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Doctor Angell as President (2)

James Burrill Angell
The Michigan Alumnus 324

As President of the University of Michigan Doctor Angell was highly
appreciative of those professors and instructors who did their work
intelligently and efficiently, but he was slow to condemn those who failed in
these particulars. He preferred to see the good in all with whom he
associated and was prone to overlook many defects. However, he saw many
things, which apparently he did not see. He had a rare insight into character
and an unusually correct estimate of personal worth. On the whole, he was
wise in the selection of men for professorial positions and he was always
ready to let any professor do his work without limitation or dictation from
the President. He had no desire to play the role of a superior and he had
undisguised contempt for anyone who made a display of authority. Among
the great and the lowly his bearing was always the same. As minister
extraordinary to China or ambassador to Turkey he was no more gracious or
courteous than he was in the simple homes of Ann Arbor. He never
permitted himself to be lionized. He shunned publicity and he would not
tolerate adulation. He always resented undue deference to him in manner or
speech. His true greatness found its highest measure in his simplicity. He
needed neither insignia of office nor certificate of position to proclaim his

Doctor Angell was a great college president, and if one who
worked with him for forty years has not misjudged, his greatness in this
position has been largely due to the fact that he had no trace of the dictator,
of the man in authority. Each professor became largely the architect of his
own fortune. The President did not dictate to the Professor of Physics how
he should teach his subject, what kind of a laboratory or equipment he
needed, nor what assistants he should select. When he appeared before the
legislature he talked of the needs of "your University,” not "my University."

He never tried to drive a thing through the Faculty, because he was wise
enough to recognize the fact that a forced function does not produce
satisfactory results. He permitted the Faculty to struggle with its own
problems and he often accepted conclusions, which he did not approve. I do
not claim that this method gave uniformly good results. I know from long
observation that University faculties may be conservative even to the point
of downright stupidity, but I am trying to give a truthful estimate of Doctor
Angell's presidency of the University of Michigan as I view it and I know
that he would not have me do otherwise. I have had occasion to express to
him my impatience with his failure to enforce a measure, which, he
acknowledged to be wise, but in the end I have had to acknowledge in many
instances that his judgment was better than mine.

While the greater part of his life's activities were devoted to the University
of Michigan, Doctor Angell's usefulness was not confined to this institution.
As an editorial writer during the period of the Civil War, in the capacity of
minister to China and Turkey, as a member of treaty commissions, he has
rendered large and useful service to the nation. Modest, gentle and lovable in
character, strong and broadly trained in intellect, working for the best
interests of man, pleasing, logical and convincing in speech and, with pen he
has rendered his day and generation a service the fruits of which will
continue to ripen through years to come.