The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.

UPON receiving the unexpected resignation of President Erastus Otis Haven in June, 1869, the Regents were faced with the difficult task of choosing a successor worthy of carrying on the program inaugurated by President Henry Philip Tappan and ably continued by President Haven. Such a task could not be accomplished hastily, and it was therefore expedient that an acting president should be appointed while negotiations for a president were pending. The choice of the Board of Regents for a president pro tempore fell upon Henry Simmons Frieze, Professor of the Latin Language and Literature since 1854.

When the Board made provision for the appointment of a president pro tempore it was assumed by all that only a short time would ensue before a permanent appointment would be made. It happened, however, that James Burrill Angell, to whom the appointment was proffered in 1869, was unable to accept at that time. It was therefore determined to leave the office of president open, and Professor Frieze continued as Acting President until August 1, 1871. The Board did not realize that Professor Frieze felt himself to be in a rather delicate situation and would have preferred an appointment as President for a fixed term or until President Angell felt free to accept the appointment. In the interests of the University, Frieze overlooked his own feelings in the matter and devoted himself, winter and summer, to his executive work until President Angell came in the fall of 1871 (Vermont to Michigan, pp. 176-77, 205, 230).

The administration of Acting President Frieze saw many changes, the two most significant being the introduction of coeducation and the introduction of the diploma system of admission.

Page  60For years there had been a growing demand in the state that women be given educational advantages equal with those of the men. As early as January, 1850, the faculty had received a request "from a young lady for the privileges of the University, so far as to be permitted an examination on all the studies, and, if passed, to receive the customary degree (MS, "Faculty Records," 1846-57, p. 92).

By 1858 the number of women requesting admission had increased sufficiently to warrant the Regents' appointment of a committee to consider the propriety of admitting them. The committee's lengthy report was a masterly summary of the prevailing views on both sides of the question (R.P., 1837-64, pp. 782-96). Equal educational advantages for men and women were endorsed, but the practical difficulties were depicted as so great that the introduction of coeducation "would require a complete revolution in the management and conduct of the affairs of the Institution." The belief that provision for women students would demand such a thorough-going reorganization led the committee to conclude that the change was inexpedient and to recommend, instead, that the state provide some other means for educating women.

Little by little the movement for the admission of women to the University gained popular support until, in 1867, the legislature passed resolutions requesting the Regents to report whether the regulations "should not be so construed as not to exclude women" (R.P., 1864-70, p. 201). In his annual report to the Board in 1868 President Haven recommended that the experiment be tried. However, the new admission policy was not adopted during the Haven administration. The Board laid on the table a resolution, introduced by Regent Willard in April, 1869, that "in the opinion of the Board no rule exists in any of the University Statutes which excludes women from admission to the University." In January, 1870, Regent Willard introduced a resolution similar in purpose, providing for the admission of any person who "possesses the requisite literary and moral qualifications." This was the resolution which was adopted. Almost immediately Miss Madelon Stockwell presented herself for admission to the University. She was conditioned in writing Latin and Greek prose and admitted to the sophomore class. In March, 1871, one woman graduated in law and one in medicine; in June of the same year two women received the degree of pharmaceutical chemist.

Although Professor Frieze cannot be credited with responsibility for the admission of women to the University, he was directly responsible for the other great innovation which occurred during his administration — the admission, without entrance examinations, of graduates from accredited Michigan high schools. Students from schools outside the state were admitted later under the same plan.

Frieze felt, as had Tappan, that as the University should be the apex of a continuous educational process provided by the state and that a close tie should bind public high schools to the University. The plan of admitting without examination the graduates from high schools approved by University examiners was, to his mind, an important step in the development of an integrated system of state education. He believed that by sending visiting faculty committees to the schools the University could aid substantially in bringing about more uniform instruction, higher scholastic standards, and the prevalence of a feeling among high-school students that progression from high school to the University was but a natural step. It was his hope that requirements might be Page  61raised to such an extent that the University would be relieved of the more elementary instruction which it was then giving. These views on integration he very definitely expressed in the President's Report of 1870 (p. 7), in his letter to James B. Angell in the spring of 1871 (Vermont to Michigan, pp. 274-75), and in the annual report of 1881 while he was again acting as president pro tempore.

