THE STUDENTS' CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION
THE University was never intended to be a sectarian school, but from the beginning leaders of the various churches were active in its faculty and administration, and it had a distinctly religious atmosphere. John Monteith, a Presbyterian clergyman, and Gabriel Richard, a Roman Catholic priest, were appointed as the first two professors of the University of Michigania in 1817. Almost twenty years later, in 1836, shortly before Michigan became a state, John D. Pierce, a Presbyterian home missionary, was appointed as the first State Superintendent of Public Instruction. In January, 1837, Pierce submitted a plan for a state school system, including provision for a university, which was to be the basis for the Organic Act of March 18, 1837, under which the University was organized.
When the University was opened to students in 1841, the two professors who constituted the faculty were George P. Williams and Joseph Whiting, both clergymen. By 1845 the Reverend Andrew Ten Brook, three doctors of medicine, and a tutor in Latin and Greek had been added. Three of the five principals of the branches (see Part I: Branches) were clergymen. In the next two years the Reverend Daniel D. Whedon and the Reverend J. Holmes Agnew were appointed, and by 1848 the Board of Visitors consisted of five clergymen. The Reverend George Duffield, D.D., was a regent and for many years had great influence and prominence in University affairs. Although the first Board of Regents did not include a clergyman, by 1852 eleven of forty-four men who had served as regents had been clergymen. Until 1852 each full resident professor in turn was expected to serve for a year as president of the faculty. Thus, Professors Whiting, Williams, Ten Brook, Whedon, and Agnew, all clergymen, had held this office. Dr. Tappan, the University's first President, and his successor, President Haven, continued the clerical succession.
The University early recognized its responsibility for the "morals of its students" and required them to attend prayers daily in the College chapel. The first Catalogue (1843-44) announced: "Every student is required to attend public worship on the Sabbath, at such one of the Churches in the village of Ann Arbor, as his parent or guardian may direct." In his plan for the "Organization of the University" President Tappan said:
In the University, it is designed to organize all the Faculties with the exception of the Theological, which will be left to the different denominations. It is hoped, however, that schools of Theology will be established at Ann Arbor. In some departments of Theological science it may be possible for the different denominations to unite in establishing common professorships. In others they will naturally choose to have separate professorships.
(Cat., 1854-55, p. 24.)
From the early days of the University a student-conducted Sunday morning prayer meeting was held in the old chapel. In 1845 the Union Society of Missionary Inquiry was founded with a three-fold purpose: to study the condition of the heathen, to give the seniors a chance to spread themselves, to place the young ladies of Ann Arbor under religious influence (Monthly Bull., March 11, 1898, pp. 19-21).
Professor Ten Brook remembers the founding in this way:
It was, I think, during the college year 1846-47 that a representative of the students, Mr. T. R. Chase of the class of 1849 called on me for counsel in regard to the organization of a society with a religious purpose among the students of the University; and in reply to his questions I outlined to him the constitution of the Society for Missionary Inquiry then existing at Madison University. This was the society the researches and spirit of whose members had long been so fruitful in supplying missionaries for both the foreign and home field[s], the former from that branch of the body known as the Eastern Association, while another division called the Western Association was made up of men destined to our Western frontier settlements.
(Mich. Alum. Quart. Rev., 47 : 145.)
In the beginning the organization was vigorous and Christian, but by 1856-57 the monthly meetings were devoted to "papers on geographical, historical, ethnological, and similar subjects. These were given at times in a flippant way and by persons irreligious and even immoral." Some students became "pained and disgusted at what seemed to them to be a travesty upon religious subjects and withdrew from the society" (Spence, MS, p. 2). The offices of the organization became the spoils of college politics, and the society expired in the fall of 1857.
Those who had been dissatisfied with the Society of Inquiry met frequently for prayer and conference in the home of Mrs. Elizabeth K. Spence, whose sons, Adam K. and Edwin A., were among the interested students. Mrs. Spence told them about a new organization, the Young Men's Christian Association, which was active in several cities in the development of Christian faith and character. A committee was formed, and the organization of the Young Men's Christian Association was completed in January, 1858. Adam K. Spence, later a professor at the University, was its first president.
