The University Record, November 14, 1996

U-M presidents have weathered wars, recessions, unrest to keep institution in leadership position

Editor's Note: The following summary of the history of the University's presidents is based on information from the Record, the Ann Arbor News, and The Making of The University of Michigan by Howard H. Peckham. Historical photographs are courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.

By Mary Jo Frank,
University Relations

 

Their names live on in brick and mortarfrom Tappan, Haven, Angell and Hutchins halls to Burton Memorial Tower, Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library, the Fleming Administration Building and the Shapiro Library.

Whether the tenure was short or long, tranquil or tumultuous, each of the University's 11 presidents has become part of a rich history embellished by the events and time in which he served.

Photo of Tappan.

 

Henry P. Tappan

First president boosts culture, research

The U-M's first president, Henry P. Tappan, made a splash when he and his family came to Ann Arbor in the summer of 1852 fresh from a European tour. The 47-year-old former minister and professor of philosophy was 6 feet tall and handsome with side and under-chin whiskers.

It is said there was an "urbane, cosmopolitan air about him, along with an intellectual and slightly condescending manner." Outdoors, Tappan carried a cane and usually was accompanied by one of his huge mastiffs, Bull or Leo.

In his December 1852 inaugural speech, Tappan promised to bring distinguished scholars to the faculty, to enlarge the library and laboratory, and to establish an art gallery. He wanted the University to move from mere dissemination of knowledge to research, and said he would institute a scientific curriculum to broaden the field of learning.

Tappan solicited funds from Ann Arbor citizens to enlarge the meager library and ordered the University's first microscope. His greatest achievement was the construction of an astronomical observatory called the Detroit Observatory. A 13-inch telescope was ordered, and on a trip to Berlin in the summer of 1853, Tappan selected the transit and meridian circle. The observatory was soon regarded as one of the three finest in the country.

Unfortunately, Tappan's relationship with the Regents deteriorated. By revising the Bylaws, the Regents obtained more and more power, leaving Tappan with only ceremonial duties.

His removal from office after the June 1863 commencement caused a storm of protest from alumni and students. Ann Arbor citizens condemned the Regents as "jackasses." In 1863 Tappan left for Europe, never to return to the United States.

Photo of Haven

 

Erastus O. Haven
Blacks admitted for the first time

Tappan was succeeded by Erastus O. Haven, an editor and former professor, who was inaugurated president in the then-new Presbyterian Church. Although Haven possessed a quiet sense of humor, was patient and got along well with others, many local citizens and students regarded him with suspicion or indifference. Haven continued the policies of Tappan with quiet competence and diplomacy.

It was during Haven's short tenure that the U-M admitted Blacks for the first time. The first two were from Michigan. One stayed a year, and the other graduated from the Law Department in 1870. Haven was not so accepting when it came to women. In 1867 the Michigan Legislature recommended that the University admit women. The Regents and Haven refused. A year later Haven changed his mind.

The post-Civil War student was serious, but also could be belligerent and destructive. Bonfire celebrations took their toll on the town's wooden sidewalks.

University rules of student conduct included: "No student shall be allowed to frequent gaming houses, play at cards or practice any species of gambling, or attend gaming or drinking saloons, or be guilty of profaneness, or any act of violence, or keep the company of persons of ill repute or be guilty of any other vice; and the use of intoxicating drinks is prohibited."

After being criticized for preaching in a Detroit Unitarian church, Haven, a Methodist minister, left in 1869 to accept the presidency of a new Methodist institution---Northwestern University.

Another University administrator, Henry S. Frieze, agreed to serve in the interim while the Regents searched for a president. During the two years he served as acting president, Frieze pursued three objectives: opening the University to women, accrediting high schools and building a chapel or auditorium where all students could be brought together. After the Regents tapped Haven's successor, Frieze was given a leave to go to Europe. In 1875 he became the first dean of the Literary Department.

 

James B. Angell
The longest presidency - 38 years

In 1871 the Regents hired James B. Angell of Vermont at a salary of $4,500 plus moving expenses. His final demand was the installation of a water closet---the first in Ann Arbor---in the President's House.

Angell, 42 years old when he became president, had been professor of modern languages and literatures at Brown University until 1860 when he resigned to edit the Providence Gazette.

Problems Angell encountered during his 38-year presidency---the longest of any U-M president---included inadequate classrooms and overworked, underpaid faculty members. U-M salaries were below those paid at Columbia, Harvard and Yale universities and encouraged other schools to raid the U-M faculty. At the U-M more than 1,100 students were taught by 33 faculty members, while Harvard had 1,316 students and a faculty of more than 100.