During the administration of Acting President Frieze, 1869-71, money was provided for the erection of University Hall and for numerous improvements in buildings already constructed, interest in art and music was encouraged, and scholastic standards were raised. Among other and smaller gifts to the University was the library of Professor C. H. Rau, of Heidelberg University. This collection, donated by Philo Parsons of Detroit, was one of the earliest large collections received by the Library. It contains 4,034 books and more than 2,000 pamphlets, chiefly on political economy.

The only criticism of the Frieze administration which has come down to us is that adequate discipline was not maintained. The newly arrived professor of surgery, Alpheus B. Crosby, wrote Angell in November, 1870:

… This republic of letters like our government manages to run along, but with no thanks to an executive or discipline, for neither have any existence. The want of the University is an executive, and that it certainly has not in the administration of dear Professor Frieze. Scholarly, agreeable, and timid he lacks the pluck to assume a position, and maintain discipline.


(Vermont to Michigan, pp. 217-18.)

Partly, perhaps, because of the gentle and not strongly assertive disposition of Professor Frieze, but also because common knowledge of the temporary nature of his administration discouraged discipline, disturbing customs which had long been gaining ground became very much worse. Class rushes were extremely common; freshmen and sophomores seldom met without a conflict. Chapel exercises were so noisy that faculty members stayed away whenever possible. Past efforts to curb these disorders had proved unavailing, largely for the reason, in Frieze's opinion, that the traditional faculty control was not sufficiently centralized. He felt that the situation should be corrected at the earliest moment feasible, but that any major reform of this nature should await the appointment of a more permanent executive.

An account of the administration of Henry Simmons Frieze as President pro tempore from 1869 to 1871 fails to convey an adequate understanding of his contributions to the University, which he served from 1854 until a few weeks before his death in 1889. He was the chief confidant of President Angell throughout the period of their service together. Always deeply concerned with plans for the welfare of the University, and greatly beloved by faculty and students, he was influential in shaping University policy in many, often intangible, ways. His friend Andrew D. White said of him:

As to his method with students, and his influence on classical education in Michigan … he made a great impression on me in this field, because he was the first Professor whom I had ever known to throw his heart and soul into that sort of work, and make his students really feel the value of it.

His influence was also exerted during my stay at the University in a very noble way, — in behalf of peace. He had no love for squabbles or quarrels, never engaged in them, and did his best to quiet them. I know well that some good people of Michigan thought him weak, for not making himself a champion for this or that side in those old struggles, but I knew then and know now, that this quiet moderation of his was due, not to weakness, but to strength, and above all, to his determined loyalty to the University.


(Letter, Dec. 24, 1889, Angell Papers.)

Page  62Professor Frieze will perhaps be longest remembered as the man to whom most credit is due for the promotion of musical organizations in connection with the University. He was a skilled musician. White said of him in a letter to President Angell in December, 1889, that, "had he been born in Germany, he would have ranked with the great composers and performers." He was anxious that his love of music should be shared by the students and citizens of Ann Arbor, and it was largely through his efforts that the Choral Union and the University Musical Society were formed. As a tribute to his efforts in this direction, the Columbian organ, used at the Chicago Exposition of 1893, was purchased by the University Musical Society; it was renamed the Frieze Memorial Organ and was presented to the University of Michigan.

Professor Frieze served as Acting President twice during the administration of James Burrill Angell: from June, 1880, to February, 1882, and again in the fall of 1887. These later years as executive officer, noteworthy though they were, seem almost swallowed up in the extensive and fruitful administration of President Angell.