces the formation of the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality, a core team of faculty, students, administrators, and local partners. Together, they will work to develop recommendations for how U-M can achieve carbon neutrality and share those strategies with the larger community.


April 11

The William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center opens next door to the Kelsey Museum on State Street. The moment was nearly 50 years in the making, from the Black Action Movement protests in 1970 to the 2013 social media campaign known as Being Black at the University of Michigan (#BBUM).


April 12

Domenico Grasso, a first-generation American and first-generation college student, becomes UM-Dearborn’s sixth chancellor. In his remarks before an audience of 600, Grasso outlined his objectives for the campus. First among them is increasing retention and graduation rates to a steady, predictable 70 percent or better.


April 14

Sixteen months after its closing, the U-M Museum of Natural History reopens at a new location in the Biological Sciences Building, just across the street from its former home in the Ruthven building. Gone are the dark rooms, replaced by modern spaces that contrast with the artifacts dating back 4 billion years.


May 11

The softball team captures its 10th Big Ten Conference Tournament crown with a 3-2 decision over Minnesota. With the win, the team sweeps the conference’s regular-season and tournament titles in less than a week’s time. U-M achieved that feat five times between 1995 and 2005.


May 19

The rowing program captures its sixth Big Ten title. The team goes on to finish third at the NCAA championships in Indianapolis, wrapping one of the best seasons in the program’s history.


June 18

The University maintains its ranking as the top U.S. public university in the QS World University Rankings for 2019-20. It’s a good year for U-M, which has done well in other rankings, including the 2020 Times Higher Education World University Rankings and the U.S. News & World Report.


June 26

The baseball team ends one of its most successful seasons after an 8-2 loss to Vanderbilt in the 2019 NCAA College World Series. The trip to the CWS Finals is its first in 35 years. The Wolverines finished the year with a 50-22 overall record, marking the program’s first 50-win season since 1987.


June 27

The University announces that Safa Al Ahmad, a Saudi Arabian journalist and documentary filmmaker, is the recipient of the 2019 Wallenberg Medal. Al Ahmad, who has produced documentaries about uprisings in the Middle East, receives her award on Nov. 19.


Sept. 1

U-M alumna Anne Curzan becomes the new dean of LSA, U-M’s largest academic unit. Previously the associate dean for the humanities and a professor of English in LSA, she is an expert in language and linguistics and has published books on language and teaching.


Oct. 11

The Commission on Presidential Debates announces that U-M will host the second of three debates in 2020. The debate, which will take place in the University’s Crisler Center, will be the second in a series of three Presidential Debates next year before the November election.


Oct. 14

U-M announces that efforts to advance entrepreneurial activity and commercialize research accelerated to an unprecedented level in fiscal year 2019. U-M Tech Transfer reports that 22 startups were launched at the University, which has spun off 86 companies in the past five years.


Oct. 30

Plans are announced for a 14-acre Detroit Center for Innovation, which will include a world-class $300 million, 190,000-square-foot research and education center in downtown Detroit to be operated by U-M. The facility will eventually serve up to 1,000 graduate and senior-level undergraduate students.


Photo by Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports

Dec. 2

The previously unranked U-M men’s basketball team jumps to No. 4 in the AP poll, the largest jump in the poll’s 70-year history. The ranking comes three days after first-year head coach Juwan Howard, ’97, steers the Wolverines into wins over two top 10 teams in 24 hours to win the Battle 4 Atlantis. The former Wolverine All-American and NBA All-Star had replaced John Beilein earlier in the year, becoming the 17th coach in the program’s history.

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