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George E. Gullen, Jr. President of Wayne State University


Gullen Mall at the Student Center.  Author's Collection.

Wayne State University is a world- renowned institution and is famous for its academics across the globe and attracts students from many nations.  But it didn't get that way over night.  It took strong leadership with a vision for the future to make it what it is today.  One of these strong leaders was George E. Gullen, Jr.

George E. Gullen, Jr. developed these strong leadership skills right here in Detroit, at the same university he would later lead.  He graduated from Wayne State (which was then Wayne University, prior to being a state university) in 1936 with a law degree. He then went into the corporate world, working his way into the management of what was at the time the smallest of the Big Four, the American Motors Corporation.  There he served ten years as a Vice President of the corporation before leaving in 1966.

Gullen Mall from the South, looking towards the Fisher Building.  Author's Collection.

In 1966, he left AMC with Edward L. Cushman, who had been offered the position of Executive Vice President at Wayne.  Gullen took on a new role, that of Vice President of University Relations.  This led to his eventual rise to the top of Wayne's Management, the office of President, in 1971.

His time in power was one of great growth for WSU, and his foresight helped to build it into the university it is today.  One of his major contributions that has reaped outstanding results was the development of the Wayne State medical school into the largest single- campus medical school in the country.

Another of his major contributions was the implementation of a plan to establish a cohesive campus, without major streets bisecting it.  Prior to his tenure, Wayne State's campus had been split in two by 2nd Avenue.  In 1970 it was decided that it was needed to close off this street to turn it into a pedestrian mall, making it a safer place for students as well as facilitating student transit between classes.  In 1972 Gullen implemented this policy, with work beginning on it in 1972.  Work continued on it for several years, finally being concluded in 1978.  It was in this year the that he decided to retire, ending a successful seven years of guiding Wayne State into the world- class entity that it is today.  As a testament to his contributions during his tenure, the WSU Board of Governors named the mall after him.  He lived only a short while after his retirement, passing on in 1982 at the age of 67.

Gullen Mall remains so named today in testament to his leadership.  It continues in its role as the main thoroughfare of the campus, running from Warren Avenue in the south to Palmer in the north.  Students use it daily for a variety of uses, whether simply to walk to class, meeting friends,or for rallies, demonstrations, and other public gatherings.  If this man's foresight and leadership is emulated by the current generation of Wayne's leaders, WSU has an even brighter future yet to come.

Source: Pentecost, Paul J., and Henry V. Bohm, eds.  Reminiscences of Wayne. Wayne State University Press, 2002.

Gullen Mall from Palmer, 2007. Author's Collection


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