The Michigan association was perhaps the first college Y.M.C.A. in the country, though there is a possibility that a student Y.M.C.A. was formed at Cumberland University before January, 1858. The Virginia group, founded in October, 1858, however, affiliated with the national organization and has remained in that relationship throughout its history, while the Michigan Association, though related from time to time with the national Y.M.C.A., has only occasionally conformed to the "Y" pattern.
The Peninsular Phoenix for January, 1858, records the event: "The Missionary Society of Inquiry has been dissolved by mutual consent of its members, and a new organization effected … having in view nearly the same general purpose on a more extensive plan. The procuring of a room to be delivered to their use, and the collecting of a library of religious Page 1887books are among the very praiseworthy contemplations of this society." In the same account the first program of the organization is described: "An address is to be delivered every fourth Sabbath by one of its members at some one of the churches in town. The first of these given was at the Congregational Church on December 20, 1857 by Henry A. Humphrey" (Penin. Phoenix, Jan., 1858, p. 17). Additional programs included Sunday morning religious meetings and student-led prayer meetings and discussions.
The early meetings of the Association were held in a room on the third floor in the South Wing of University Hall. It was in this room that Professor C. Ford proposed the organization of the Christian Library Association to which he later gave a generous collection of books. For many years after its establishment in May, 1858, in the University Catalogue its purpose is stated: "[To procure] by donation, and purchase without expense to the University, a Free Circulating Library of moral and religious works, for the use of all members of the University." The library, which eventually included about 1,500 volumes, later became part of the S.C.A. library.
In 1859-60 a new constitution was written in which the name of the organization was changed to Students' Christian Association (Constitution [of] Oct. 1859. In Minute Book, 1860-69). Agitation for the admission of women to the University began in the 1850's, and in 1858 the Regents appointed a committee to study the matter. Although the first woman, Madelon Louisa Stock-well, was not admitted until 1870 the daughters of some of the professors are believed to have attended classes before that time. The leaders of the Y.M.C.A. had expressed themselves in favor of the admission of women and seem to have changed the name of their organization, both as a means of giving emphasis to their position and in order to be prepared in the event that women students were to appear on the campus. When, in 1870, the Misses Hemingway, Knight, Hapgood, and Hall became members of the S.C.A. they were welcomed as "Christian and beloved brethren of this Association" (Chronicle, 2, Nov. 5, 1870). Four years later, the feminine contingent became a real influence as it was joined by Miss Maria Mosher who, in 1896, was to become the first Dean of Women at the University, Miss Alice Freeman (Mrs. George Herbert Palmer, later president of Wellesley College), and the Misses Mary Marston, Andrews, and Case.
With the appointment of Dr. Haven, later bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, as President of the University in 1863, great impetus was given to the Student Christian Association. A room was provided and comfortably fitted out on the first floor of the South Wing, and although far too small for the purpose this remained the home of the Association for many years. After the Civil War a period of great activity occurred in the history of the Association. A "Historical Sketch of the S.C.A.," written in 1898 by Professor Martin L. D'Ooge, a former clergyman and vigorous supporter of the Association, contributed greatly to the knowledge of the first forty years of its life.
The Association first became affiliated with the national Y.M.C.A. movement in 1866. Professor Spence, as a delegate to the national conferences, was a leader in the effort to gain full status and recognition for college groups, an effort which was finally successful in 1870 (Shedd, pp. 113-16).
In the same year, 1866, students in the professional schools began to participate in the program, and for many years the elaborate structure of the group included vice-presidents from the Literary, Medical, Page 1888Law, Engineering, Pharmacy, Homeopathic, and Dental departments, in addition to the president, a vice-president for men and another for women, a secretary, a treasurer, and, after 1880, a managing editor and business manager for the Monthly Bulletin. The Association was controlled and directed by the students, with the faculty taking active part. As its purpose became increasingly evangelistic, a third constitution, dated 1864, moved the organization farther away from its earlier literary and academic purpose. The new program included the making of "a united effort for their own religious improvement and the welfare of others."
