THE ADMINISTRATION OF HARRY BURNS HUTCHINS
ALTHOUGH Harry Burns Hutchins ('71, LL.D. '21) was born at Lisbon, New Hampshire (1847), and received his precollegiate education in Eastern schools, he was in a peculiar sense a Michigan man. He entered the University of Michigan when he was twenty years old and, with the exception of seven years spent in Ithaca, New York, where he was called to put into operation the newly established Cornell School of Law, he continued to be a resident of Michigan until his death in 1930.
He was the first graduate of the University to become its president, and the first man to receive a University of Michigan degree from President Angell, when, in the spring of 1871, Dr. Angell delivered his inaugural address.
After his graduation Hutchins spent one year as superintendent of schools in Owosso, Michigan, and was then called back to the University for one year as Instructor in History and Rhetoric. He continued as Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and History for three years.
During this time he studied law, and in 1876 began the practice of law at Mount Clemens, Michigan, but after eight years was called to the University as Jay Professor of Law. He was so successful in this position that in 1887 he was invited to assist in the organization of the Law School of Cornell University.
In 1895 he was again called to the University of Michigan, to become Dean of the Department of Law. In that position he had the good fortune to follow, though not immediately, the most distinguished jurist that Michigan has produced, Judge Thomas M. Cooley. In his second administrative position he was equally fortunate in following James B. Angell. He came to both these positions at an opportune time to exercise the administrative functions for which his previous training had so well fitted him.
When he became Dean of the Department of Law, that school had discarded the method of teaching law exclusively by lectures. The intermediate stage, in which the lecture system was supplemented by textbooks with case annotations, was beginning to yield to what we now call the case system.
Within his term of service as Dean, he was asked to serve as Acting President of the University on two different occasions — in 1897-98, when President Angell was Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Turkey, and again in 1909-10, the year immediately following Angell's resignation. Hutchins was so efficient in the capacity of acting president that on June 28, 1910, he was unanimously elected to the presidency. He consented, but upon the condition, expressed in his letter of acceptance, that he serve but five years.
At the end of this five-year term, in 1914, he asked the Regents to relieve him of the office, but they prevailed upon him to continue. Again in 1916 he renewed this request, but once more action was postponed, and it was not until March 12, 1919, that his resignation was finally accepted by the Regents. The Board was at first unsuccessful in finding a successor for him and persuaded him to remain another year. Marion LeRoy Burton became President July 1, 1920.
As President, Hutchins was confronted by a situation that was in some respects similar to that which had faced Page 77him when he had become Dean of the Law Department. For some years prior to 1910 the affairs of the University had been allowed to take their course; there had been little aggressive action. There was at this time no line of demarcation between the financial, administrative, and educational functions of the University officers such as exists at present. The results of this were particularly manifest in the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts. Attempts were made by the teaching heads of the several subjects in this department to direct the administration in the interests of their own subjects, rather than in that of the University as a whole. President Hutchins did not succeed in completely correcting these administrative difficulties. That was to be reserved for two of his successors — first, President Burton, and later, the present incumbent of the presidency. But by his wonderful combination of firmness without obstinacy and of kindliness without weakness, and, above all, by his good sense and keen humor, he reduced this administrative confusion to a semblance of order and effectiveness.
Because he had been a professor in two departments of the University he rejoiced in the successes of his fellow professors, and when he became President he heartily supported his successor in the deanship and was pleased with the signal advancement of the Law School under the able leadership of the new dean. That this involved the discarding of many things that had come in under his administration did not prevent his hearty support of new methods and measures. Furthermore, so just and fair-minded was he that no other faculty in the University felt that he allowed his previous connections to warp his judgment or to cause him to deny the fair and equal consideration a president owes to all the interests of his university.
In order to understand the great initial service of President Hutchins, namely, the enlisting of the alumni as a unified organization to help the University, it is necessary to review previous efforts to accomplish this end. Although his predecessor had enjoyed the acclaim and loyalty of all the alumni, there had been no systematic effort until the late nineties to organize their allegiance into an effective unit to further the interests of the University.
In October, 1894, the Michigan Alumnus had appeared, but only as a private enterprise. Its leading article in the October issue was "The Alumni Question — A Review," by Regent Ralph Stone ('92l), in which he reviewed the history and failure of the attempts to form an official alumni association. It was the alumni of Detroit who furnished the needed support, and in 1897 the present Alumni Association of the University of Michigan was formed, with Regent Levi L. Barbour ('63, '65l) as its first president and the Michigan Alumnus as its official organ. In the first year of his administration, President Hutchins made a trip through the Middle West for the express purpose of enlisting the alumni in the service of the University. In the Michigan Alumnus of 1910 some suggestions were presented by James Rowland Angell ('90, LL.D. '31) which led to the establishment of the Alumni Advisory Council (see Part II: Alumni Advisory Council).
