The Faculty History Project documents faculty members who have been associated with the University of Michigan since 1837. Key in this effort is to celebrate the intellectual life of the University. This Faculty History Website is intended as a component of the effort to document the extraordinary academic achievements of Michigan’s faculty in building and sustaining one of the world’s great universities. It provides access to a comprehensive database of information concerning the thousands of faculty members who have served the University of Michigan.
Find out more.

The Bentley Historical Library serves as the official archives for the University.

Administration of James Burrill Angell

James Burrill Angell
U of M Encyclopedic Survey 63-75

President Angell’s administration began with his inaugural address on Commencement day, June 28, 1871, and ended with his resignation, October 1, 1909 — a span of thirty-eight years. It began at a period of marked unrest throughout the state concerning the future of the University. Many critics believed that the University was at the crossroads, that it might go forward or might easily become a second-grade institution. Among the causes of this perturbation of the public mind were the indifference of many members of the legislature to higher education, the Regents' summary dismissal of the first president, and the voluntary resignation of the second president after a brief service of six years. Many of the newspapers were unfriendly, and among the relatively few people who had a lively interest in the University there were serious disagreements. Two hostile camps debated the possibility of forcing the University to provide instruction in homeopathic medicine. Coeducation had been introduced not long before without faculty approval, and the validity of the recently adopted practice of admission on diploma had yet to be established. Prankishness and rough conduct were all too common among the students, especially in the frequent class "rushes."

The new President had a profound faith in the future of the University and of the state, and believed that the prosperity of the one was bound up in the prosperity of the other. Michigan, he thought, would not grow strong, wise, and happy without the enlightenment of the University, and the University could not prosper without the fostering care of the state. The University and the state must be brought to know and understand each other, and to feel their mutual dependence. This task would not be easy, or quickly accomplished, but Angell believed that a consciousness of this interdependence on the part of each was vital to the life, the growth, and the very character of both the University and the state. How well his educational philosophy functioned in the development of the University will appear.

When he entered upon his duties in 1871, the University had three colleges, known as departments (literary, medical, and law), nine buildings, including four houses occupied by professors, thirty-five members of the faculty, 1,207 students, and a budget of $104,000. The University of Michigan, though meager in material equipment, was at that time the largest university in the United States, and provided a solid foundation for an imposing superstructure.

President Angell began his administration with no set program of reform. His first procedure was to acquaint himself with every phase of the University. He endeavored, by visiting classes and laboratories, by talking with instructors and students, and in other ways, to ascertain the prevailing standards of work and spirit of study. For several years he performed the duties of a registrar, and for many years those of a dean, of the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and conducted all the correspondence, usually by longhand. He had such an extraordinary memory that he could call all the students of that department by name, and likewise, many of those in the professional departments. This relationship continued even after the students became alumni, scattered throughout the country, and was a powerful factor for good, particularly in times of emergency.

A few hours after his inauguration, which took place at the morning Commencement ceremonies, 1871, President Angell laid the cornerstone of the central structure by which the two original classroom buildings, North College and South College, were connected and were thus transformed into wings. This building, University Hall, was completed in October 1873, and was dedicated with appropriate ceremonies attended by prominent citizens from all parts of the state. It housed the administration offices, a chapel, and an auditorium seating 3,000 people, and provided much-needed classroom space. Previously there had been no room on the campus sufficiently large to hold an assembly of faculty and students, to provide for lectures and concerts, or to house baccalaureate and Commencement exercises; these events had been held in some of the city churches. The new building quickly became the center of the official and cultural activities of the University, and thus immeasurably enhanced the morale of the student body. The artists and lecturers presented to the students were men and women of national and international fame who attracted attention throughout the state and created a steadily growing interest in the University.

The new President was in hearty accord with both coeducation and admission by diploma, the two much-debated policies adopted the year before he came. This was fortunate, for the success of these ventures depended largely upon his capable and sympathetic direction.

