The University Record, January 25, 1999

The Historical Record

Patricia S. Whitesell

Did you know that the first issue of The University Record was published in April 1891?

The University Record was created on December 11, 1890, by Regental action for the purpose of publishing a record of the University’s educational and scientific work. The idea emerged from the faculty of the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LS&A), and was positively received. An Editorial Board of eight faculty was created, including two from LS&A and one each from Medicine and Surgery, Law, Pharmacy, Dental Surgery and the Homeopathic Medical College. The Editorial Board appointed an executive committee of three or more faculty to prepare the document for quarterly publication. The authors maintained anonymity so that the publication would be viewed as an “impersonal organ of the University.”

The first issues of The University Record costed 10 cents each, or 50 cents for a year’s subscription by mail. Course outlines were featured in order to acquaint students and the public with opportunities at the University for advanced study. Also featured were independent student projects, dissertations, and original research undertaken and papers presented by faculty.

The very first issue of The University Record highlighted the activities of various organizations, such as the Michigan Schoolmaster’s Club, and the scientific societies, such as the Geological Society. An update was given on plans to build a new gymnasium, to be largely funded by Joshua W. Waterman of Detroit. Waterman Gymnasium was completed in 1894.

The University Record was discontinued in 1895 when the Michigan Alumnus publication was created. It wasn’t until 1938 that The University Record was re-established as a means of communicating with the University’s burgeoning faculty. Following a subsequent five-year lapse that began in 1944, The University Record was started up again as a monthly in November 1949, and it has been continuously published since that date.

The University Record’s mission was changed in 1949 to serve as a medium for communication from administrative officers to faculty and staff, and from one division of the University to another, but above all “to promote a better general understanding of the whole institution by all of its members.”

The November 1949 issue reported on administrative matters, such as the procedures followed by the Payroll Office to generate 13,000 monthly paychecks; new audio visual equipment in the language laboratory; renovations under way at four campus buildings; enrollment data; research grants received by faculty; retirements; obituaries; and a calendar of events. Photographs were added to illustrate the stories. The need for speedy communication of information to faculty and staff became sufficiently important by 1967 that The University Record began publication on a weekly basis in February with a new banner to celebrate the change.

Budget cuts prompted the merger in 1980 of The University Record with UM-News, a four-page monthly publication started in 1967 to communicate with staff at home addresses. The University Record’s mission was regularly debated from its inception, and the 1980 merger prompted faculty to again question whether The University Record was adequately serving faculty needs. The Record gradually expanded in size and scope to provide comprehensive coverage for both faculty and staff. A recent issue filled 20 pages.

Today, The University Record continues its long history of publication, and recent issues are now available in digital form on the World Wide Web (www.umich.edu/~newsinfo/ur_front.htm). Back issues from 1891 to the present are held in the University libraries and the archives of the Bentley Historical Library. The University Record makes fascinating reading, and is an excellent source of historical information.

This column examines interesting aspects of University history. Suggestions for future topics may be sent by e-mail to whitesel@umich.edu.