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Elected President

Harry Burns Hutchins
The Michigan Alumnus 17-19


By Edwin C. Goddard '89

No more striking proof of perfect 
confidence and high regard could be 
afforded than the unanimous sense
 of relief with which the news of the
 appointment of Harry Burns Hutch
ins as permanent President of the Un
iversity was welcomed by his col
leagues of all Departments, with
 whom he had for so many years been 
closely associated. Verily, he is not
 one without honor in his own country.

The question of a successor to 
our venerable and highly honored
 retiring President, whose long service reaches back beyond the 
memory of most of the present 
generation of professors, and beyond the lives of all the students, 
 has been of great concern to 
all. The University of Michigan is 
not used to new presidents; in all her 
history she has had but three, and 
she would confess to a good deal of 
perturbation at the thought of anoth
er; but so perfectly had Dr. Hutchins 
fitted the situation during the two per
iods, of one year each, when he had 
been temporarily called to the Presi
dent's chair, that his fitness to be not 
merely the temporary but the permanent head of the Institution was rec
ognized by all. Except for the nat
ural inclination to select for the posi
tion a younger man, with the whole 
of his mature life before him, there
 can be little doubt that the election as 
permanent head would have fallen to
 President Hutchins at once upon 
President Angell's retirement. In
spite of that consideration, the Re
gents, after a year of vain search, 
 felt that it was wiser to call President 
Hutchins than to entrust the direction 
of affairs to any younger man who had been considered, and he was accordingly, in June, 1910, elected as
 permanent President of the Univer
sity. In his letter of acceptance, he
 definitely limited the term of his service to five years. 

The salient facts in the life of the
 new President have been so often told, 
 and are so typical of the men of this 
country who have achieved, that there 
is no occasion here for more than a 
general reference. Born in rock-rib
bed New Hampshire, he, like many 
another, found through the Universi
ty of Michigan his way to opportuni
ty, and well has he, by long and effi
cient service, repaid that Institution
 for all she did for him. He affords
 one of the many examples of the wis
dom which the founders have shown 
in putting Michigan on such a cosmo
politan basis that the University attracts to the State young and promis
ing men from every section of the 

After receiving his Ph.B. in
 1871, he was Superintendent of
 Schools at Owosso, Michigan, Assist
ant Professor of History and Rhetor
ic in the University, a lawyer in active 
practice in Mt. Clemens, for eight
 years, and Professor of Law in the
 University of Michigan from 1884 to
1887; in the latter year he was called 
to the newly established Law School
 of Cornell University, where he re
mained until 1895, when his Alma
 Mater called him back to assume the 
Deanship of the Department of Law.
 His success as an administrator was 
as complete as had been his former 
success as a teacher, and no man has 
held more completely than he the con
fidence of the Board of Regents, as 
well as of his associates and students.

His personal self-command and dig
nity, he imparted to the whole school, 
 until the Department that had, right
ly or wrongly, acquired a repute for
 wild disorder, now earned a name
 preeminent for order and studious
ness, and acquired a department 
bearing that made "the dignity of the
 Department" a distinctive characteri
zation of the Department of Law. 

Under his leadership, the Depart
ment of Law has made great strides, 
 not only by a marked increase in the
 amount and quality of work required
 for the LL.B., but also in the preliminary training necessary to enter up
on a study of the Law. Of old law 
schools had no requirements. The 
theory was that the world might be 
trusted to sift the wheat from the
 chaff, the worthy and capable from 
the unworthy and unfit. To all who 
cared to use them, the old law school
 offered its opportunities, and those
 who came were free to use or neglect
 as they might choose. It might be 
necessary for Society to protect itself 
by requiring the physician to secure
 adequate training as a prerequisite to
 the right to experiment upon the hu
man frame, but the lawyer, to whom 
is often entrusted property interests, 
 without the protection of which life
 frequently seems hardly worth the
 living, might hang out his sign and
 lure in those he could, leaving them 
to find out by the result whether he
 was capable of safe-guarding the in
terests entrusted to his hands. As
 for the school of which he was head, 
 Dean Hutchins determined to change
 all this, and so far as the Law School
 can contribute, it is now certain that 
lawyers receiving their degree from 
Michigan have been given a prelimin
ary professional training which includes a thorough knowledge of the
 principles it is their business to apply, 
in safe-guarding the property and of-
ten the liberty and lives, of their cli

It was his striking success in the 
Department of Law that caused the
 Regents to select Dean Hutchins as 
acting-President during the year 1807-
1898, when President Angell was
 American Minister to Turkey. The
 position was a delicate one. For the
 Head of one of the professional
 schools to be called to preside over 
the whole University was to invite
 friction and irritation if the acting-
President failed to bear well his part. 
 With such consummate tact and 
marked ability did President Hutchins 
meet the situation, that he not only
 disarmed all criticism, but won uni
versal approval, and in the spring of
 1909, when the Regents determined to 
consider for a year the selection of a
 permanent President, no one but Dean 
Hutchins was thought of as acting-
President. Accepting the position
 with reluctance, he fulfilled its duties 
in such a manner as to make himself
 not only the logical, but apparently 
the inevitable selection as permanent

The causes of the success of Dean 
Hutchins are not hard to find, though
 no attempt will here be made to enu
merate them all. He has been singu
larly simple and straightforward in 
his methods. Men are often tested
 by the enemies they have made. To
 few aggressive, efficient men is it giv
en to avoid making many of them. 
 President Hutchins seems to be an ex
ception, for while he has been posi
tive, out-spoken and, when necessary, 
 severe, his tact and fair dealing have 
been such as to disarm enmity. Some 
administrators are habitually cautious
 and non-commital. They avoid trou
ble by taking care not to sail on trou
bled waters. Dean Hutchins earn
ed a reputation for the opposite 
of this. His word has been "Yea-
Yea" and Nay-Nay." He has prom
ised or refused to promise in plain 
English. He has been positive and
 active, and not negative and passive. 
 But so general has been the confidence
 inspired by his justice and fair deal
ing while Dean that his accession to 
the presidency was generally welcom
ed by men of all views and personal
 traits. He has won for himself a rep
utation as a man who stands for what 
has recently been called "the square 

In closing, a personal word may be
 excused as showing better than gen
eral statements the personal qualities
 of the new President. For ten years
 the writer has been privileged to en
joy with him, as Dean of the Department of Law. the closest official rela
tions. In all that experience, not once 
did he fail in perfect courtesy, open 
frankness and kindly consideration. 
 Always positive, and even aggressive, 
he never, for even a moment, forgot 
to be a dignified gentleman. Strong
 and firm in his convictions, honest and
 vigorous in expressing them even 
when they were at variance with the 
views of others, he has had the cour
age to change his mind, and equally 
to hold fast to former opinions, as the 
occasion seemed to him to demand. 
 Modest and avoiding publicity, stand
ing for thorough business-like meth
ods, he has indeed efficiently administered the duties of his office of Dean. 
 With the qualities he has shown in
 that office, it is not strange that he has 
inspired the governing Board of the 
University, its various Faculties, its 
alumni and students, with assurance
 for the whole University of progressive and satisfactory development 
under his leadership.