Although coeducation obtained in elementary, secondary, and normal schools and in a few colleges, of which Oberlin College had been the pioneer, no large institution comparable to the University of Michigan had as yet undertaken the experiment. Angell saw neither logic nor justice in a state university's closing its doors to any group of citizens eager to receive and capable of profiting by its instruction. He deemed the higher education of women a duty which the University owed the state. Moreover, he maintained, the high schools, the normal schools, and the colleges needed women teachers, and nowhere could they be so broadly trained as in the great universities. Much space in his annual reports was given to discussions of every phase of the development of coeducation. He pointed out that the number of women entering the University was steadily increasing, that their scholarship was equal to that of the men, and that their health was sound — in short, that the many evils predicted had failed to materialize. Angell vigorously defended coeducation throughout the country and was widely known as its great advocate. The other state universities soon followed the example of the University.

The establishment of diploma relations with the high schools of the state likewise had his cordial support. For twenty-five years he was chairman of the committee, which directed policies. After each inspection of a school he commended the desirable features and, if undesirable conditions existed, suggested means of improvement. A framed communication from the University, placed as a certificate of merit on the wall of a superintendent's office, was a not uncommon sight. The success of the system is due in large measure to President Angell's tact, sound judgment, and practical common sense. At the first meeting of the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, held at Northwestern University in 1895 (as described in Part II: The Michigan Schoolmasters' Club), his leadership was recognized by his election to the presidency of that organization. His influence in promoting the spirit of cooperation and unity in all branches of the public-school system was immeasurable.

President Angell believed that a strong literary college was fundamental to the proper growth and development of a great university and he therefore presided over the destinies of that "department" with marked solicitude. He conducted the meetings of its faculty during his entire term of service, appointed all important committees, and conferred with professors concerning the work of their special fields.

At the beginning of the Angell administration the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts offered six "courses," each four years in length — classical, scientific, Latin and scientific, Greek and scientific, civil engineering, and mining engineering. These were gradually modified to meet changing conditions. The scientific course was subdivided for more than ten years into special four-year programs in general science, chemistry, and biology. Since the first half of both of the engineering programs was largely scientific, they were also regarded as subdivisions of the scientific course until 1895, when they were set off as an independent unit. Meanwhile, special programs in mechanical engineering and electrical engineering had been added, and one in architecture had been attempted but abandoned. When the separate Department of Engineering was set up, the curriculum in mining engineering was dropped. A school of mines had been attempted in 1865 and was established with more determination ten years later, but in the end its work was completely taken over by the Michigan College of Mines, founded at Houghton in 1886. Before the close of Angell's administration five more programs leading to the degree of bachelor of science were offered in the Department of Engineering — in chemical engineering, in marine engineering, in architecture, in architectural engineering, and in naval architecture.

The several curricula in the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts when Angell came to the presidency were measured on the basis of time (four years of residence required for graduation), and were rigid and ill adapted to students of various abilities. Gradually the inflexibility was lessened, through reorganization of the several courses, reduction of the amount of uniform requirements within each, and departure from the old method of using time alone as a yardstick. A course in which the emphasis was upon English, history, and modern languages, rather than upon the classics, mathematics, and science, was established in 1878. The new credit system permitting students of ability to complete their work in less than four years was begun at the same time, and the total of electives was considerably increased. Although the minimum age for students not candidates for degrees was set at twenty-one years, these special students were again, as in the years 1852-63, allowed to enroll without first meeting the qualifications for entrance to one of the full college curricula. The policy of liberalization formulated in these new regulations had the hearty approval of the students and of people throughout the country, and resulted in the rapid growth of the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

In 1900 the faculty, realizing that many subjects had become so enriched that further liberalization was imperative, instituted radical changes in the entrance requirements and, in 1901, in the requirements for graduation. Fifteen high-school units, with few limitations of subject, were required of all entrants in place of a choice of one of four specific lists, one for each of the college programs.

Even the four college curricula, which had previously led to four different bachelor's degrees, were abolished. Only English and three other subjects selected from a list of nine in the freshman year, and a total of 120 credit hours, were required for graduation. The bachelor of science, bachelor of letters, and bachelor of philosophy degrees were discontinued, and the bachelor of arts degree no longer indicated completion of the classical course, but was given to all alike.

By this action, liberalization of the curriculum was complete, and the students were afforded opportunity to pursue their courses in accordance with their special tastes and abilities. A period of wide expansion ensued: new subjects were added, new methods of teaching were devised, new departments were created, and new groupings of courses were formed.