Although the admission of women in 1870 gave fresh impetus to the organization, their presence also brought new problems. Four women represented the Michigan Student Christian Association at the state Y.M.C.A. convention of 1883. Soon thereafter, Mr. L. D. Wishard, the international secretary of the Y.M.C.A., visited Ann Arbor, hoping to persuade the students in the local group to join the national Y.M.C.A. He met with the groups separately, and the women agreed to "set the men free" for the greater benefits of the state and national relationship with the Y.M.C.A., which could not be continued if the group operated on a coeducational basis. The men were unwilling, however, and it was also feared that the women were too few to support a separate organization. Both students and faculty urged that the S.C.A. continue coeducationally, with separate committees for special occasions. Repeated appeals from the national office met with no success over the next twelve years.
In the meantime, the organization flourished. There was no Michigan Union, no Michigan League, no dean of men, nor dean of women, no counselors in religion nor workers with foreign students. The S.C.A. was the most active student organization on the campus, and it extended its work into all departments of the University. According to the Bulletin of March, 1889, the program included the following weekly meetings:
- Sunday — University Chapel, 9:15 to 10:15 a.m.; University Hospital, 2:15 to 3:00 p.m.; Homeopathic Hospital, 2:30 to 3:15 p.m.; Bible Classes, 12; Pharmaceutical Department Prayer Meeting, 2:30 to 3:00 p.m.
- Monday — Literary Department, Freshman Class Prayer Meeting. Sophomore Class Prayer Meeting in Alpha Nu Hall. Junior Class Prayer Meeting in Adelphi Hall.
- Tuesday — Law Department Prayer Meeting. Homeopathic Prayer Meeting in Adelphi Hall, 6:45 to 7:15 p.m.
- Wednesday — General Association Prayer Meeting. Business meeting following.
- Thursday — Medical Department Prayer Meeting. Dental Department Prayer Meeting in Alpha Nu Hall.
- Friday — Special meetings.
In addition to meetings on the campus, S.C.A. students led religious meetings for hospital patients and residents in the County Home, and later, they addressed meetings in other towns and cities.
The outstanding occasion of the year was the annual address delivered in University Hall on a Sunday evening by one of the country's prominent religious leaders. The churches of the city joined with the Association in this meeting. A large audience also responded to the weekly Sunday morning service, held in the University Chapel, and usually addressed by some member of the faculty. The first address each year was given by President Angell, whose welcoming words and wise counsel were not soon forgotten by those who heard him. Other addresses, such as one by Professor Henry S. Frieze, in 1889, on the "Restoration of Church Unity," made a deep impression on the students.
Page 1889The S.C.A. Monthly Bulletin, first published in 1880, enjoyed a vigorous life for more than twenty years. It contained religious and devotional materials, articles, poems, news, and reports of addresses. In 1897 it became the weekly paper of the University. The last known issue is dated April 25, 1902. During one period more than a thousand copies of the Bulletin were printed each month for campus distribution (Mich. Alum., 4 [1897-98]:303).
In the expanding University, many needs, first seen and met by the S.C.A., were later to become official services of the University of functions of other student organizations. The forerunner of the present Orientation Week was the New Students' Social, which was attended by great numbers and attempted to introduce new students to the life of the University. A new Students' Handbook, a guide to the campus and to Ann Arbor published annually from 1886 to 1937 by the S.C.A., was continued for several more years under the Student Religious Association. It became known as the "Freshman Bible," and the twenty-fourth edition, in 1909, was distributed to more than 5,000 students.
The Employment Bureau, also begun in 1886, was an important part of the program for thirty-five years, and at its peak in 1919-20, 2,414 jobs with a value of $95,400, were found for more than 600 students. In his 1907 report to the Regents, President Angell said: "The Students' Christian Association has of late years rendered great service to our students by assisting the newcomers in finding … employment, by which they may earn enough to pay a portion of their expenses. During the last year they aided in finding employment for 595 persons."
In those days most out-of-town students came by train, and all were met by S.C.A. members. In 1879 and after, the prestige of the Association was further enhanced by its work in finding rooms for students; more than 2,000 rooms were listed in 1909. In the same year the S.C.A. began the custom of keeping a card directory of all students; this later became the Student Directory. Sex hygiene lectures were given each year for new men students.