The Council, acting under the direction of President Hutchins, brought the people of the state into closer touch with the University by informing them of what was being done in Ann Arbor. President Hutchins promoted alumni interests by going the length and breadth of the state and of the country, always speaking on the theme of the necessity of alumni interest and support as the complement of state endowment. When Page 78he could not go, he sent executives, faculty members, and other officers of the University to perform this function.
The first step in the alumni policy of President Hutchins had been to build up local organizations and to unite their efforts through their delegates to the Alumni Advisory Council. In one of his earliest presidential statements, made on October 29, 1909, he had emphasized, in an address delivered at Saginaw, the need of private gifts to the University to supplement appropriations made by the state. The response to this suggestion is indicated by the fact that at the close of his administration the University had received 130 private gifts of a value of more than $3,600,000. The gifts of alumni were most conspicuous. Here may be mentioned the Observatory funds from Robert P. Lamont ('91e, A.M. hon. '12), Hill Auditorium and Helen Newberry Residence, the Octavia W. Bates library funds, the Hudson professorship of history, the Barbour Oriental girls' scholarships and Betsy Barbour House, Martha Cook Building, and the William L. Clements Library. In addition to these were the later benefactions of William W. Cook ('80, '82l). Many smaller gifts were equally important evidence of the growth of an understanding by the public of the needs of the University (see Part I: Gifts; Part II: Alumni Association).
Hutchins' next important step in alumni work, perhaps more difficult than the strengthening of the local clubs, was to harmonize and direct the activities of the Alumni Association for University purposes. In both these steps he proved himself a great administrator. He did not originate either idea, but he put into effect and gave power to both.
The result of the activity of President Hutchins in this field was that during the eleven-year period from October, 1909, to July, 1920, the large sums above mentioned were contributed by alumni and friends of the University. It was also principally because of his efforts that the state gave to the University large special appropriations. In addition to the $11,449,575 derived from the mill tax, the state made $2,665,000 available to the University during this period for special maintenance items, land, new buildings, and equipment.
The material equipment of the University was greatly increased during his administration. In 1912 the Athletic Administration Building was completed; in 1913, Hill Auditorium; in 1914, the Contagious Ward of the Hospital; in 1915, Martha Cook Building, Helen Newberry Residence, and the Natural Science Building; and in 1916, additions to Waterman Gymnasium. The Botanical Garden was laid out in 1914; in 1918 the Dermatology Ward was added to the Hospital, and additions were made to the Hospital Office Building near the Surgical Ward. In 1919 the Michigan Union was opened to students, and in 1920 Betsy Barbour House and the new General Library were completed.
For nearly half of Hutchins' term as President, the University administration was hampered by the distractions of war. The trials he underwent during the war brought out, as did nothing else, the sympathetic side of his character. The terrible days of the influenza epidemic, when students died for lack of the care they might have had at home, or were sacrificed to military discipline in hands that had not learned how to use it, agonized his heart (see Part I: University War Service).
In the ten years preceding the presidency of Dr. Hutchins the state had not appropriated anything for special needs of the University. The mill tax was supposed to meet all its requirements. But President Hutchins recognized that the mill tax was definitely inadequate for Page 79the University's capital needs in addition to its running expenses. With seasoned courage he met the demand for a readjustment in the legislative relations of the University and demonstrated his ability to deal with its practical needs. In the discussion of mutual problems of the University and the lawmaking body of the state, the strong, controlling men in the legislature met him always upon a level, straightforwardly and face to face, with trust in his innate honesty and with reliance upon his candor.
In 1911 he secured a special appropriation for $280,000 for a heating, lighting, and fire-protection plant. Largely through his efforts the University was granted the sum of $350,000 two years later for a science building; in 1915, $350,000 for the Library; and in 1917, $350,000 for the proposed new University Hospital.
The legislature of 1919 passed unanimously a bill calling for a large sum as a special appropriation for University needs. In this amount $300,000 was included, to provide a demonstration school for the training of teachers. This marked the culmination of a struggle of eleven years to provide in the University the means of teaching the science, history, and philosophy of education, rather than simply courses in technique and in the methodology of teaching. During this long struggle, so ably led by Professor Allen S. Whitney, then Head of the Department of Education, and by the many alumni engaged in educational work throughout the state, President Hutchins was ever at hand to act as adviser and helper and to keep the discussion within due limits. He was greatly gratified at the outcome. It was a cause of regret to all friends of education that this sum was not devoted to building during the presidency of Dr. Hutchins.