In 1871-72 the German "seminary" method of guiding students in advanced study and Professor Charles Kendall Adams, head of the Department of History, introduced investigation into the University. The new method was quickly adopted by Professor Moses Coit Tyler, of the Department of English, and was gradually taken up by other departments. There is reason to believe that this is the first use of the seminar method in America.
In 1879 the Department of the Science and the Art of Teaching was established. President Angell was often called upon to certify to the competency of students for positions as high-school teachers, high-school principals, and superintendents of city schools. He keenly felt the need of more direct evidence of their specific fitness for such work than could be predicted from their academic attainments. In his annual report of 1874 he recommended that some "familiar" lectures on teaching and school management be provided. The Regents took no action, but the President was sure of his ground, and in 1878 again called their attention to the urgent need of making some provision for an introduction to professional public-school service. This appeal, supported by the recommendation of the faculty, had the proper effect. The desired action, taken by the Regents on June 25, 1879, marks the establishment of the first permanent chair devoted exclusively to the professional training of teachers in any American university. Other universities soon took similar action.

A School of Political Science was organized in 1881 within the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts, with a dean in charge. Its aim was to afford exceptional opportunities for students interested in public questions to specialize in history, political economy, international law, and kindred subjects under the direct guidance of their instructors. Only students who had completed two years in the University were admitted. They then pursued one major and two minors, and upon completion of the course of studies they were examined by the professors in charge. The School created great interest in public questions among the students, who flocked to it in large numbers, but the many entangling difficulties arising from administering a school within a department caused it to decline. It disappeared from the catalogue after 1888-89.

In 1882 a new method of earning either the first or an advanced degree was offered to students of special ability in the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts. This plan was distinguished from the regular, or "credit," plan by the name "university system." An undergraduate could apply for permission to study under the university system upon completing the first two years of prescribed courses of any of the regular curricula. If accepted, he was required to complete not a certain number of courses, but an amount of work approved by the faculty committee in charge of his subject-group. He complied with the rules of attendance and took the separate course examinations, unless excused by the proper authority. Students who wished to specialize in a group of related fields were thus provided for, as each student had a major and two minors and was directed by the University's most competent men in his particular field of study. At some time not earlier than the end of his fourth college year the student was given a comprehensive examination by the officers in charge of his studies and was then granted the appropriate degree (see Part III: University System).

This system appealed to scholars as marking the first step toward a real university in this country, but it never became popular and it finally disappeared in 1901. Critics have said that it was ahead of its time and that sooner or later all real universities would adopt it in some form. As some indication of the truth of this prediction, there is at the present time a rapidly growing movement in which the first two years of college are combined into an organic whole as a "junior college."

In 1894 a summer school was established. It was requested and undertaken by the faculty of the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts, although professors from other units also took part in it. Observing its growing usefulness the Regents assumed full responsibility for it in 1900. Its name was changed to Summer Session at that time. The Summer Session then became a complete University unit, no longer an adjunct of the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts. It has grown rapidly and has rendered incalculable service to persons throughout the state and the country, particularly to teachers and advanced students by enabling them to gain their degrees without relinquishing their teaching positions.

In 1900 special courses in higher commercial education and public administration were provided for undergraduates and graduates who wished to specialize in history, economics, international law, and kindred subjects. Every student pursuing these courses was placed under the special charge of a committee of professors interested in his field of work.

In 1903 the Department of Forestry was created and placed under the direction of an expert forester, Filibert Roth. A few courses in forestry had been offered in 1882 as a part of the School of Political Science, and a series of forestry courses had been provided in the Department of Botany in 1901. The creation of this department met with great favor throughout the state, especially from citizens who were interested in preserving our natural resources. The department not only educated the people to protect their woodlands and to restore forest lands denuded of forests and left barren, but also trained young men as foresters. To aid in this special work the department was provided with a well-equipped forestry laboratory, including the Saginaw Forestry Farm.

Graduate study received Angell's consistent encouragement and support. While he fully realized that in a state university the undergraduates must receive first consideration and that money appropriated for them should in no wise be diminished, yet he was convinced that the vigorous prosecution of advanced study had a most stimulating effect upon both faculty and students and hence upon the University itself. He believed that the mere presence of mature and earnest students had a decidedly inspiring influence upon the undergraduates and for that reason, if no other, should be encouraged. He realized also that it is necessary to have highly trained men and women in advanced positions in high schools, normal schools, colleges, universities, and other walks of life, and that they could nowhere be found save in graduate schools.

