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An Appreciation

Harry Burns Hutchins
The Michigan Alumnus

An Appreciation


Tappan Professor of Law and Dean of the Law School

Time and perspective will serve only to make in
creasingly evident the importance and significance 
of the many and varied services of former Pres
ident Harry Burns Hutchins to the University of Michigan. So quietly did he work and so modestly did he 
always bear himself, that though greatly beloved and 
honored in his lifetime, there was, nevertheless, inade
quate appreciation of the strength and wisdom of his 
administration as Dean of the Law School and Presi
dent of the University. By temperament as well as by 
reasoned conviction he abhorred the spectacular and 
questioned the wisdom of any move or change verging 
toward revolution. And yet he realized as clearly as 
anyone that life is change, and so he steadily, if quietly 
and cautiously, pressed continuously forward. 

Mr. Hutchins was engaged at different times and 
places in many and somewhat varied pursuits, and yet 
it is impossible to survey his career without a realiza
tion of how wisely and harmoniously it was planned and
 how thoroughly and broadly it trained and developed 
him for the crowning achievements of his life. Born 
in New England, of sturdy ancestry, and receiving his 
early schooling in the strengthening and effective, if 
somewhat severe, discipline of a New England academy, he cast his lot in with that stream of immigration
 from New England and New York, which flowed so 
strongly to the westward through Ohio and into Mich
igan and other states to the west. Fortunate it was for 
this University that young Hutchins had observed that
 a majority of the leading textbooks used in the school
, which he attended, were written by professors in the 
then young and rapidly rising University of Michigan. 
It was characteristic of him that he should have selected his Alma Mater upon a carefully formed judgment 
of the ability of its faculty; and so it was that its future
 President entered the University in 1867 and was grad
uated with the Class of 1871. 

Mr. Hutchins always, and with reason, took satis
faction in the fact that after graduation from college 
he taught for one year at Owosso, and for a few years
 thereafter as an instructor and later an assistant pro
fessor of rhetoric in this University. To his study of 
literature and rhetoric during this period may be as
cribed much of the precision and clarity of his oral and 
literary expression, throughout his life. It was during
 this period of teaching in the Department of Literature, 
 Science, and the Arts, as it was then known, that Mr.
 Hutchins became the instructor of William W. Cook, 
 and with him formed a friendship which lasted through-
out his life and was destined to have momentous con-
sequences of good for the University. For it was Mr.
 Cook's confidence in the wisdom and unselfishness of 
his then young instructor which led him later to select
 Mr. Hutchins as the medium of his communication 
with the University regarding his munificent gifts of 
the Martha Cook Building and the superb Lawyers
 Club buildings. Throughout the negotiations concern
ing these gifts and their development, Mr. Cook has 
relied confidently upon the sound judgment and disin
terested advice of his friend and former instructor. 

Fortunate, too, was the fact that Mr. Hutchins
 after admission to the Bar in 1876 was engaged in 
the active practice of law for a period of eight years. 
During these years he laid the foundation for the prac
tice and teaching of that field of learning which was to 
be his chief concern throughout most of his mature 
life. These years at the Bar trained the able young 
lawyer in affairs and in dealing with men, and con
tributed largely, no doubt, to the remarkable faculty 
which Mr. Hutchins constantly employed in making 
those adjustments between clashing interests and some
times contending individuals which is no less important 
in the administration of an institution of learning than in the so-called active life of the world. Practicality 
of the right sort, and a common sense which amounted
 almost to genius, were characteristics of Mr. Hutchins
 throughout his active career. From 1884 to 1887 he was
 Professor of Law in this University and in the latter
 year went to Cornell University, where he was the 
dominant personality in the organization of the Cornell
 Law School, on whose faculty he remained until 1895, 
 when he was called to and accepted the deanship of the 
Law School of this University. 

