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

EFFORTS to provide physical education for men at the University of Michigan began in the 1860's. In December, 1868, President Haven presented a petition signed by 250 students "praying for the establishment of a gymnasium" (R.P., 1864-70, p. 312). In September, 1869, the following resolution was adopted by the Board:

Resolved, That the University Senate be requested to examine and report to the Board in regard to the propriety of establishing a Gymnasium in connection with the University, … also in regard to the relation which it shall hold to the University Course, if so established; and to collect information and present their views respecting the entire subject of introducing Gymnastic Exercises as a part of a course of Education.


(R.P., 1864-70, p. 376.)
After making a study of certain Eastern colleges and universities which already had gymnasiums and the effects of gymnastics upon the scholarship and the physical condition of the students, the Senate, in 1870, reported:

A vast expansion of the scope of our American college system is the characteristic educational fact of the last fifteen years. One very important direction in which this recent enlargement has shown itself, is toward systematic physical culture, as a regular part of the work of a college course …; There is no other spectacle of a want of symmetry in the development of a human being so glaring and so painful as that of a cultivated mind inhabiting a neglected, feeble and incompetent body. And the declaration is confirmed by the fact that the principal modern writers on education — Roger Ascham, Bacon, Cowley, Milton, Locke, Rousseau, Dr. Arnold, Horace Mann, and Herbert Spencer — have insisted upon the equal rights and the equal needs of the body and the mind, with reference to systematic training. Yet, in America fifteen years ago, no contrast could have been greater than that which was presented between theory and practice upon the subject. All our educational authorities sanctioned physical culture; and all our educational institutions neglected it.


(R.P., 1870-76, p. 7.)

The Senate thereupon recommended the establishment of a Department of Hygiene and Physical Culture, the construction of a gymnasium to cost about $25,000, and the appointment of a professor to be in charge of the new department. It was also recommended that attendance at the gymnasium be optional but that those students who did participate should pay a fee of $2.00 to $3.00 a year "to meet operating costs until Page  1982either by private munificence or by state endowment the expenses of the department should be otherwise provided for." Apparently, no steps were taken by the Regents to carry out these recommendations.

Finally, in 1878, an earlier Football Association was reorganized by the students as the Athletic Association of the University, an incorporated society with its main objective the raising of money for the gymnasium. When, after many years of student effort, the money was turned over to the University in 1894, the total was only about $6,000. In 1879 the University once more took the initiative. In his report to the Regents for that year, President Angell stated: "A well-equipped gymnasium is … much needed. It would not only contribute to the physical well being of the students, but would also confer indirectly both intellectual and moral good. The health and consequently the intellectual and moral vigor of not a few of our students suffers from the lack of sufficient … exercise" (R.P., 1876-81, p. 419).

In 1880 President Frieze urged the Regents to take steps in this direction:

Among the wants recognized by the University … is that of a gymnasium for the promotion of the physical development and health of the students… A sound mind without the sound body loses half of its efficiency. For several years our students … have been making earnest and commendable efforts to raise the funds necessary for the erection and equipment of a suitable building. But the opportunities within the reach of students for creating such a fund, are exceedingly limited; and they cannot hope, without assistance, to raise the requisite amount. The struggle which they are making deserves our hearty sympathy.


(R.P., 1876-81, p. 585.)

In 1885 the faculty of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts asked the legislature for an appropriation for this purpose, but five years later, in October, 1890, President Angell was still pointing out the urgent need for a gymnasium. By this time it was clear that it was useless to expect any assistance from the legislature. The first real help toward the gymnasium came in January, 1891, when Joshua W. Waterman, of Detroit, contributed $20,000 with the provision that a like amount be raised from other sources. The Senate took charge of the fund-raising campaign, and a student committee was appointed to help in the drive. By April, 1891, $20,182 had been collected. Plans were drawn, and the cost of construction was estimated at $60,000 rather than the $40,000 on hand. Work on the building began in April, 1892. Progress was slow owing to the shortage of money and materials. The University finally appropriated University funds in order to complete the building. The J-Hop of April, 1893, marked the informal opening of the gymnasium. It was not until October, 1894, that the gymnasium was equipped and ready for classes. Final cost of construction was $65,134.

