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Year in the Life

Central Michigan Life looks back at the triumphs, controversies and challenges of 2016

Click a section above to be directed to that semester's highlights

News organizations around the nation found no shortage of stories to cover in 2016. The same goes for Central Michigan Life on the campus of Central Michigan University.

Administrators unveiled one of the largest capital projects at CMU to date, while the campus community reacted to the most controversial presidential election in modern American history.

Here are the major news events and campus happenings covered by   CM Life in the order they were published in 2016:


Jan. 13: A Burrito Bowl restaurant, new LED light fixtures and field turf for Kelly/Shorts Stadium, renovations on Grawn Hall, replacing lockers in the Student Activity Center and more were announced as projects for summer 2016.

Jan. 29CM Life wins a coveted Michigan Press Association "College Newspaper of the Year" award for work done in 2015. The media company took home more than 30 additional awards including best investigative reporting, best sports news and features, best editorial, best writer and best non-front page design.


Feb. 7: Farmington Hills senior Jon Justice was found dead in his Deerfield Village apartment. Officials concluded alcohol poisoning as the cause of death.

Feb. 8: A lawsuit was filed against former-St. Mary's Priest Denis Heames after a female student alleged he sexually abused her. Heames was placed on leave in July 2015 for "boundary violations." Heames was replaced by the Rev. Thomas J. Fleming on July 1, 2016.

Feb. 14: CMU was awarded $33,435 grant for a pilot program aimed at educating students about sexual misconduct awareness and prevention. Out of 22 colleges that received sexual assault funding, CMU received the fifth largest amount.

Feb. 20: Special Olympics Michigan's "Polar Plunge" event raised $72,076 for its yearly programs. The largest gift of $10,000 was donated by Wesley's Warriors.


March 9: President-elect Donald Trump, who was the presumed Republican nominee, and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders won primary elections in Isabella County. Both candidates won the Michigan primary election. Sanders’ victory helped him obtain more votes than any other candidate. It also demonstrated an upset for Democrats, as Hillary Clinton was predicted to prevail by at least 11 percent in votes ahead of Sanders.

March 10: CMU Board of Trustees voted to change the spring semester Gentle Thursday and Friday dates from the last two days of the semester to March 31 and April 1. Although Gentle Thursday and Friday were originally intended to give students extra time to study for exams, the dates were changed in order to coincide with the Gratiot-Isabella school district's spring break.

March 14: A police investigation begins when journalism and broadcast faculty member Mark Ranzenberger was suspected of possessing child pornography. The fixed-term faculty member resigned after child pornography was found on a university owned computer in his office. Ranzenberger also resigned from his post on the Mount Pleasant Planning Commission.

March 17: Thomas Masterson was appointed as dean of the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions. Masterson previously served as the college’s interim dean. He accepted a salary of $207,000 a year.


April 4: An addiction concentration was added to CMU’s counseling master’s program. Addiction counseling becomes the program's third degree concentration option, along with professional counseling and school counseling.

April 9: In the sixth-annual New Venture competition, the creators of  ShareCase LLC won "Best Overall" business proposal and walked away with $30,000. ShareCase LLC was designed to be an interactive web portal revolutionizing outdate technology currently used at medical schools.

April 9: Ian Elliott and Jazmin Biernat were elected as Student Government Association president and vice president. Voter turnout totaled 1,332 votes — 646 more votes than the previous year.

April 15: The Greek Community raised $67,577 during Greek Week for the Derrick Nash Strong Foundation. Nash, former CMU football player, died in June 2015 after battling lymphoblastic leukemia. The foundation, started by Nash’s family, raises funds for families with children suffering from chronic illness.


May 10: Former CMU football player and Pittsburg Steelers star Antonio Brown waltzed to redemption, advancing as one of four remaining pairings on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars."

May 24: Mount Pleasant attorney Todd Levitt — who sued a CMU student over the creation of a parody Twitter account — lost his appeal of the same case. Michigan's Court of Appeals upheld the Isabella County Civil Court's decision to dismiss Levitt's claim of libel and defamation, protecting the First Amendment Rights of student Zachary Felton. The case was first dismissed in February 2015.


June 4: On the second day of the Special Olympics Michigan 2016 Summer Games, Plymouth native James Ellison, 24, set two unofficial Special Olympics world records. Ellison deadlifted 660 pounds in his final lift.

June 15: Students organized a candlelight vigil outside the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Michigan to mourn victims of the June 12 shooting at Pulse, a nightclub in Orlando. More than 100 CMU community members attended to honor the 50 people killed and 53 people injured in the attack.

June 23: After a four-day trial, CMU football player Malik Fountain was found not guilty on four assault charges. The Chicago native was arrested April 7 for the alleged assaults of Saginaw residents Chylcie Lett and Mackenzie Maul. The alleged assaults occurred on Dec. 2 inside the Wayside Central bar in Mount Pleasant.

June 28: Former Central Michigan University football player Zurlon Tipton Jr. died from an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound. Tipton accidentally shot himself at a car dealership parking lot in Roseville.


July 15: Macomb County junior Kristy Malter died after contracting bacterial meningitis. Malter, 21, was a member of the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority at CMU.

July 21: Mount Pleasant businessman Clarence Tuma, who opened The Embers fine dining restaurant in 1958, died.


Aug. 27: Central Michigan head football coach John Bonamego awarded Alex Markarian, a Clarkston senior marching band member, with a $1,000 check to thank him for his time at CMU. Markarian didn’t expect the check, and said he would likely donate it to the marching band to replace or repair equipment. The money he received came from profits left over in the football program’s budget for offseason youth camps.

Aug. 28: Students raised concerns about overpolicing in Mount Pleasant after 14 law enforcement and emergency service agencies stood watch during Welcome Weekend 2016. Mount Pleasant Police received 653 complaints this year, compared to 574 last year.


Sep 18: After two years of construction, administrators organized a grand opening ceremony for the $95 million Biosiences Building, one of the largest capital projects in CMU's history.

Sept. 19: The National Weather Service named Central Michigan University a Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador, awarding the meteorology department and honoring its partnership throughout 100 years of weather observations.


Oct. 23: CM Life wins its fourth, consecutive Associated Collegiate Press "Pacemaker Award" for work done during the 2015-16 academic year. The award is given to less than 30 university newspapers and media companies for outstanding excellence and innovation. 

Oct. 26: University officials held a forum to discuss CMU's $9.8 million deficit in the operating budget. The deficit would later grow to $10.6 million. Officials attributed the shortfall to lower than expected enrollment in on-campus student credit hours and Global Campus, which includes satellite and online courses.


Nov. 9: Trump is elected president. He was the first candidate in history to be elected without holding any prior government office, defeating Clinton in the process.

Nov. 11: The Zeta Rho Chapter of the Sigma Chi fraternity raised $16,300 for cancer research during Derby Days — a week of fundraising events organized by CMU's Greek Life community.

Nov. 15: More than 300 students gathered to protest the election of Trump by marching through campus, ending at Warriner Hall to deliver a letter to University President George Ross. The "Stop Hate" walkout protest was organized by Central Michigan Action, a progressive activism group made up of students and professor Jon Arlt.


Dec. 6: Student Government Association former president Ian Elliott stepped down from his position. He was replaced by his SGA Vice President Biernat.

Dec. 8: University President George Ross received a $11,500 increase in his base salary, and announced his intention to donate the money to an existing school of music scholarship in his wife's name. Ross made the announcement during the last Board of Trustees meeting of 2016.