Accordingly, he appealed to the Regents many times for special appropriations for graduate study — additional men, additional library facilities, new laboratories — pointing out that unless ample funds were forthcoming for this work in state universities advanced students would flock to the endowed universities and state universities would sink to the level of second-class institutions. Advanced study was carried on throughout the Angell administration, and in 1892 was organized as a department within the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts. The number of graduate students increased until there were 259 in the last year of President Angell's active service. The money for this work came slowly; not until 1912, three years after his retirement, was the distinct and autonomous Graduate School of the University established.

But all was not clear sailing. In the early years of his administration, Angell was confronted by a perplexing situation in the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts. A defalcation of several thousands of dollars was discovered in 1875 in the chemical laboratory, which was under the direction of the professor of chemistry and his assistant. Both men asserted themselves ignorant of any wrongdoing. The question became so involved that it divided the Regents into two equal and bitterly opposing camps, reached the courts of law, found its way into the legislature, and aroused much discussion and criticism throughout the state. Both the professor and his assistant were finally dismissed, and the question was closed. Angell presided at these contentious sessions of the Regents with such impartiality; soundness of judgment, skill, and tact that he mollified interests outside the University and at the same time protected its interior management and the student body from any undue disturbance. He later pronounced this case the bitterest experience of his entire administrative career (see Part I: Douglas-Rose Controversy).

President Angell was keenly interested in the growth and development of the professional departments. He realized their worth to the state and to society and afforded them all assistance within his power. There were two such departments when he began his duties as President — the Department of Medicine and Surgery and the Department of Law. Four were added during his administration — the Homeopathic Medical College in 1875, the College of Dental Surgery in 1875, the School of Pharmacy in 1876, and the Department of Engineering, set off from the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts, in 1895.

The entrance requirements for students of law, medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy were gradually increased from a meager standard to that of high-school graduation, and later to a somewhat higher level. The length of time required for graduation in the Department of Medicine and Surgery and in the Homeopathic Medical College was increased from two years of six months each to four years of nine months each and an additional year for internship; the requirement in the Department of Law, from two years of six months to three years of nine months; that in the College of Dental Surgery, from two years of six months to three years of nine months; and that in the School of Pharmacy, to four years for those seeking the degree of bachelor of science in chemistry. With this marked increase in the length of terms and consequently in the graduation requirements, the method of teaching changed from the general lecture system to a system in which lectures, textbooks, classroom quizzes, laboratory demonstrations, and other modern methods were utilized as needed. To aid in this advanced work hospitals were added, laboratories were multiplied, and chemical facilities of all kinds were greatly increased.

The President's frequent insistence upon the high requirements needed for sound professional education, first in his inaugural address and later in many of his annual reports, indicate that the progressive elevation of entrance and graduation requirements had his constant encouragement and approval. He was also deeply interested in bringing about a close relationship between the academic department and the professional departments, in order to give a certain coherence and unity to the University as a whole. The organization of the combined curricula in letters and medicine and in letters and law, whereby students could be induced to broaden these courses and yet shorten them by one year — a plan that was soon adopted by other universities — had his hearty approval.

The Angell administration inherited from preceding administrations two perplexing unsettled problems — the proposal to transfer the clinical work of the Department of Medicine and Surgery to Detroit, and the movement to establish a homeopathic medical college. An attempt had been made under a previous administration to transfer the entire Department of Medicine and Surgery to Detroit, but the project had been defeated. It sprang up again in the Angell administration in a new form. In 1880 the transfer, not of the entire Department of Medicine and Surgery, but of its clinical features only, was proposed. This plan received considerable support from people in Detroit, from others in various parts of the state, and even from certain members of the faculty of the Department of Medicine and Surgery in Ann Arbor. It continued to be a live question until the Regents received from President Angell in his annual report of 1888, a definite statement of the arguments for and against such a proposal, and of his conclusion that the transfer of any part of the work to Detroit would be inexpedient. He urged the retention of the University in its entirety in Ann Arbor and recommended that the Regents provide additional hospitals and clinical facilities for the use of the Department of Medicine and Surgery. The Regents, with but one opposing vote, adopted the President's recommendation the day it was presented and thus settled the question for all time.