At the quarter-centennial celebration of the Association in 1883, the need for more adequate facilities was expressed, and an urgent appeal was made for a building fund. The membership had grown to more than three hundred in that year. Various church bodies adopted resolutions favoring the move, and a sketch was made of a modest one-story structure. In 1886 William H. Walker ('87) raised an initial fund, and the next year Alfred E. Jennings ('89) took over the campaign that resulted in a new and enlarged building plan. President Angell laid the cornerstone on May 26, 1888, and the remaining funds were collected in time for the dedication, free from debt, on Sunday, June 21, 1891, of Newberry Hall. The building was named in honor of Judge John S. Newberry ('47) whose widow, Mrs. Helen H. Newberry, had given $18,000 of the total cost of $40,000. The lot, directly across State Street from University Hall, had been purchased a few years earlier for $2,500, donated by faculty, students, and Ann Arbor residents.
Shortly after the dedication President Angell stated: "I desire to commend most heartily the endowment of the Students' Christian Association. For more than forty years it has been the chief organization through which religious work among the students has been carried on. Its aim is to care for your sons and daughters. Its work has become so large that it greatly needs some permanent endowment" (Letter, MS, sent over Dr. Angell's signature in campaign of 1891-93). Such an endowment was never found, and the lack of it was a Page 1890major source of difficulty during the later years of the organization.
One of the great student enthusiasms of the nineteenth century was Christian foreign missions. The S.C.A. grew increasingly interested until, in 1882, the Mission[ary] Band was formed. In 1889 the S.C.A. subscribed $850 to send its own missionary, Dr. James S. Grant ('89m), who had been medical vice-president of the Association. Arrangements were made which supported his work in China for many years. Later, Oscar Roberts and his wife went out as S.C.A. missionaries to Africa. Other projects were supported in Turkey. The Mission[ary] Band eventually affiliated with the national Student Volunteer Movement.
In 1896 the Bulletin published a list of seventeen who were looking forward to life service in foreign missions. President Angell, in 1901, gave the names of sixty-five graduates of the University, most of them from the Medical Department, who had served as foreign missionaries.
In 1910 Charles F. Shaw ('11e), offered to give $10,000 and his services for engineering work in Basra in the Persian Gulf if the S.C.A. would send a doctor with him. The students enthusiastically accepted the offer, and, in 1911, Dr. Hall G. Van Vlack ('10m) and his wife sailed, to be followed two years later by Miss Minnie Holzhauer, a graduate of the Nursing School (Michigan Daily, April 15, 19, 1915). Much of the story is told on scattered pieces of letterhead which reads, "Michigan in Arabia — An Industrial and Medical Mission in Busrah, Arabia — Supported by Students, Alumni and Faculty of the University of Michigan — Under the Auspices of the Students' Christian Association of the University of Michigan — Busrah, Persian Gulf." Schools were begun, providing the foundation for a school system to include higher education, a hospital was built, public health instruction was taken over, and construction was begun on a warehouse and a block of shops (The Busrah Mission, Correspondence file, M.H.C.).
The students contributed almost $12,000 during the first five years (Mich. Alum., 22 [1915-16]: 342). By 1916 World War I had forced Shaw to leave Basra, and Van Vlack's letters record a tragedy of war and plague and of an American doctor with no funds either to continue his work or to come home (Correspondence, Van Vlack to W. H. Tinker, 1916). The source of support — student interest in the mission project — had been pre-empted by the tense international situation and by the financial requirements of a new building. Student missionary interest at Michigan was strong and vital but relatively shortlived as compared with the efforts at other universities (Vincent, MS).
In 1885 a Ministerial Band was formed, patterned after the Mission[ary] Band — its purpose to secure greater personal consecration to the Christian ministry and to arouse a deeper interest in its calling. It was vigorous and active for many years and was later called the Divinity Band.
The continuing efforts of the national Y.M.C.A. to divide the S.C.A. in order to establish a Y.M.C.A. and a Y.W.C.A. bore some fruit in 1895, when a small group of men was stimulated by John R. Mott to build their own organization (Mich. Alum., 1 [1894-95]:106-7). Two years later, however, a proposal that the S.C.A. become the parent organization, with separate branches for men and women, was defeated, and in 1901 a University Y.W.C.A. was formed. All three organizations flourished for a time, and it may have been wise to divide the work since the S.C.A. structure had become increasingly complex and the membership Page 1891had grown to more than a thousand. At that time it was the largest college association in the country.
