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Presidential Profiles

Harry Burns Hutchins
The Michigan Alumnus 16

by Howard H. Peckham

Harry Burns Hutchins was the first
 alumnus of the University to 
become its president. He obtained
 his bachelor's degree in 1871 from
 the hands of President-designate
 Angell, who had not yet assumed
 office but was honored guest at 
that Commencement. Hutchins 
spent the next year as superinten
dent of schools in Owosso and 
then was appointed instructor in 
rhetoric and history at Michigan
 for three years. At the same time 
he studied law and obtained that 
degree in 1876. For eight years he 
practiced law in Mt. Clemens with
 his father-in-law, then again 
returned to the University as Jay 
professor of law.

Hutchins was born in Lisbon,
 New Hampshire, in 1847 and
 entered the University at the age of
 20, after illness had interrupted the
 start of his education at Wesleyan
 University. He came, he said,
 because so many of his textbooks 
had been written by Michigan
 men. He never shook off his initial
 attachment to the institution and 
the state.

Cornell University called him in
1887 to assist in organizing a law 
school as its first dean, but he
 stayed only eight years before 
returning to Michigan as dean of 
the law department in 1895. He 
inaugurated the three-year course
 in the study of law and supported 
the new method of teaching by ex
amination of particular cases, not 
by lectures exclusively, although 
his own lectures were remembered
 as crystal-clear and filled with 
revealing illustrations.

Hutchins had prepared an Amer
ican edition of a classic English
 work on the law of real property
 in 1894, and the next year he pub
lished Cases on Equity Jurispru
dence for law school use. Later he
 wrote a biography of his former 
law professor, Thomas M. Cooley,
 who was at the same time a justice 
of the Michigan Supreme Court.
 Hutchins was a prime mover in the
 establishment of the Michigan Law
 Review. He also served as the
 American representative on the 
U.S.-Uruguay Treaty Commission.

When he served as acting president while Angell was minister to
 Turkey in 1897-98, Hutchins 
showed considerable administrative 
ability. Matters moved smoothly
 and expeditiously by assignment of 
responsibilities to certain officers.
 Small wonder, then, that the 
Regents turned to him again, when 
Angell resigned in 1909, to carry 
the University for a year while 
they looked for a new president.
 They sent Hutchins to sound out
 Gov. Charles Evans Hughes of 
New York, but the latter assured 
Hutchins that at the end of his 
term he was returning to the prac
tice of law. Then the Regents ap
proached the president of Prince
ton University, Woodrow Wilson,
 but he said he was under obliga
tion to run for governor of New 
Jersey. They also considered David
 Jayne Hill, former president of the
 University of Rochester and cur
rently ambassador to Germany,
 but he would not give up his 
diplomatic post. After these 
rebuffs, the Regents offered the job 
to Hutchins. As he was now 63, he
 agreed to accept the position for
 five years only.

Hutchins was a tall man and
 carried himself very erectly, walk
ing with impressive dignity. At this 
time both his mustache and hair
 were white. His educational philo
sophy is difficult to characterize.
 Where it should have appeared
 was in his annual reports, but he 
wrote none. Since the Regents' 
Proceedings show no call for a 
report, it is possible that not ren
dering an annual report may have 
been a condition of his accepting 
the presidency, similar to his not 
displacing Angell from the president's house.

It should be remarked here that 
Hutchins was fortunate in the 
caliber of Regents he had to work 
with. They were not educators as
 such and demonstrated the fact 
that academic administrative experience was not necessary. They 
were successful business and pro
fessional men. What they had in 
abundance was rare good judgment, financial common sense,
 devotion to the University, and 
trust in one another so that the
 Board was free of feuds and pettiness. All but two were alumni.

Dr. Walter Sawyer of Hillsdale 
gave much time to the medical and
 dental departments. William L.
 Clements, Bay City industrialist
 with scholarly leanings, took
 charge of campus building and expansion. Frank B. Leland, Detroit 
banker, was an able man in finance. Junius E. Beal, Ann Arbor
 editor, was a student of forestry 
and conservation and a lover of
 books. Victor M. Gore of Benton 
Harbor, and Harry C. Bulkley of
 Detroit were clear-thinking lawyers
 and tireless workers for University 
development. Lucius L. Hubbard of Houghton was a Harvard grad
uate with a law degree from Bos
ton University and a PhD from the 
University of Bonn. His special in
terests were geology and rare 
books. Benjamin S. Hanchett, util
ity executive of Grand Rapids, was
 a self-made man much interested in 
engineering research at the Univer
sity for the benefit of Michigan
 manufacturers and in health ser
vice for the students. These men 
had vision and initiative.

Hutchins encouraged the en
largement of engineering degree 
specialties and the establishment of 
business administration courses.
 He made the Graduate School a 
separate entity in 1911. He favored
 research contracts between Michigan industries and the engineering
 department, a new building for the 
Michigan Union, and a new hos
pital for the medical depart
ment. The Extension Service was 
launched in 1911. Hutchins ob
tained an appropriation for off-
campus lectures by faculty mem
bers and he personally directed the 
program. Classes offering academic
 credit were started in Detroit in 
1913, and other non-credit courses
 were organized.