The movement to introduce the teaching of homeopathy into the University had made its first appearance in the legislature of 1851 and had been continued through many trying vicissitudes until early in the Angell administration. The legislature of 1855 had provided that "there shall always be a Professor of Homeopathy in the Department of Medicine," and that of 1867 had attached a rider to the University appropriation bill to compel the Regents to comply with this provision. Other legislatures attempted to secure the same end, until the question finally reached the courts (see Part I: Constitutional Status; Part V: Homeopathic Medical College).

The Regents successfully resisted every proposal for action, which they deemed would be injurious to the best interests of the University. They memorialized the legislature of 1871, urging that the existing state of feeling made it impossible to combine the two departments of medicine in one department, and that better advantages for the homeopathic medical profession could be secured if the homeopathic school were located in some place other than Ann Arbor. The Regents made it clear that they were not opposed to providing for the teaching of homeopathy at the University but that they saw the utter futility of attempting to incorporate it into the Department of Medicine and Surgery.

In 1875 the Regents reaffirmed a previous resolution expressing their willingness to take charge of an independent school of homeopathy whenever sufficient funds for its support should be provided. The legislature of that year resolved that the Regents should be authorized to establish a homeopathic medical college located in Ann Arbor, as a branch or department of the University, and also that they should receive annually from the general treasury of the state the sum of $6,000 for its upkeep. This solution had the sympathetic support of the President and was reached largely through his sound judgment and wise guidance. The question had agitated the public mind, sometimes sanely and sometimes bitterly, for more than a quarter of a century, and its settlement was a matter of great satisfaction to all friends of the University.

Angell's administration was interrupted on several occasions. In 1880 President Hayes appointed him Minister to China to negotiate a satisfactory immigration treaty; President Cleveland appointed him in 1887 to serve on the Anglo-American Northwestern Fisheries Commission; and in 1896 again sought his services and appointed him a member of the Canadian-American Deep Waterways Commission. In 1897 President McKinley appointed him Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Turkey. The Regents deemed these calls a distinguished honor to President Angell, to the University, and to the state, and readily granted him every opportunity to respond. His governmental appointments greatly enhanced his prestige as administrator and statesman, both at home and abroad. His successful mission and personal popularity in China was quickly followed by the enrollment of large numbers of Chinese students in the University.

President Angell was extremely solicitous concerning moral and religious education. He believed it essential to the well-rounded man and citizen. For many years he led morning chapel services in a room set aside for that purpose on the first floor of University Hall. Later he instituted four-o'clock "vespers" in the large auditorium on the second floor. The crowded programs of work, both morning and afternoon, eventually rendered the continuance of these exercises impracticable, and they were abandoned. He encouraged the formation of several student Christian organizations and frequently addressed the students on some pertinent religious topic. His annual baccalaureate sermons to the graduating classes were memorable. The subjects of a few of these sermons indicate the depth of his religious convictions: "Applied Christianity," "Lessons from the Life of St. Paul," "Cultivation of Character," "Stir Up the Gift of God," and "Propulsive Forces in Christian Life." He was closely in touch with the churches of the state and had their cordial sympathy and co-operation in his religious endeavors among the students.

Angell was always kind, sympathetic, and understanding with his students, but firm when the occasion demanded firmness. His remarkable memory for names and faces engendered a feeling of friendship and greatly increased his influence and power. Before he came, a mature and responsible student attitude toward the University had never been maintained long enough to become traditional. Even for the first few years after 1871, rather violent forms of hazing and other emotional disturbances occasionally swept the campus. At such times Angell summoned a few of the leading students, explained to them the serious injury that such behavior was bringing to the good name of their University, and asked for their co-operation, suggesting ways and means of accomplishing the desired results. Those he trusted never failed him. They could accomplish more than all the faculties combined. In sudden outbreaks, he frequently appeared in the midst of the students, removed his hat, and addressed them in a calm, unruffled voice, advising them to return to their homes and think it over. They generally followed his advice.

To his faculty President Angell was friendly, just, and wise. He selected the new members with great care and uncanny judgment, seeking scholars, teachers, and gentlemen. He frequently impressed on them that "we make universities out of men and not out of brick and mortar." He gave the members of the faculty large liberties and held them accountable for results. He was no dictator, he never imposed his policies on the faculty, and he never shut off debate, but, on the contrary, encouraged free and full discussion of all-important questions. He generally preferred to wait until he had the backing of almost unanimous faculty opinion, rather than to secure the adoption of any revolutionary measure by a bare majority.