He came to the deanship admirably equipped by 
nature, education and experience to begin the dif
ficult task of reorganizing 
and developing a school po
tentially strong but somewhat 
lacking in organization and
 progressive educational meth
ods, at that particular time. 
 Mr. Hutchins was a born or
ganizer and the School was
 rapidly shaped into an effici
ent and well-managed insti
tution. The course of study 
was lengthened from two to 
three years. The old formal 
lecture system was gradually 
abandoned and a well - bal
anced scheme, including the 
use of textbooks, of lectures, 
 and the study of cases as il
lustrative material, was sub
stituted. The old Law School 
Building, erected early in the
 1860's, was entirely remod
eled and enlarged, and the 
instruction in general was put 
upon a sound university ba
sis. This involved the delicate 
and difficult task of gradu
ally substituting legal scholars, devoting their lives to 
the teaching and study of law, for the part-time practitioner type of professor. Within the brief period of 
two years Dean Hutchins had so completely demon
strated his effectiveness as an administrator that when
 President Angell became our minister to Turkey, in
 1897, Dean Hutchins, almost without discussion, was 
made Acting President of the University until Presi
dent Angell's return the following year. Meantime, the
 Law School continued to grow and prosper under his
 administration; so that again it was almost inevitable 
that when President Angell retired in 1909, Mr. 
Hutchins was made Acting President, and a year later 
became President of the University, serving in that
 capacity until 1919. 
Though his term as President of the University
 was to go through the severe ordeal caused by the Great
 War, and through the difficult period of readjustment 
immediately following that frightful calamity, the
 decade of his administration was perhaps the most
prosperous in the history of the University. It was immediately apparent to the entire campus that though
 Mr. Hutchins' great interest had been in the law and 
in the development of the Law School, he was now
 President of the University and deeply interested in its
 every department and in all of its activities. Likewise, 
 the campus early realized that the new President, 
though kindly and courteous, was equally firm and
 strong. Again, his talent for organizing manifested 
itself in an increased orderliness and efficiency in every
 department. With genuine appreciation of the impor
tance of the personnel of the faculty, President 
Hutchins addressed himself at once to securing impor
tant increases in the salary 
scale, and to the bringing of 
able new men to the various

He exercised great wisdom 
in his dealing with the state 
legislature and the adminis
tration of Michigan's public 
affairs. From the start he 
avoided entangling alliances
 with political factions or 
cliques of any character, and 
the needs of the University 
were pressed strongly upon 
the executive and legislative
 departments of our govern
ment. He gave of his time 
and strength freely in meet
ing the people in all parts of 
the state, and within a short 
time had won their confi
dence and secured their moral
 and material support for the 
advancement of the Univer
sity. Perhaps his greatest 
single service lay in his organizing of the alumni from
 coast to coast and in winning 
their affection and confidence. 
This is not the place to recite the many and munificent 
gifts clearly attributable to Mr. Hutchins' contacts with, 
 and influence over, alumni and former students. Refer
ence has already been made to the generous gifts of Mr.
 William W. Cook, which are among the largest and most 
wisely planned in the history' of American education. 

From the beginning of his administration, President
 Hutchins manifested a sympathetic understanding 
of the project, which was to result in the organization 
of the Michigan Union and its equipment with the best 
building of its kind in the country. Without his encour
agement and help it would have been well nigh impossi
ble to have carried that campaign to a successful conclusion. In general it may be said that the University
 will for years to come be a better and greater university 
because of Mr. Hutchins' stimulation of alumni interest. 

Only those who were intimate with the affairs of the University during President Hutchins' administration can realize the many difficulties with which he had to 
contend and which he met with great success. It was 
not an easy thing to follow President Angell, admittedly 
one of the great American university presidents. President Angell's extra ordinarily long service, his great 
abilities as administrator, educator and public speaker, 
 and the rare charm of his personality, had made of him
 a figure of almost superhuman power and virtues, in the
 minds of our alumni and friends. It was scarcely pos
sible for our constituency to appraise at his true merit
 any man who might succeed this great figure. Moreover, 
 it seemed probable that Mr. Hutchins would have but
 a short administration, and he therefore was without
 some of that support which is given only to the leader 
who is expected to remain long in power. The diffi
culties caused by the Great War have already been suggested, but in spite of all these handicaps, it came 
gradually to be recognized that Michigan had another
 splendid executive. 