Perhaps Hutchins' greatest ac
complishment was in developing 
private support for the University, 
a field previously neglected. He did
 not hesitate to appeal for gifts
 from wealthy families in the form 
of buildings (Hill Auditorium; 
Helen Newberry, Betsy Barbour,
 and Martha Cook residences for 
women; and the new Observa
tory). To them were added en
dowed professorships and student 
scholarships. Ultimately he secured
 130 gifts worth over three and a 
half million. His long friendship
 with alumnus William W. Cook produced the magnificent Lawyers 
Club in the early 1920s.

In another direction, he took 
hold of the Alumni Association,
 organized in 1897 by the efforts of
 some Detroit alumni. Its headquarters were in the new Alumni
 Memorial Hall, which opened in
 1910. He worked closely with
 Wilfred B. Shaw, general secretary 
since 1904, and traveled widely to
 organize alumni clubs inside and
 outside the state. He saw 141 clubs 
organized during his tenure. He
 welcomed representatives to an
 Alumni Advisory Council to advise the University and publicize it
 throughout the state. Since 1894,
 the alumni body of Michigan was
 the largest of any university. It still 

Hutchins impressed the State 
Legislature as being a straight-
forward, honest, and no-nonsense type of administrator to whom 
they could speak on a level and
 with candor. They admired his efforts to raise outside funds, and in 
turn they felt some obligation to 
provide much needed buildings
 and to enlarge the heating plant
 and tunnels. As Regent Clements
 once sadly observed: "Nobody 
ever gives money for a heating 
plant." The new buildings Hutchins requested and argued suc
cessfully for were a Natural
 Science building, a new wrap-
around General Library, a labora
tory school for the department of
 education, a new Michigan Union,
 and a new University Hospital.
 The latter two were started just
 before the war and not finished 
until afterward.

Meanwhile, both students and
 faculty were increasing in number.
 Before Hutchins retired in 1920,
 enrollment was up to 9,000, and
 the teaching faculty to 600. The 
present marking system with letter 
grades from A to E was adopted.
 Hutchins had a paternal interest in 
students. He had them in mind as
 he sought gifts of money for
 scholarships. He pushed along the
 proposal for a student health service and saw it started in 1913. He 
lamented student drinking and sup
ported prohibition in the state. He
 liked earnest and respectful stu
dents and would help them pa
tiently, but ill manners were met
 with austerity. Rowdiness irritated 
him, and malicious destruction in
furiated him.

American involvement in the
 World War intruded on the cam
pus, creating new and unprece
dented problems for Hutchins. 
There had been faculty arguments
 about preparing the students for 
possible war. Now there were un
pleasant decisions about what to
 do with an overstaffed department
 of German after enrollment in it 
dropped almost 90 percent. A few
 members did not escape accusations of disloyalty. From the War 
Department came clumsy attempts
 to turn campuses into military 
training camps, a policy Hutchins 
resisted as a misuse of university 
potential. Eventually his view prevailed, and by 1918 the educa
tional process was continuing, al-
though subject to military interrup
tions. The unfinished Michigan
 Union was turned into a barracks.
 What with drills and hikes, the 
students were always tired. He was 
sympathetic with student attitudes 
toward these outside pressures,
 and he grieved over the deaths on
 campus from the nation's influenza
 epidemic on top of the disorder oc
casioned by the war.

Meanwhile, Hutchins' agreement 
to serve as president for five years
 had run out, and the Regents im
plored him at age 68 to continue 
for another five years.

The faculty found in Hutchins a
 man of great dignity, a profound
 respect for learning, and a scrupu
lously fair administrator. He was 
neither rigid nor vacillating in his
 views. Faculty salaries at Michigan
 remained low, and Hutchins could
 not obtain a special appropriation 
for them. They had to be met from
 the mill-tax revenue, and the Legis
lature once again put a temporary 
ceiling on that income. Faculty 
groups petitioned the Regents in
 1917, but two years passed before 
the new salary ranges were
 adopted. The Regents did join the
 Teachers' Insurance and Annuity
 Association set up by the Carnegie 
Foundation. Membership in the 
pension plan required a contribu
tion from the University of five 
percent of salaries and a similar
 deduction from each faculty 
member's pay.

Not until after the war ended
 did the Regents look for a suc
cessor to Hutchins. They ap
proached Dean James R. Angell at 
the University of Chicago. He was 
a son of President Angell, but he 
attached some conditions to his ac
ceptance, which the Regents declined to accept, and negotiations
 ended amicably. (Subsequently he
 became president of Yale.) Looking 
elsewhere, the Regents found their 
man at the head of the University
 of Minnesota: Marion LeRoy Bur
ton. He agreed to come in 1920.

Hutchins retired at 73 after a 
tenure of 11 years. He continued 
to serve the University in retire
ment. He not only assisted his successor, but remained active in
 work with the alumni. In January 1930, he died at the age of 82.

Harry B. Hutchins as he looked in
1886, 10 years after receiving his U-M
 law degree. He became president at the 
age of 63, initially agreeing to serve 
five years.

The Regents dined with President 
Hutchins at his home in December 1910. Hutchins is the fifth from the left
 of those seated.

Hutchins developed private support for the University. On the opposite page is Hill Auditorium and on this page (bot
tom left) is the Graduate Library,
Alumni Memorial Hall (top left) and
an interior view of the Martha Cook

In 1912, Huron St., looking east
toward the campus, was brick-paved
but still a thoroughfare for horse-
drawn vehicles.

The Michigan Union as depicted in an
architect's sketch. President Hutchins
initiated construction of the building in
1916 as he turned the first shovelful of
sod during commencement.