Financial problems, already acute, since no endowment had been found to provide for the maintenance of Newberry Hall and its staff, were increased as three Christian associations looked to the same sources for funds. Therefore, in November, 1904, the 1897 plan was adopted. The S.C.A. became the parent organization which held the property. The Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. became the program groups, with the women centering their work in Newberry Hall and the men renting quarters from the Presbyterians in Sackett and MacMillan halls.
The work prospered, but a gradual change in emphasis can be noted in contemporary accounts. During the first forty years many service activities were developed, but the primary program emphasis was on the chapel services, Bible study, and addresses by religious leaders. After the merging of the three groups, the prayer meetings, the chapel services, and the Monthly Bulletin, which for most of its life had been a religious journal, were discontinued. While the weekly Sunday service was still well-attended, the major share of effort was put into the Freshman Handbook, the rooming agency, the employment bureau, the Student Directory, sex hygiene lectures, and other secular projects. The unique function of the Christian Association was no longer the heart of its program.
The vitality of the organization, however, necessitated enlarged facilities. Sackett and MacMillan halls were too small and were soon to be reclaimed by their Presbyterian owners. A lot was purchased on the corner of State and Washington streets in 1909, and for a few years the inadequate space provided by a house on the premises was supplemented during the first weeks of the fall semester by a large tent.
The move toward a new building was not without its hazards. In 1911 accusations by a local minister and a faculty member received much publicity. They charged that the Y.M.C.A. was conflicting with church activities, that it taught a theology not in accord with modern scholarship, that its officers influenced new students to avoid certain courses and professors, and that its program and projected clubhouse were in direct conflict with the newly constructed and organized Michigan Union (Michigan Daily, Nov. 29, 1911). Amid noisy conjecture the "Y" leaders and the local ministry quietly solved their difficulties by rescheduling "Y" meetings and by co-ordinating the work of the Y.M.C.A. with the work of the various churches.
The prominence of the dispute had aroused student discussion concerning the importance of the "Y." The old feeling that the national Y.M.C.A. had forced itself upon the campus was revived with the charge that the local group was not student-controlled, and, for the first time, Y.M.C.A. sponsorship of the many campus services was questioned. "Y" officials stated that the new building would house religious activities and that it would not duplicate the facilities of the Union, but because the program included many service functions and relatively few which were primarily religious in character, people were not convinced. The issue was widely debated, and while it had no immediate effect upon the program, it can now be seen as the first hint that the strength of the Y.M.C.A. had passed its peak at Michigan.
A campaign for building funds was carried on in 1915 under the leadership of Wellington H. Tinker, general secretary of the local Y.M.C.A. John R. Page 1892Mott, head of the international organization, provided much support, referring to the campus group as the "oldest, the largest, and the strongest of any student Christian Association, not only in America, but in the world" (Letter, Mott to Tinker, Jan. 12, 1912). With Dr. Mott's help Tinker obtained a subscription of $60,000 from John D. Rockefeller on the condition that this amount be matched from other sources within a specified time. A total of $128,000 was raised, and, after delays caused by wartime shortages and further assurances that there would be no conflict with "the broader functions of the Union," the building was opened on March 2, 1917. It was named Lane Hall in honor of Judge Victor H. Lane, Professor of Law, who had served as president of the Association and as chairman of the Y.M.C.A. Board of Trustees. Women were soon included in the program. Newberry Hall was vacated and rented to the University, thus providing the Association's major source of income for several years.
Preceding a postwar decline from which the organization never recovered, the peak year for the Association was 1915-16. Thirty-five hundred handbooks were distributed, 1,500 letters were sent to prefreshmen, 3,493 jobs were secured for students, and the sex hygiene lectures were sponsored for all men. Bible classes and other religious meetings were held regularly; 803 new members were added; twenty-one deputations were sent to fifteen nearby communities; delegations attended state and national conferences; and $2,800 was raised for the Busrah Mission project. New projects included the book exchange and English Language classes for foreign students, the former now operated by the Student Government Council and the latter by the English Language Institute.
Work with foreign students on the Michigan campus was inaugurated by the S.C.A. as it conducted language classes, welcomed and housed the Cosmopolitan Club, which included students from all lands, provided office space for national clubs as they organized, and gave a Thanksgiving Dinner for foreign students in the Union Ballroom. The first campus directory of foreign students was also compiled by the S.C.A. At the end of World War I and in the years immediately following, three major influences upon the program of the Association were the increasing importance of the churches in student religious activity, the degree to which the service functions of the S.C.A. were taken over by the Michigan Union, the League, and the University, and the effects of the war itself.