Aside from helping to obtain these material additions to the University, President Hutchins made many contributions to its educational equipment. The establishment of the Graduate School as a separate, self-administering unit was brought about during his administration. He fostered the University Health Service in its early days and was especially active and helpful in securing the first dormitory for women.
One of the necessary limitations of Hutchins' arduous administrative duties, especially during the years of the war, was that his scholarly production was limited, although he wrote many papers and delivered many addresses after he became President of the University.
When President Hutchins became seventy-three years old he retired from active duty, upon the inauguration of Marion LeRoy Burton, on October 14, 1920, but his services to the University were by no means ended at this time. After retirement, he continued to be of material assistance to President Burton in the discharge of his duties, and particularly because of his relations with William W. Cook, the donor of the many gifts to the Law School. Although Hutchins had been engaged in the practice of law in Mount Clemens during the years when Mr. Cook was a student in the University, the relations between the two had become very cordial during the year when the Martha Cook Building was erected and presented to the University (1915), and they were further strengthened by the negotiations which culminated in the announcement (1921-22) of Cook's magnificent gift of the Lawyers Club and its dormitories.
During his ten-year administration, the attendance at the University increased from less than five thousand to more than nine thousand. To care for this great increase in the number of students the faculty was increased from 427 to 618. Among those promoted or Page 80appointed to professorships were: I. L. Sharfman, L. Waterman, J. B. Edmonson, G. E. Myers, H. R. Cross, A. Tealdi, H. Kraemer, J. S. Reeves, H. E. Riggs, L. M. Gram, J. C. Parker, W. C. Hoad, A. E. White, A. H. Blanchard, Hugh Cabot, J. G. Van Zwaluwenberg, U. J. Wile, E. N. Durfee, R. Aigler, J. B. Waite, E. D. Dickinson, G. C. Grismore, R. W. Bunting, and C. J. Lyons.
The following were retired from active service: C. B. G. de Nancrede, A. B. Stevens, T. A. Bogle, R. E. Bunker, and J. R. Rood.
The deaths of Dean R. Hudson, Dean J. O. Reed, and Dean J. O. Schlotterbeck and of Professors J. C. Knowlton, M. L. D'Ooge, H. S. Carhart, C. S. Denison, B. M. Thompson, Otis Johnson, and J. B. Davis occurred in this period.
One who reads the various sources of information with regard to President Hutchins cannot fail to be impressed by the nature of his influence on all classes of men with whom he came into contact. Everyone lays stress upon his dignity and force of character, his kindliness of spirit and manner. He held firmly to his decisions, which he reached only after he had listened to arguments on the several sides of any question. These characteristics, combined with a never-failing sense of kindly humor, made him the successful administrator that he was. His dignified self-respect was a correlative of his respect for others who were entitled to it. His mind was ever open to new ideas. He fitted them into the pattern of his own plans, and he had great skill in attracting able men to his policies. He always refused to make concessions to cheap popularity and resolutely refused to be made a personage. The affectionate regard that he had for former President Angell, who lived in retirement in the old presidential residence on the campus up to the time of his death, appealed strongly to students, alumni, and members of the faculty. Because he succeeded a man who was one of the most effective orators of his time, he was at the beginning of his term diffident about his talents as a speaker, but he later attained greater confidence and marked effectiveness. A peaceful and painless death on January 25, 1930, when he was eighty-three years old and had been in retirement for ten years, was the fitting culmination of an exceedingly useful life. He was the ideal American gentleman.
Bates, Henry M."President Harry Burns Hutchins — an Appreciation."Mich. Alum., 36 (1930): 327-29.
Editorial.Mich. Alum., 36 (1930): 336.
"Harry Burns Hutchins Is Memorialized."Mich. Alum., 37 (1930): 187.
Hutchins, Harry B."When I Was an Undergraduate."Mich. Alum. Quart. Rev., 45 (1939): 124-36.
"In Memoriam: Harry Burns Hutchins."Univ. Mich. Bur. Alum. Rel., Gen. Bull. (Univ. Mich. Offic. Publ., 32, No. 22), No. 4 (1930): 3-24.
Proceedings of the Board of Regents …, 1909-20, 1930. (R.P.)
Shaw, Wilfred B."Harry Burns Hutchins." In: Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1932. IX: 434-35.
Shaw, Wilfred B.The University of Michigan. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1920.