Angell achieved a victory by persuading the Legislature to remove the $15,000 ceiling on the annual mill-tax revenue. The mill tax remained in force until 1935, when the Legislature abolished the state property tax and implemented a state sales tax. The University had to turn to the Legislature biennially for its appropriation.

In 1875 the Legislature provided an additional $3,000 for a Dental Department. Angell opposed adding dentistry to the curriculum on the grounds that dentistry was a mechanical trade---not an intellectual discipline.

Angell's most serious crisis during his long administration occurred when a discrepancy in fees paid to the Chemical Laboratory in 1875 developed into a scandal that split the Board of Regents, town and state Legislature.

In a day when hazing, class fights, vandalism and disorderly conduct among students were common, Angell quickly demonstrated that he had a way with young people. He personally conducted chapel every day that he was on campus. In 1872 he made chapel voluntary.

Student behavior was a national problem. Organized athletics began to divert some of the students' need for physical activity.

Music was introduced to the Literary Department curriculum in 1880, the same year the University Musical Society was founded to sponsor concerts.

Until 1878, commencement had consisted of selected seniors delivering orations or poems. That year, the administration quietly changed the program and began providing an outside speaker for the combined commencement of the Medical Department and the Literary Department.

Thanks to Angell, the U-M began receiving national recognition. Early in 1880, President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Angell minister to China, where Angell successfully negotiated a new treaty with the Chinese to control the immigration of Chinese laborers. President Grover Cleveland appointed Angell a member of the Fishery Commission and in 1895 called on him to chair a Deep Waterways Commission to work with Canada to study the feasibility of canals---the forerunners of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

As the University entered the 20th century, it attracted speakers such as Teddy Roosevelt, temperance movement leader Carrie Nation, and a young British journalist who showed lantern slides of South Africa and the Boer War---Winston Churchill.

The Regents panicked in 1905 when Angell, then 76, tried to resign. They refused to accept his letter and instead offered to hire more help for him. Angell, who for years had no secretary and answered all letters in longhand, had trouble delegating duties.

In January 1909, Angell, still vigorous and mentally alert, was feeling the physical burden of the University's higher enrollment and a growing faculty. The Regents accepted his resignation and designated Angell president emeritus with a continuing salary of $4,000 and permission to remain in the President's House.

 

Photo of HutchinsHarry B. Hutchins
Academic standards raised

Harry B. Hutchins agreed to serve as acting president in 1909, and in 1910 the 63-year-old dean of the Law Department accepted a five-year appointment. The University's enrollment in 1910-11 was 5,339, making it the nation's third largest university, surpassed only by Columbia and the University of Chicago.

Hutchins began pushing in 1911 for a graduate school separate from the Literary Department. He wanted it to be "tough." Academic standards were raised to improve the quality of undergraduate degrees.

Hutchins was not as much at ease with students as his predecessor. Rowdiness irritated him and malicious destruction infuriated him. He appreciated earnest, respectful students and regarded the faculty as a "community of scholars."

During the Hutchins decade, the United states entered a great World War---more upsetting to the campus than the Civil War. American sympathy flowed to the Allies. Faculty, students and alumni pushed Hutchins to institute military drills on campus in 1914. He refused, insisting that the University's unique function was to furnish educated, trained leadership for the nation.

Photo of Burton

 

Marion LeRoy Burton
New buildings built, research expands

Hutchins resigned in 1919; that same year the Regents hired Marion LeRoy Burton, president of the University of Minnesota, to lead the University. Burton, 45, arrived in Ann Arbor in 1920. He was a tall, red-haired man who had a gift for making people like him immediately. Like Angell and Hutchins, Burton was a faithful Congregationalist. He also had been a minister.

Burton, who was not afraid of growth, wrote in an annual report, "A state university must accept happily the conclusion that it is destined to be large. If its state grows and prospers, it will naturally reflect those conditions. The uncritical mind simply assumes that a small institution ipso facto does excellent work and that a large university must maintain mediocre educational standards. I insist that excellence does not inhere in size."

Burton's most visible achievements were new buildings. Work on University Hospital, an addition to the Dental school and construction of a model high school and the East Engineering Building, were started first. The William C. Clements Library opened in 1923.

Mrs. Burton meanwhile repeated what she had done at the University of Minnesota; in 1921 she called together some wives of faculty members and proposed forming a Faculty Women's Club to be divided into sections according to interests: play reading, art, music, cooking, book reviews, interior decorating and needlecraft.