The churches had recognized their responsibility for their students at an early date. By 1891 student guilds had been established by the Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Congregational, Unitarian, and Roman Catholic churches. The earliest work was established by the Methodist Church in 1879. Several had their own buildings for student work, including the Methodist Stalker Hall, the Presbyterian Sackett and MacMillan halls, and the Episcopal Hobart Hall, later to be known as Harris Hall in recognition of the service which Bishop Harris had rendered to the student work of the church. It was not until 1911, as already mentioned, that a feeling of competition between the churches and the S.C.A. became evident, and this was soon resolved. The church groups, which grew rapidly after the war, began to look to the S.C.A. as the clearing house for religious activity on the campus.
Wellington H. Tinker, whose tenure as general secretary had included the peak program years of 1912-16, the rise and decline of the Busrah Mission, and the building of Lane Hall, resigned in 1917, and the Association was left without Page 1893adequate professional leadership. During the war Lane Hall was turned over to the Y.M.C.A. International Committee to provide "Y" facilities and program for military trainees on the campus, thus breaking the continuity of the campus Association. The Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. ceased to exist, and the properties and program responsibility were turned back to the S.C.A. Thomas St. Clair Evans, who had successfully worked out systems in which the work of the churches was co-ordinated with S.C.A. activity at Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania, was brought to Ann Arbor as S.C.A. secretary. In 1919 Evans arranged for the ministers who worked with students to have offices in Lane Hall and to form, with him, a board responsible for conducting religious work among students. In 1920 Evans encountered mounting student opposition to the nonstudent control of religious affairs, but it was his position that the S.C.A. was there to serve the churches rather than to be the expression of student interest in religion. Student interest lagged, however, and the pastors decided to conduct work from their own buildings. Thus, the S.C.A. was left to find its place in a campus situation in which its uniqueness as the major campus religious organization had been irretrievably lost.
Evans changed the name of the Association from Students' Christian Association to Student Christian Association, perhaps because the possessive form was no longer applicable. To bolster sagging interest, campus-wide elections were held for S.C.A. offices, but this served only to recruit officers with little personal interest in the purposes of the organization. During this period Orientation Week had replaced the S.C.A. welcome to freshmen, the Student Directory was taken over as a student publication, the rooming list and employment bureau went to the Office of Student Affairs, and the "Y" social events were replaced by the Union and League parties. At least two of the church groups and certain discontented students were not in agreement with Evans and his plan to place the S.C.A. under the control of the denominational interests.
The coming of President Burton in 1920 gave impetus to a desire for student initiative and control. Evans resigned in 1921, and the next two years saw little activity because of the all-campus election of officers and the lack of professional program assistance. In 1923 Harold C. Coffman was appointed as general secretary, and with the help of President Burton he was able to wipe out the debt, which had reached $48,000. President Burton died just as the new program was getting under way. His successor, President Little, attempted to return the Association to the students, with no secretary, no property, and no debt. This plan elicited little enthusiasm from the students. For ten years the burden of debt had been too heavy for them. The attempt, under Evans, to merge the student work budget of the S.C.A. with that of the churches had resulted in loss of control to the churches. In the same way aid from the administration was given with every good intention, but with no student voice in determining the pattern. Student workers became few, and those who remained tried to find activities in student life to justify continuance of their work. They had some success but popular response was meager.
Certain important events stand out in sharp contrast against the general decline of interest and activity. Monthly religious meetings were held in Hill Auditorium in 1921-24 before the largest college audiences in the country. One of the most useful activities begun by the S.C.A. was the Fresh Air Camp, conceived in 1919 by Evans and Lewis C. Page 1894Reimann ('16), with the first camp conducted at a temporary site in 1921. Students and officers of the S.C.A. acted as big brothers to 130 neglected boys. It is a far move from that first camp in rented tents to the present-day permanent camp on Patterson Lake, with comfortable cottages and halls erected by the generosity of numerous friends. The camp is now operated by the University for the benefit of underprivileged boys and the training of students who combine a summer of counseling with a directed learning experience.