To those of us who knew Mr. Hutchins intimately
 there were revealed qualities of character and per
sonality, which endeared him to us even more than did
 his achievements as an executive. Possessed of great
 strength and firmness when firmness was required, he
 was yet exceptionally gentle, courteous and modest. 
In his relationship to his illustrious predecessor he revealed these qualities in a degree possessed by few men of eminence. He refused to live in the official President's
 home, preferring that Doctor Angell should remain 
there. He sought Doctor Angell's counsel and advice 
and constantly subordinated himself at public meetings, 
preferring that Doctor Angell should receive the honors
 of the occasion. Doctor Angell was equally charming
 and self-effacing in his attitude toward President 
Hutchins. In truth, the relationship between these two 
men was a very beautiful and unusual thing. Again, 
 after his own retirement from the presidency Doctor 
Hutchins completely effaced himself, that his successor 
might be given every opportunity to win the affection 
and confidence of everyone connected with, or inter
ested in, the University. With a delicacy very rare, es
pecially among men who have been forced into the lime-
light, he avoided even the appearance of seeking to 
exercise any influence in the control of University affairs. The writer of this too hastily prepared apprecia
tion gratefully acknowledges that he was the recipient
 of that same generosity of treatment from President 
Hutchins; for though President Hutchins naturally re
tained a deep interest in the Law School, never by word, 
 look or sign, directly or indirectly, did he in any way 
interfere with, or attempt to influence the administra
tion of the Law School, after he resigned its deanship. 
Only a man of genuine magnanimity could have dealt
 with the situation so unselfishly. 

For his simple and unaffected dignity, his courtesy, 
 his fairness and his modesty, as well as for his high
 ability and strength and his fine achievements for the
 University, those of us who have known him well will 
always hold him in deep affection.

Last Rites for Dr. Hutchins Held

On the clear cold afternoon of January 28, Harry
 Burns Hutchins was laid to rest by the side of 
his wife, Mary Crocker Hutchins, in Forest Hill Cemetery, with only a few relatives and friends attending 
the ceremony. The Reverend Henry Lewis, of St. Andrews Episcopal Church read the service, and the Uni
versity of Michigan Glee Club sang "Laudes atque
 Carmina," which was also sung by the Glee Club at 
the funeral of President James Burrill Angell, nearly 
fourteen years ago. 

The public funeral services, held before the inter
ment, in St. Andrews Episcopal Church, were attended
 by many friends, townspeople, students and faculty 
members, as well as former students and colleagues of 
President Emeritus Hutchins, many of whom had come 
long distances in order to be present at the last rites.

Special sections of the church were occupied by the
 honorary pallbearers, including President Alexander G. 
 Ruthven, the Regents, Webster H. Pearce, Superin
tendent of Public Instruction, Treasurer Robert A. 
 Campbell, Secretary Shirley W. Smith, Frank E. Rob
bins, Assistant to the President, Librarian William W. 
 Bishop, Charles E. Sink, President of the University
 School of Music, all the deans of the various colleges, 
 Deans Emeritus Mortimer E. Cooley, Allen S. Whit
ney, and W. B. Hinsdale. Members of the faculty of 
the Law School, of the organization known as "The 
Club," and of Catholepistemiad, were also honorary 

Professors Jesse S. Reeves, of the Political Science
 Department, Moses Gomberg, Professor of Organic
 Chemistry, Evans Holbrook, of the faculty of the Law
 School, Lewis Gram, Professor of Civil Engineering, 
 Charles B. Vibbert, Professor of Philosophy, and
 Henry C. Anderson, Professor of Mechanical Engi
neering, were the active pallbearers. 

Out of town relatives who were in Ann Arbor for 
the funeral services were Mr. Harry Crocker Hutchins, 
 the son of the late President Emeritus, with his wife 
and daughter, who lives in Scarsdale, New York; a sis
ter, Mrs. Rufus Fleming; two nephews, Frederick and
 Carleton Hutchins; and Martin Crocker, brother of the
 late Mrs. Harry Burns Hutchins. 

Prominent statesmen, politicians, scholars, and jurors 
throughout the country, as well as former students and
 colleagues and personal friends of Dr. Hutchins, tele
graphed their condolences to the bereaved family, and
 their regrets at not being present at the last rites.