Under Burton, opportunities for research were expanded. An appeal was made for funds that might be allotted for research. A separate School of Education was created in 1921.

Burton insisted on high academic performance and raised the requirement for admission of high school graduates. However, he also possessed a sense of humor---which served him good stead in the age of the flapper and the Charleston.

In June 1924 Burton made the nominating speech for Calvin Coolidge for president at the National Republican Convention. Late in October Burton suffered a heart attack and was confined to bed. He died Feb. 9, 1925. Students suggested a carillon tower be built as a permanent memorial to Burton. It was eventually built in 1936.

Photo of Little

 

Clarence C. Little
Freshman orientation week inaugurated

Clarence C. Little, 36, had been president of the University of Maine for three years. Holding three degrees from Harvard, including a doctorate in biology, Little came to the University with the understanding that he would continue research into the nature and causes of cancer.

Indifferent to the views of persons or organizations outside the University, Little took delight in needling those he didn't like. He lacked patience and tact. For example, he offended Catholics and others when he spoke out boldly and repeatedly in favor of birth control at a time when the subject was seldom mentioned. He once invited members of the House and Senate finance committees to a football game but omitted members he didn't like, thus ensuring powerful University enemies in the Legislature.

Concerned about the welfare of students, Little advocated building dormitories to house 350 to 450 students and two or three faculty members. He inaugurated freshman orientation week in 1927.

Little didn't think the curriculum for men and women should be identical. Reasoning that most women students would become homemakers and mothers, he thought it foolish not to prepare them for those roles. Classes for women that he advocated included physiology, general science, nursing hygiene, human behavior, and heredity and genetics.

In January 1929 Little submitted his resignation. The Regents were unsuccessful in efforts to change his mind. He became director of the Jackson Memorial Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, and served there until retiring in 1956. He also was director of the American Cancer Society.

 

Photo of RuthvenAlexander G. Ruthven
Introduced corporate style of organization

Alexander G. Ruthven, 47, dean of administration, was asked to take over in the interim and subsequently was offered the presidency. He had been on campus since 1903---first as a graduate student and then rising through the ranks to professor of zoology and Museum director.

Ruthven introduced a corporate style of organization. He regarded the Regents as "guardians of a public trust [who] function as custodians of the property and income of the University and, as the governing body, give final approval to educational policies and staff appointments." The president was to be chairman and budget director and deans were to be chairmen of their faculties and administrative heads of their schools or colleges. The faculties, Ruthven believed, should determine educational policies for their units.

Ruthven had been in office only a month before the 1929 stock market crash. The University barely felt the crash, since its budget for two years had been determined by the legislature in the spring when prosperity seemed assured. By 1931 the U-M plant expansion slowed down, and the University was looking for ways to save money.

Salary cuts of 6, 8 and 10 percent were instituted in 1932-33. In 1933 a total of 95 positions were eliminated and remaining faculty and staff members took a second salary cut.

The University had been known as a dressy campus, with men wearing neckties and usually suit jackets to class. Women appeared at 8 a.m. in hosiery, heels, hats and gloves. The deepening Depression no longer permitted such finery.

Ruthven's next major problem was managing a university in a world again at war. During the fall of 1943 the campus had more than 4,000 men in uniform plus 2,500 civilian men and 4,650 women. The U-M contributed to development of weapons, including the atomic bomb and radar devices. The influenza vaccine was produced by a School of Public Health professor.

As early as 1944 Ruthven warned the Regents that the U-M must begin planning for the post-war period. He anticipated continuation of universal military training, a huge enrollment of returning veterans and housing problems.

In a daring move in 1950, the Regents purchased 300 acres north of the Huron River for a second campus. With Ruthven scheduled to retire in 1951, the Regents began looking for a new president.

 

Photo of HatcherHarlan H. Hatcher
$55M Campaign, the first major capital campaign by a public university, launched

They hired Harlan H. Hatcher, vice president for faculty and curriculum at Ohio State University. A former dean and professor of English, Hatcher was noted for his administrative skill. Enrollment slipped to just under 17,000 in 1952-53 and then increased steadily until 1956-57 when it stood at 22,180. There was a shortage of professors because not enough Ph.D.s had been trained during and after the war to meet demand.

In 1956 the U-M-Flint opened to 174 juniors, thanks to the generosity of the Charles S. Mott Foundation of Flint, which provided a building for the college. Ford Motor Co. presented Fair Lane, the former residence of Henry Ford in Dearborn, and $6.5 million to the University to encourage establishment of a senior college. The college opened in 1959.

