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Updated 10:00 AM December 4, 2006




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Letter to the editor

To the editors:

I came here as a student in the fall of 1954. Although I don't remember the first time I actually heard the expression "he's a Michigan Man," it seems I've always known what it meant.

Maybe I first heard it when someone referred to Roger Wilkins (our house resident adviser) as a Michigan Man. I knew it meant something special; someone that stood out from the crowd, someone who was "above" the rest of us lowly undergrads. A Michigan man, or woman, was someone who we all aspired to follow or to emulate,which for me was sufficient to define the term.

But it also seemed to me that it meant more than just that. The University produced many outstanding leaders, yet not all of them were referred to as "Michigan men," so it had to be something more.

I recall using (and hearing others use) the term a number of times during my student years, and even more often when I became a faculty member, to describe those individuals thought to be destined for national (or worldwide) leadership roles. Men and women who characterized what is best in people, and many Michigan men went on, like Roger Wilkins, to become national leaders. And no matter where they went, they always seemed to be referred to as a Michigan man or woman.

My revelation as to why the University produced these great people occurred to me some years later when my colleague, Fred Goodman (a professor in the School of Education), was talking to me one day about Michigan being a place he described as a "meta-university." He explained that Michigan was a meta-university. For example, he said, "In ed school we don't train our students to be simply good teachers, we train them to be teachers of teachers."

And I realized that was true of many schools and colleges here at Michigan. Students were trained for teaching (or leading) other professionals and scholars in their field. They also embodied characteristics of loyalty and honor to their school and profession as teachers and scholars. In other words, hopefully they would become Michigan men and women.

When Bo told the world that Bill Frieder would not coach our basketball team on the eve of their going to the national playoffs (after Frieder quit but offered to stay on and coach through the playoffs), Bo simply said that Frieder would not coach our basketball team—our team would be coached by a Michigan man. Bo knew what a Michigan man was, for he himself was, if nothing else, a Michigan man. He was a teacher of teachers who went on to coach and to teach others about the best there is in sports and life, and his students are all over the world doing what they learned from Bo: behaving honorably and doing what we here at Michigan all aspire to do, and setting an example to the world what a Michigan man or woman really is.

Thanks again Bo.

Mitchell J. Rycus
Professor Emeritus
Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning

The University Record welcomes letters from members of the University community. Those on topics of broad University interest will be given preference for publication. Letters should be no more than 500 words and must be signed. The editorial staff reserves the right to reject any letter and to edit and/or condense letters for publication. The staff also reserves the right to limit the number of letters submitted by the same individual. Letters may appear in small type. Organizations submitting material must include the name and address of an appropriate officer. Letters must be received by noon Wednesday to receive consideration for publication in the next issue.

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