Angell was always frank with the legislature, which he customarily addressed concerning the needs of the University. He presented his facts with rare skill and then placed the entire responsibility upon the legislators, informing them that the University belonged to the state, not to him nor to the faculty, and that they could have just as good or as poor a University as they wanted, but that if they wished their sons and daughters to have as good educational opportunities as the sons and daughters of other states, they should grant the requested appropriations. In closing one address concerning an appropriation, he said: "I want you gentlemen to understand that I know how much backache there is in every dollar as well as any of you do."

To interpret the University to the people throughout the state, Angell relied upon his public addresses and published reports, and even more upon the alumni, whom he always regarded as the chief wealth of the University and the chief guardians of its prosperity. He said, specifically:

I have always had two great ends in view: First, I have endeavored to induce every citizen to regard himself a stockholder in the Institution, who had a real interest in helping make it of the greatest service to his children and those of his neighbors.

Secondly, I have sought to make all the schools and teachers in the State understand that they and the University are parts of one united system and that therefore the young pupil in the most secluded school house in the State should be encouraged to see that the path was open from his home up to and through the University.

In his relations with other institutions of higher education President Angell was most cordial and co-operative. Problems of university administration were the subject of an extended correspondence with President Eliot of Harvard. Toward colleges in the state of Michigan and toward young state universities he was particularly helpful when his advice was sought. He believed that the colleges of Michigan were rendering an exceedingly valuable service and should receive encouragement, and hence at almost every Commencement dinner during his administration the president of one of these colleges had a place on the speaking program. As the years passed he became a trusted adviser and father confessor to many of these officials.

He was equally generous of his time and influence in encouraging the growth of the newer state universities, explaining to their officers the University of Michigan's plan of organization, methods of procedure, and freedom from political entanglements. His official reports and public addresses also had a marked influence upon the development of other state universities. Though the University of Michigan was not the oldest, it was the largest and apparently the most successful, and younger institutions therefore naturally turned to it for guidance. For this service it has been called "the mother of state universities."

In the early days of his administration Angell was greatly concerned over the problem of financial support for the University. He frequently stressed the fact that if the University were to expand and to serve the state to the full measure of its possibilities it must have an adequate faculty, adequate buildings, and adequate equipment. The federal land grant had been the only considerable source of University income until 1867. The first provision for continuous aid to the University from the state — Act No. 59 of the laws of 1867 — was a mill-tax law, and, in effect, it operated as such for two years, for the amounts set aside under its terms in the state treasury, though not transmitted to the University until after partial settlement of the homeopathy controversy in 1869, were determined by the proportion of one-twentieth of a mill to each dollar of taxable property in the state ($15,398.30 for each of the two years 1866-67 and 1867-68). By contrast, the state support, which the University received from 1869 to 1873, was a fixed appropriation of $15,000 each year, the amount having been specified and limited in 1869 in an amendment to the act of 1867. Regular as were the fixed payments of "state aid" that began in 1869, they were too small for even the minimum operating expenses of the growing institution, and their continuance and regularity were probably regarded as uncertain. Immediately after the passage of the amendment substituting the fixed annual sum of $15,000, the Regents had appealed to the state, through their report to the superintendent of public instruction, for restoration of the mill-tax principle, claiming that the regular support of the University should increase, as its student population and needs were bound to, in step with the growth of population and wealth within the state. Through 1871-72 the Regents managed with the $15,000 a year, but in 1871 they predicted for 1872-73 a deficit of $13,000 and then incurred the debt for necessary expenses rather than impair the usefulness of the institution. Angell's plan for building up a great university required a larger regular income. He therefore presented the question to the legislature in 1873 with such clarity and persuasiveness that the legislature voted an extra appropriation of $13,000 for that year's deficit, increased the special building grant it had already made toward University Hall, and, still more important, provided for the future by repealing the act which it had changed from a mill-tax law to a limited-grant law in 1869 and by substituting for it a new one-twentieth-of-a-mill act. This was raised to one-sixth of a mill in 1893, to one-fourth in 1899, and to three-eighths in 1907. The income of $31,000 which the tax at first produced, in 1873, gradually increased to $560,000 in the year of Angell's retirement, in 1909. The mill-tax act of 1873 gave the University a dependable income, which increased as the assessed valuation of the state increased, a method which met the approval of the legislature, the University authorities, and the people. It was a new method of financing state universities and was acclaimed an administrative triumph.