During Hatcher's tenure, the U-M launched the first major capital campaign undertaken by a public university, the $55M Campaign. At the Campaign's close in 1967, the sesquicentennial of the University, the goal had been exceeded by more than one-third.

Other milestones during Hatcher's presidency included:

Construction of buildings on North Campus and of the Institute for Social Research.

Establishment of the Computing Center and the Institute of Science and Technology.

Creation of an honors program for the "brightest 5 percent of the entering freshmen."

And, on a balmy spring evening in 1952, men from West Quad and South Quad gathered. In high spirits, they moved across the campus to the women's dormitories, invaded through doors conveniently unbolted, and proceeded to ramble through the upper floors and emerge with pieces of women's underwear. It was the first panty raid on any campus.

By the time Hatcher retired in 1967, students and faculty members at the U-M and campuses across the country were thinking about more than panty raids. They were becoming increasingly concerned about the war in Vietnam.

Photo of Fleming.

 

Robben W. Fleming
Maintained University's strength and autonomy

The U-M's ninth president, Robben W. Fleming, anticipated problems with unrest when he accepted the presidency. Fleming, chancellor of the Madison campus of the University of Wisconsin, graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1941. He had been in university life for 20 years and had a secure career as a professor of law and an arbitrator.

As he was preparing to retire in 1978, Fleming said, "By 1967 we had begun to have problems on the campus. It was clear we were in trouble. I knew that if I accepted the job, there was better than a 50-50 chance that I would be fired."

Fleming addressed the problems of campus turmoil in his inaugural address on March 1, 1968, when he said he hoped that "we can preserve at Michigan the kind of climate in which controversy can flourish and do so in an atmosphere of dignity and respect for others" and that "Michigan graduates will be wise, tolerant, compassionate, civilized human beings."

Fleming's presidency was marked by two major issues---the struggle to maintain order during the days of campus unrest that peaked during the first three years of his tenure, and the continuing struggle to establish a solid base of financial support for the University.

It was Fleming's style to listen first and then to act firmly but unemotionally.

The Ann Arbor News wrote of Fleming: "The legacy of his 11 years in office will not be great expansion of the University, but maintenance of the University's strength and autonomy after a decade of challenge from students, the public and government."

Fleming avoided confrontation with student protesters, a policy that probably helped the U-M avert destructive demonstrations that struck other U.S. campuses during the late 1960s.

Student unrest peaked at the U-M in June 1969, when crowds of students took over the streets in the area surrounding South University Street. When police arrived on the scene, Fleming challenged their decision to "clear the streets" of protesters and attempted to convince students to leave peacefully.

He again demonstrated his patience in dealing with campus protests when Black students boycotted classes in late March 1970. Fleming negotiated with the students, and the crisis ended with a pledge from the Regents to accept an admissions target of 10 percent Black students for the 1973-74 year.

Campus turbulence from 1964 to 1972 over the war in Vietnam, Black civil rights and other social issues had undermined public support for higher education.

Fleming's efforts to maintain strong financing for the University became almost an annual battle with legislators over appropriations for higher education.

In 1978 Fleming left the U-M to become president of the private, non-profit Corporation for Public Broadcasting in Washington, D.C.

He served as interim president in 1988, between the administrations of Harold T. Shapiro and James J. Duderstadt. In 1996, the U-M Press published Fleming's autobiography, Tempests into Rainbows: Managing Turbulence.

Photo of Shapiro

 

Harold T. Shapiro
Recession leads to reallocation of resources

Fleming was succeeded by Harold T. Shapiro, an economist who had been serving as vice president for academic affairs. The early years of the Shapiro presidency coincided with one of Michigan's worst economic recessions. In response, a policy of downsizing was announced, requiring each unit to set aside a portion of its budget to be used for "redistribution" of University resources.

Over a five-year period, administrators evaluated all University units. Downsizing turned out to be more of a reallocation of resources than a reduction in size. While enrollment remained virtually unchanged during Shapiro's tenure, the Ann Arbor campus budget almost doubled.

Shapiro's public addresses as president consistently stressed the need for concerted efforts to maintain the U-M's standing as a world-class institution.

Major construction between Jan. 1, 1980, and Dec. 31, 1987, totaled 15 buildings at a cost of nearly $528 million. In addition, there were 19 major renovation projects, ranging in cost from $1.5 million for the Advanced Technology Laboratory to $7.3 million for the Central Power Plant.

