University of Michigan
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May 22, 2019

The first freshmen

April 17, 2017

The first freshmen

Old school: U-M in History

Topic: History

The 1845 diploma for George Washington Pray. (Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library)

Lyman Norris, George Parmelee, Judson Collins, William Wesson, Merchant Goodrich and George Pray can lay claim as the first entering class at the University of Michigan. The six young males were all from southeastern Michigan. Although U-M was founded in 1817, the first class came decades after that date because the earliest days of the university were dedicated to teaching children. The institution could not offer collegiate-level classes in an "untamed territory that was barely literate." Norris was the first to arrive at U-M, traveling from nearby Ypsilanti. Collins came from Unadilla, and Parmelee and Goodrich were locals. The oldest student, Wesson, was a 21-year-old Detroiter and lone sophomore in the group. The richest insights about the first class come from 16-year-old George Washington Pray's diaries.

— Adapted from "The First Freshmen" by Kim Clarke. To read more, go to

Tags: Old School