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James Burrill Angell
The Michigan Alumnus 1-2

James Burrill Angell
By The Editor

James Burrill Angell was born in the 
town of Scituate, Rhode Island, January 
7, 1829, and is a direct descendant of
 Thomas Angell, who came from Massachusetts to Rhode Island with Roger
 Williams. His early schooling was ob
tained at the academies of Seekonk, 
Mass., and of North Scituate, R.I. His 
preparation for college was completed 
in the University school in Providence, 
 where he first felt the influence of Dr.
 Henry Simmons Frieze, since the revered President of the University of
 Michigan. In 1845 he entered Brown 
University with the freshman class.

In 1849 he graduated with high honors, and, because of an obstinate throat 
trouble, spent the following winter in 
traveling through the South on horseback. Then, feeling that his health demanded some out-of-doors employment 
he took up the study of engineering. 
 However, he felt no especial aptitude
 for this work, and when the next year
 an opportunity offered for study and
 travel in Europe he changed his plans
 and went abroad. 

While in Europe he was offered and
 accepted the chair of modern languages
 in Brown University. This difficult 
position he filled with singular ability 
and success. In 1860 he was invited to 
become the editor-in-chief of The Provi
dence Journal. He consented, and dur
ing the trying days from 1860 to 1866 his conduct of that paper was marked 
by great ability and unwavering loyalty 
to the government. 

In 1866 he was elected President of 
Vermont University, and there showed
 to the fullest his great executive ability 
and rare tact. Guided by him the insti
tution became respected and prosperous. 
 In 1870 the regents of the University of 
Michigan tendered him the Presidency. 
He refused, but a year later, when it 
was offered him a second time, he ac
cepted it.

For twenty-five years the University
 has grown and prospered under Presi
dent Angell's wise and beneficent administration. The number of students
 who seek its advantages has more than 
doubled in that time. Its reputation has gone into all parts of the world. 
Four new departments have been organ
ized, the Homeopathic Medical College, 
the College of Dental Surgery, the
 School of Pharmacy, and the School
 of Engineering. The elective system, 
 graduate study, close relations of the 
University to the public schools have 
been wisely fostered and extended. 

In 1879 President Angell was made
 Minister Plenipotentiary to China, to 
negotiate a revision of the Burlingame
 Treaty. This he succeeded in doing 
within sixty days from his arrival in 
China. Again in 1880, he was placed 
on the commission appointed to adjust
 the fishery difficulties existing between 
the United States and Great Britain. 
 As a writer upon international law he is 
known in both hemispheres. 

Hon. I. M. Weston, a student in the 
Literary Department from 1863-1865, 
now editor of the Grand Rapids Demo
crat, recently wrote of President Angell
 as follows:

"When Harvard College was opened 
two hundred and fifty years ago, the inscription on its gateway announced that 
its main object was to educate ministers. 
For two hundred years after that time
 the colleges of the country were man
aged almost solely by clergymen. Piety 
and profound scholarship was the main 
requisites for a college president. It is 
only within the last thirty-five years that 
the policy of putting men of executive
 ability, men of affairs, at the head of
 our great educational institutions has 
become popular. The two most con
spicuous examples of this radical change
 of policy in the United States were the
 appointments of President Angell, to 
the University of Michigan, and Presi
dent Eliot to Harvard, in 1871 and
 1869. Neither was a clergyman, but
 both were men of great learning and
 wide experience as public educators, 
although only forty-two and thirty-five
 years old. They owed their promotion, 
 however, more to their practical, pro
gressive ideas, than to other qualifica
tions. Harvard was then at the head of
 Eastern colleges, and Ann Arbor led in 
the great and growing West. The appointment of these two young men to 
the prominent positions named was a 
new departure in the conduct of Ameri
can colleges, which has given them a 
marked impetus. Eliot had a college 
nearly two hundred and fifty years old, 
 richly endowed and liberally supported; 
 but antiquity entailed traditions, which
 in their rigidity hindered his work in
 the line of progressive reformation.

"Angell with finished Eastern train
ing, was transplanted to the vigorous
 and virile West, where he found a com
paratively young but stalwart institution
 where his broad, advanced educational
 methods were adopted readily. A prom
ising graduate of Brown University, 
 ripened by two years European study 
and trained by eight years' experience
 as a professor in Brown, he resigned in
 1860 to take the editorship of a leading
 New England daily newspaper for six 
years during the mind-stretching War 
period. Five years more as a Vermont 
college president admirably fitted him 
for his new post in the West where, with 
limited financial support, he has put
 Ann Arbor neck and neck with old and 
powerful Harvard. But this is not his 
greatest achievement. He has made
 Ann Arbor the distinctively American 
democratic college of the United States, 
 where neither wealth nor family count, 
but where student life is simple and in
expensive. In educational methods, 
learning of purpose goes hand in hand 
with learning of classics. Women sit in
 the recitation rooms on terms of perfect
 equality and the noise of the hammer 
and forge are heard on the grounds once 
sacred to the classic lecturer. President
 Angell is today unquestionably the most
 successful educator in America. His 
selection as president of the Educational 
Congress at the World's Columbian 
Exposition was a graceful recognition
 of that fact by the World's Fair officials."