A major factor in the building activity was the success of the $160 million Campaign for Michigan, the largest development effort ever completed by a public university. The Campaign, which targeted half its proceeds to capital projects, exceeded its goal by $18.4 million.

During the 1980s the University had difficulty recruiting minority students. Black enrollment peaked in 1976 at 2,456, or 7.2 percent of the student body. By 1985, the number of Black students had declined to 1,619, or 5.2 percent of the enrollment---a decrease of 34 percent. In 1987 student discontent with lack of progress compounded by racial incidents brought new demonstrations and specific demands by Black leaders. The U-M announced a six-point action plan to increase Black enrollment.

Although many people believe that a threatening economic climate induced the Regents to select Shapiro as president because he was an economist and econometric forecaster, Shapiro dismissed the idea.

He was quoted in a 1987 Record as saying, "my training as an economist had little or no impact because the main hard questions are value judgments, and judgments regarding the future course of higher education, in which an economist, a physicist, an arbitrator, an engineering professor or a classics professor stand on equal footing."

Shapiro left the U-M in December 1987 to become president of Princeton University.

In May 1995, the Harold T. and Vivian B. Shapiro Library was named in honor of the University's 10th president and Vivian Shapiro, who had been an associate professor of social work at the U-M.

Photo of Duderstadt

 

James J. Duderstadt
Engineering the University
for the 21st century

"My interest has always been in building things---theories, projects. If you're interested in building things, you eventually get interested in building organizations," College of Engineering Dean James J. Duderstadt told a local newspaper reporter in 1985.

Inaugurated as Michigan's 11th president on Oct. 4, 1988, Duderstadt devoted much of his energy and vision during his eight-year administration to building a University poised to excel in the 21st century. He concentrated on strengthening the University's academic programs, diversifying its student body and faculty, building strong private and federal support, rebuilding most of the facilities on the University's several campuses, and strengthening the University's leadership role in higher education.

Duderstadt joined the Michigan faculty as an assistant professor of nuclear engineering in 1969, was promoted to associate professor in 1972 and to professor in 1976. Duderstadt served as dean of Engineering from 1981 to 1986. During this time he transformed the College into one of the finest engineering schools in the nation. He was named provost and vice president for academic affairs in 1986.

He brought to his administrative work decisiveness and an infectious confidence in the ability of educated people to build and control their own futures. Shortly after becoming provost, he outlined a strategic planning process that challenged all concerned to anticipate the needs for higher education in the 21st century and to map out a strategy for meeting those needs. The heart of the new strategic plan was its vision of the future, which he predicted would be dominated by three crucial elements---knowledge, globalization and pluralism.

A hallmark of his presidency was his unwavering commitment to diversity and equality in higher education. In 1988 he launched the Michigan Mandate, a plan to make the U-M a leader in creating a multicultural community and in achieving racial and ethnic diversity among the faculty, students and staff. Under his leadership, the University more than doubled its number of students of color, from 11 percent to 25 percent; increased the retention rate of students of color to 70 percent; doubled the number of underrepresented assistant professors of color promoted to the rank of associate professor; and nearly doubled the number of faculty of color in academic leadership and administrative positions.

The University renewed its commitment to gender equity in 1994 with a second strategic plan called the Michigan Agenda for Women. The goal is that by the year 2000, the University will be the leader among American universities in promoting the success of women of diverse backgrounds as students and employees.

In 1996 the University became the first public university to raise $1 billion in a fund-raising campaign. Private giving increased during Duderstadt's administration from $60 million to $160 million per year. The University's endowment grew from $250 million to more than $1.6 billion, the fourth largest for a public university system. At the same time federal and industry-sponsored support for research grew, totaling $409 million in fiscal year 1995. Michigan also became the first and only public university to earn Wall Street's Aa1 credit rating.

By the end of Duderstadt's presidency, the University was close to completing a massive program to rebuild, renovate and update all of its campus buildings, a $1.5-billion effort. Other accomplishments during his administration included a renewed emphasis on undergraduate education, community service and living/learning communities; a new focus for the School of Information; the upgrade of the Institute of Public Policy Studies to the School of Public Policy; and establishment of the International Institute and of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender.

With the outline of his vision for the University securely in place in September 1995, Duderstadt announced his resignation as president, effective June 30, 1996. He returned to the faculty to launch the Millennium Project, a small research center and experimental laboratory in the new Media Union on North Campus to explore the future of the American University.