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Remarks to Freshman Medics in 1860

Alonzo Benjain Palmer
The Michigan Alumnus 364

Professor Alonzo B. Palmer

Whose remarks at first meeting of his stu
dents so impressed a freshman medic in

Student Notebook Of Sixties Has Record Of
 Professor's Greeting To Medical Class

A voice from another era — an
 era when war between the states 
made the times very similar to our 
own — spoke from the pages of a
 student's notebook one day last month,
 breathing life into musty records of 
the University of Michigan that was 
in Ann Arbor in 1860. The notebook 
came into the possession of the Michigan Historical Collections, repository 
for so much lore of the University's
 past, and was the property formerly 
of John Alexander Campfield, m'60-
'61, who penned the words as he heard 
them from his professor on the first
 day of school, October 1, 1860.

Campfield's formal medical educa
tion ended, it would appear, with that
 year in the Medical School, for the 
records show that he became Assistant
 Surgeon of the 12th Indiana Infantry 
in 1862, serving until his death at 
Leesburg, Indiana, on July 8, 1865. 
 The man whose greeting and words 
of advice to the students on that first
 day of school made such an impression 
on young Campfield was Professor
 Alonzo B. Palmer, at that time Pro
fessor of the Theory and Practice of 
Medicine, Pathology, and Materia
 Medica. He joined the Faculty in
 1852 as Professor of Anatomy, and
 continued teaching at Michigan until 
his death at Ann Arbor on December
 23, 1887.

The notebook itself turned up 
among the possessions of Joseph 
Campfield, of Warsaw, Indiana, when
 Mr. Campfield, an elderly gentleman,
 sold his household goods at auction.
 He is believed to have been a nephew
 of the author of the entries.
 From the entry, reprinted here in 
full, it appears that Professor Palmer 
felt much concern for his students'
 well-being, while his mention of the 
repercussions of the war, then in its 
first year, indicate that Michigan had
 already sent a share of young men to
 the army. His remarks are as follows, 
as taken down by his student: 

"Gentlemen, in behalf of the faculty of 
the Medical College of the University, I
 welcome you to these halls. I see before
 me familliar [sic] faces, faces of those who 
have met with us before. Gentlemen, I
 welcome you back. Since we have parted
 one of our number has gone to that bourne
 whence no traveler returns, each member
 of the faculty has either in his own family 
or the families of his friends the ruthless 
hand of death been at work.

"I see before me the faces of strangers,
 who have not not [sic] met with us before.
 Some no doubt who have left their homes
 for the first time, to such I will say I can
 well remember the feelings I experienced
 when first I left my home and all that was
 dear and home privileges [sic] to exchange
 for the homes and society of strangers, but
 you are not among strangers, there are 
some here who are concerned in your wel
fare. You have come here from almost every 
state in the universe, from the Atlantic to 
the mother of waters, from the frigid north 
to the sunny south. A few words of advice
 may not be inappropriate at this time.

In regard to the selection of rooms. You 
should be careful of crowding too many in
 one room. Your rooms should be as large 
as possible, well-lighted and well ventilated, 
 and clean, for cleanliness is next to Godli
ness. You should be sure to have plenty 
to eat (applause) we are not favorable to 
any boarding house speculation (applause). In regards to health it is necessary that 
you should take exercise in the open air. 
Keep your rooms warm and do not sit in
 your room after the fire is extinguished and
 then lie in bed shivering half the night, but 
burn plenty of wood and do not burn any 
alcohol in your systems (applause) and I
 think it would be better for you not to 
burn too much tobacco in your systems 
(applause). It will be our duty to en
deavor to confirm all that you may have 
heard favorable of us and to refute what
 you may have heard unfavorable of us. 
 And I hope you will apply yourselves in 
such a manner as shall be to your credit 
and the credit of the University (applause)."

One somehow sees the students filing out of Professor Palmer's first class
 indeed confirmed in "all that you may 
have heard favorable of us" and well 
on the way toward "refuting" any 
misimpressions as to the warmth of 
the University's hospitality and