The University of Michigan first conceived a separate academic core area on Ann Arbor's northeast side in the early 1950s. Subsequently, the North Campus slowly evolved into a viable and cohesive university community. The ultimate goal of this evolution was to develop a somewhat self-sufficient, non-urban campus with adequate services, an independent character, and a physical, social and psychological setting to enhance and facilitate the educational process.
Under the guidance of Wilbur K. Pierpont, the Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer, the University experienced unprecedented growth on North Campus, and major expansion programs at the Medical Center and Central Campus. In the spring of 1952, construction began on the first North Campus building, the Cooley Memorial Laboratory. (Historical overview of North Campus). As an attempt at providing some of the space for the services needed by the North Campus community, The Pierpont Commons building opened in 1965 with limited resources, primarily offering food to a developing North Campus community. After the College of Engineering completed its move to North Campus in 1986, the number of students, faculty, staff and visitors grew considerably.
To continue meeting the demands of a growing campus, and to improve programs, services and facilities, Pierpont has undergone several renovations, with the most recent one being completed in the spring of 2004. Today, Pierpont Commons provides a great place for students to grab a bite to eat, meet and socialize, purchase books, supplies and convenience store items, relax, study, play pool or find quiet time in the Reflection Room.
- Over 75 international flags hang in the atrium, representing the countries of all students enrolled in the schools and colleges on North Campus.
- Martin Luther King Spirit Award plaques, recognizing students who have made outstanding efforts for diversity, are on display in the Commons' recreation space.
- Artwork from students and community members line the gallery wall and the Piano Lounge, and may be occasionally purchased by the public.