Freshman Rendezvous was begun in 1925. More than 150 prospective freshmen considered most promising for future leadership spent three days preceding Orientation Week at the Fresh Air Camp. Older students, graduates of past Rendezvous camps, acted as counselors, while the President of the University, various professors, and others participated in the program. The purpose was to impress upon this select group ideas and ideals deemed most helpful to them in making their influence upon the life of the University a constructive one. Rendezvous, which is open to all students as an introduction to the religious resources of the campus, is now conducted on a coeducational and recreational basis under the sponsorship of the Office of Religious Affairs, with the cooperation of other campus organizations.
The financial problem became more acute as the program no longer attracted subscriptions to the budget and as the depression approached. Homer C. Grafton, who had succeeded Coffman as secretary, resigned in 1929, and no successor was appointed. A student request for a secretary was rejected by the Board of Trustees in 1932 because of lack of funds, and the S.C.A., without full-time professional assistance, continued until its demise in 1937. The sale of Lane Hall was authorized in 1928, but never consummated.
Perhaps the greatest religious influence upon the lives of Michigan men from 1914 to 1932 was the Upper Room Bible Class, conducted every Saturday evening from seven to eight by Dr. Thomas M. Iden, affectionately called "Father Iden." During that period as many as a thousand men a year sat under his instruction. He was the author-editor of the Upper Room Bulletin, used by Bible classes in many other universities. In 1925 those who had participated in his classes subscribed $5,000 to send him around the world. His letters from many countries were collected and published upon his return. Later, subscriptions were raised to have his portrait painted; this now hangs in the Lane Hall library.
With the appointment of President Alexander Ruthven, in 1929, a different concept of the relationship between religion and higher education was introduced. In Ruthven's opinion a state university, which could not afford to be sectarian, could not, on the other hand, afford to neglect religion. In 1933, $2,500 was donated by the Earhart Foundation for the purpose of creating the position of Counselor in Religious Education (R.P., 1932-36, pp. 269-70). Additional money was added from other funds, and Dr. Edward W. Blakeman was appointed to the position. His responsibilities were to help the University to understand the religious problems of the student and to improve the facilities for his spiritual development, to be available daily for counsel, and to serve as mediator between the University and the various religious agencies and as adviser to the University on religious affairs. Among the developments of his office were the Student Parley — an annual week-end conference in which students and faculty exchange views, a conference in religion, in which outstanding religious leaders were brought together each summer, and the degree program in religion and ethics: The Page 1895University-sponsored activities supplemented the voluntary religious activity of the Christian Association.
It was apparent, however, that the S.C.A. could not continue to finance a program. Therefore, in 1936, the trustees of the Association transferred Newberry Hall and Lane Hall to the University without stipulation as to their future use but with the expressed hope that Lane Hall "may serve the purpose for which it was originally intended, that is, a center of religious study and activities for all students in the University" (R.P., 1936-39, p. 118). At the same time the Regents agreed to assume the responsibility for a program that would "tend to encourage student interest and study in the broader aspects of religious education and properly co-ordinated student activities in religious and allied fields." The activities of the Student Christian Association were turned over to a Board of Governors of Lane Hall, and the Student Religious Association was organized as a University-sponsored student program designed to include students of all faiths.
The Student Christian Association had spanned eighty years in the life of the University. It had grown from a small band of twelve to become the largest, possibly the oldest, college Christian Association in the world, and was unequaled as an example of student initiative and enterprise. Under its auspices were begun many projects now recognized as essential services of the University. It was inevitable that it could not remain the one major campus organization, even in the field of religion, in the face of great University expansion and decentralization. In the end it was its great success which caused it to assume financial burdens that it could not carry without an endowment which was never found. The independence which permitted it to be so creative in response to the needs of a growing and changing campus deprived it of the support and continuity to be gained from national and international affiliation. Thus, in January, 1937, eighty years from the month of its founding, the Students' Christian Association transferred its properties and its responsibility for the religious education of students to the University of Michigan.
Angell, James B. Letters sent during building campaign for Newberry Hall, in 1891-93. Mich. Hist. Coll., Univ. Mich.
Annual Report, Students' Christian Association, 1916.
Bald, F. Clever. Letter to Walter Kayuski, Feb. 3, 1950.
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