Proper University buildings were acutely needed during Angell's entire administration. With meager funds at his disposal, often merely accumulated savings from the income of the mill-tax bill, fifty buildings were constructed, exclusive of the heating plant, the electric-light plant, and the campus tunnel system. They were not palatial, nor models of architectural beauty, but were adequate to meet ordinary demands. Among these buildings may be mentioned: University Hall, completed in 1872; the Chemical Laboratory addition, 1874; University Hospital addition, 1876; Homeopathic Hospital, 1879; University Hospital addition, 1879; Chemical Laboratory Building addition, 1880; University Museum (present Romance Languages Building), 1880; General Library, 1883; Engineering Annex, 1886; Anatomical Laboratory, 1888; Physics Building (West), 1888; first Laundry Building, 1891; second Homeopathic Hospital and University Hospital, Catherine Street, 1891; Law Building additions, 1893 and 1898; Tappan Hall, 1894; Waterman Gymnasium, 1894; Hospital Office Building, 1896; Barbour Gymnasium, 1897; Wood-Utilization Laboratory, 1897; General Library addition, 1898; Homeopathic Hospital, 1900; Palmer Ward, 1902; Medical Building (West), 1903; Engineering Building (West), 1904; Dental Building, 1908; addition to Engineering Building (West), 1909; Chemistry and Pharmacy Building, 1909; and Alumni Memorial Hall, 1910.

Angell's guidance in the selection of University personnel was one of his great contributions. Over a span of nearly forty years, during which, moreover, the staff was multiplied more than elevenfold, the number of major appointments mounted into the hundreds. Many outstanding scholars and administrators were drawn to the University in those years. The names of a few of them will serve to indicate the caliber of the staff which he helped to build up. Among these were three presidents — Alexander G. Ruthven, Harry B. Hutchins, and Alfred H. Lloyd, Acting President in 1925.

Some of those who became known as deans, either in Angell's time or later, were T. M. Cooley (previously on the staff) and M. E. Cooley, Greene, Vaughan, Knowlton, Effinger, Kraus, Huber, and Bates, as well as Mrs. Jordan, Whitney, Hudson, Guthe, Reed, and Anderson. The many outstanding professors who came in Angell's time include Wenley, Demmon, F. N. Scott, Ziwet, Wilgus, Lane, Kelsey, Bonner, Winter, Roth, Breakey, Novy, De Nancrede, Herdman, Hewlett, Peterson, Barrett, Warthin, Lombard, Pillsbury, Gomberg, E. D. Campbell, Reighard, Hussey, Hobbs, D. H. Parker, A. L. Cross, A. A. Stanley, C. H. Van Tyne, B. A. Hinsdale, C. H. Cooley, Randall, Holbrook, and H. C. Adams.

The venerable George Palmer Williams, a member of the first faculty actually to teach in Ann Arbor, died in 1881, forty years after the beginning of his services to the University. Henry S. Frieze, twice Acting President and for seventeen years the elected head, or "Dean of the Faculty," of the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts, died in 1889, his thirty-fifth year of service. Among well-known professors whose deaths occurred between 1871 and 1909 were four others who had come before 1860 — Alexander Winchell, Thomas M. Cooley, Alonzo B. Palmer, and Corydon La Ford. Several of the outstanding men who were called away to assume responsible positions elsewhere were Moses Coit Tyler, Charles Kendall Adams, James Craig Watson, and DeVolson Wood.

When President Angell entered upon the duties of his office in 1871, the University had three departments — literary, medical, and law. When he retired in 1909 the number of administrative units had increased to seven, those in homeopathic medicine, in dentistry, in pharmacy, and in engineering having been added. The number of students enrolled in 1871 was 1,207; in 1909, 5,223. In 1871 the faculty numbered 35; in 1909 there were 400 faculty members and administrative officers. The number of buildings on the campus in 1871, including the four houses occupied by professors, was nine; in 1909 there were 54 new or enlarged structures, including heating plants and campus tunnels as well as hospitals and laboratories. The Library had 25,000 volumes in 1871 and 260,000 in 1909. In 1871 the total income of the University was $104,000; in 1909 it had increased to $1,170,000. The number of graduates from 1879 to 1909 was 20,000, and the number of non-graduates, approximately 17,000.

