Nov. 8, 1997 was like any other football Saturday. Fans huddled around televisions and rallied as Michigan went on to defeat then undefeated Penn State. Of course, the victory was not unusual — what was unusual was what followed.
Then-University President Lee Bollinger was sitting in his bedroom watching the Michigan-Penn State game on television with his wife when more than 1,000 students gathered outside the President’s House and began chanting Bollinger’s name. As the crowd grew rowdier, instead of turning them away or calling University Police, Bollinger opened the front door and invited the students in.
“You can stay here as long as you want and come inside,” Bollinger said as he welcomed students into the house on South University Avenue, according to Michigan Daily reports.
The 1,000 plus students packed into every room of the house.
Then Kinesiology sophomore Bob Lehrer made himself at home in Bollinger’s bedroom.
“I sat on Lee Bollinger’s bed and was watching football on TV,” Lehrer told the Daily. “I called from his phone to my answering machine and left a message. He gave me a hug and on the way out he said he loved us all.”
Bollinger reported that nothing was missing or broken after students left, although several students claimed to have stolen beer from the president’s refrigerator.
Such an event, where the entire student body was welcomed into the president’s house, is extremely rare. At the time, History Prof. Nicholas Steneck remarked the President’s House had not welcomed the entire student body since Harlan Hatcher’s tenure as president from 1951-1967.
“It’s not something that is regularly done,” he said.
When the house is not being used for student parties, it serves many important University functions. The house serves to host private fundraisers for the University, receptions for foreign dignitaries, among other business related activities and events. And contrary to campus lore, University President Mary Sue Coleman does call 815 S. University Ave. home.
The house is the oldest building still standing on campus. Originally, the house consisted of a two-story rectangular section that currently serves as the center of the house.
Since it was completed in 1840, the house has undergone multiple renovations and additions.