Celebrating 50 Years of Statistics

Statistics has a long history and tradition at the University of Michigan that dates back to the early 1900’s. During the first half of that century, the idea of statistics as a field apart from mathematics was just coming to light. In 1912, James W. Glover began teaching the first course devoted exclusively to statistical theory at the University. A little while later, in 1930, Harry C. Carver founded the Annals of Mathematical Statistics. The journal was edited at the University of Michigan until 1938 and has since become the most influential and prestigious publication in mathematical statistics.

As the century advanced through the 1950’s and 1960’s, more and more universities began establishing official departments dedicated to the field. After much discussion and deliberation, the statistics faculty in the University’s Department of Mathematics founded the Department of Statistics within the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts in September of 1969. The founding faculty members included Bill Ericson (the first chair), Chuck Bell, Paul Dwyer, Bruce Hill, Norm Star, and Michael Woodroofe. Ed Rothman joined the Department that same year.

At the time of its foundation, the Department of Statistics was located in Mason hall where it remained for the next 30 years. However, that time was a period of substantial growth: the department introduced a number of new programs, including an undergraduate concentration program in Statistics and a Master’s degree program in Applied Statistics. By 1999, the Department had outgrown its space in Mason Hall and moved temporarily to the Frieze Building that once stood in the place of North Quad. In 2002, the Department moved to its current home in West Hall where it has continued to grow.

Today, the Department of Statistics is much changed since its foundation, now offering three undergraduate majors, two undergraduate minors, Master’s programs in Data Science and Applied Statistics, and a Ph.D. Program in Statistics. The Department hosts more than 800 students across all graduate and undergraduate programs, and is home to the largest class on campus – Stats 250, in which approximately 1,700 students are enrolled.

Throughout its 50 years at the University of Michigan, the Department of Statistics has been proud to play an integral role in educating and guiding young minds to careers across industry and academia. After half a century of existence, the Department has established itself as an international leader in statistical education and research. Led by faculty members who are both renowned researchers and devoted educators, the Department is committed to producing leaders of the field of tomorrow.