No exposition of the administration of James Burrill Angell, no matter how brief or how extended, can portray the imponderable factors, which permeated it from first to last:

He brought to Michigan a highly cultured mind familiar with the best in ancient and modern literature, a thoroughly catholic outlook on both European and American education, a profound and sympathetic understanding of the problems of the plain man and a sincere conviction of the saving power of education in a democracy. Gifted with unusual powers of persuasive public address, in which his wit and humor were always in ready call, possessed of a rich store of infallible common sense, and with a deep and simple religious faith to support his rugged character, he gave to Michigan a leadership which few men could possibly have offered.

(James Rowland Angell, in Vermont to Michigan, pp. 3-4.)

Angell began his administration at a critical period in the life of the University and ended it leaving the institution strong and stable, at peace within and without, the pride of the state, known, respected, and honored in all the centers of learning throughout the world. His rare personality influenced the life of the University and of Ann Arbor for more than forty years and won him the profound respect and devotion of students, faculty, Regents, and the people of the state and country as well. He urged his resignation of the presidency at the age of seventy-six, but the Regents immediately and unanimously declined to accept it, declaring that there was no one who could take his place at the head of the University or in the hearts of the people. Four years later he again asked the Regents to relieve him of the burdens of administration and they reluctantly complied. For months thereafter his desk was swamped with telegrams, letters, and resolutions from all parts of the world, expressing the deepest appreciation of his great service to the University and to the cause of American education. The fitting and appreciative resolutions passed by the Regents closed with the paragraph:

Proud as he may justly be of the homage which the world justly yields to him as educator, diplomat and publicist, he has even greater cause for pride in the grateful affection of the people of the State, whom he has served so long and so abundantly, and in the love of the army of students, whose lives he has directly enriched and to whom he will always stand for all that is highest and best in scholarly attainments, in private character, and in public and private citizenship.

(R.P., 1906-10, p. 443.)

On Angell's eightieth birthday he presided at the annual session of the Association of Presidents of American Universities, held at Cornell University. At that session the Honorable Andrew D. White presented to him, in behalf of the Association, an address of felicitation in which he said:

Through the soundness of your judgment and the serenity of your temper, the persuasiveness of your eloquence and the delicacy of your tact, the breadth of your culture and the wealth of your experience, you have laid not only these institutions [University of Vermont and University of Michigan] but American education as well, which in her diplomatic emergencies has again and again had recourse to your aid, under a debt beyond all reckoning. Your whole life has been devoted to the highest objects, alike in the realm of scholarship and in that of practical affairs. As scholar, editor, teacher, orator, administrator, diplomat, most noble achievements and distinctions have been yours. On this life of service and honor we congratulate you.

President Angell was born in Scituate, Rhode Island, January 7, 1828, and was therefore forty-two years old when he came to Michigan in 1871. He died on April 2, 1916, in the president's house on the campus, which for forty-five years had been his home. On the day of his funeral, not the least impressive tribute was that of thousands of students, who gathered on both sides of the streets where the procession was to pass, forming an unbroken row from his home to Forest Hills Cemetery.

Resolutions, addresses, honorary degrees, diplomatic appointments, and imperial decorations were well-merited tributes to President Angell's high character, brilliant attainments, and great accomplishments, but they appear dim when compared with the distinctions conferred upon him by many generations of students — "Prexy," "Our Prexy" — distinctions which were replete with respect, affection, and reverence and which perfectly befitted his lovable character and fatherly personality. The Regents who chose him builded better than they knew.

Allen S. Whitney


Angell, James B.The Reminiscences of … New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912.
Angell, James B.Selected Addresses. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912.
Hinsdale, Burke A.History of the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor: Univ. Mich., 1906.
From Vermont to Michigan; Correspondence of James Burrill Angell: 1869-1871 (with a foreword by his son, James Rowland Angell). Ed. by Wilfred B. Shaw. Ann Arbor: Univ. Mich., 1936. (Vermont to Michigan.)
President's Report, Univ. Mich., 1871-1909.
Reeves, Jesse S."James Burrill Angell." In: Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1928. I: 304-9.
Shaw, Wilfred B."James Burrill Angell and the University of Michigan."Mich. Alum., 22 (1916): 326-33.