The required program. — Dr. James B. Fitzgerald became the first Director of Waterman Gymnasium in 1894, and Keene Fitzpatrick, who was appointed Instructor in the same year, became Acting Director in 1899 and Director in 1904. In the year 1901 George A. May, M.D., a graduate of Yale University, came to Michigan as Fitzpatrick's assistant, with the title of Instructor in Physical Education. Dr. May was officially appointed Director of Waterman Gymnasium in March, 1910. He held this position until 1942. He was a well-known personality on the campus and was familiarly called "Doc" by the students who had passed through his gymnastic classes.

Gymnasium classes were formed in 1894-95 for those who wished to attend, but no credit was given for the work. In Page  19831898, however, a resolution was passed by the Regents making gymnastics compulsory for the freshman class of the Literary and Engineering departments. The 1901-2 Calendar announced: "Work in the gymnasium, twice a week, is required of first year students [who] … are expected to report to the Director … between October 1 and October 26 for physical examination and assignment to sections" (Cal., 1901-2, p. 113).

By 1917, however, the following information concerning facilities and physical training for men was given in the Catalogue.

Waterman Gymnasium affords excellent opportunity for all phases of gymnastic and indoor athletic activities. The main floor is a rectangle 246 by 90 feet, with truncated corners, allowing if desired a 75-yard straight away sprinting track. There is also a dirt pit for jumping and shot putting, covered by a trap door when not in use, as well as equipment of the various kinds of apparatus usually found in the best modern gymnasiums. Several smaller rooms are devoted to administration, fencing, boxing and other special purposes, while the basement is given to baths, lockers, handball, shotput, and a rifle range… A gallery makes room for an elliptical running track, ten laps to the mile.

Before beginning gymnasium work each student receives a thorough physical examination, in order to eliminate those who are not physically capable of doing the regular class work. Every student examined is measured and furnished with an anthropometric chart, which affords a comparison of his own measurements with those of the average student and reveals for correction any abnormality that may be present. A second measurement is made after the class work is finished, in order to note what changes have taken place.

The compulsory work in Physical Training is planned to produce uniform development, which is of the greatest importance; … Credit toward the requirement in physical training is given for outdoor sports in season, … After the close of the season for these sports, students participating in them just report for regular indoor work. An outdoor running track has been constructed adjacent to the gymnasium, in order to secure outdoor running when weather conditions permit.


(Catalogue, 1917-18, pp. 134-35.)
The nature of the formal program of that time is revealed in this description of facilities and equipment.

By 1920-21 the program still consisted of gymnastics, track events, fencing, boxing, wrestling, and rugged outdoor sports such as football and cross-country running. Attendance was required at lectures in personal hygiene, which were added in the fall of that year. In 1925 the students in the required program were classified in four groups: those who were qualified for active practice sessions in the various freshman sports, those who passed efficiency tests and were capable of doing more advanced work, those in the regular physical education classes, and those who needed special corrective work. Students in the regular physical education classes had calisthenics, apparatus work, tumbling, and mass athletics.

Until the late 1920's the program was very formal. In the past quarter of a century, however, physical exercise and recreation have reflected the basic changes in American attitude. After World War I, physical training was advocated as a solution to the unfitness of American youth for war, which the draft statistics had disclosed. In time there was a trend away from strenuous, disciplined exercise and toward voluntary participation in the more enjoyable forms of sport:

In the University … the required physical training program for freshmen was enthusiastically promoted; yet fifteen years later, its organization was at a minimum level whereas the recreational [intramural] sports program was enjoying increased facilities, staff, and general popularity. The recreational program, of course, was not generally Page  1984concerned with developmental exercises and strenuous training. It is true that in varsity athletics, where there is a strong conditioning emphasis and regularity of participation, the number of sports as well as the number of men in each sport increased to some extent; yet the total varsity participation still did not exceed one-tenth of the University male population.


("Report Concerning Physical Education at the University of Michigan," Bell, Mitchell, Crisler. 1945.)

In 1925 the University was stirred to action concerning the student's bodily training and development. Therefore, the Day Committee was appointed in May, 1925, to consider the "place and function of varsity athletics in University life … and to analyze the required physical education program." The final outcome of the Day report resulted in the building of the football Stadium, the Sports Building, the Women's Athletic Building, and Palmer Field. Instruction in the required program for men continued to be given in Waterman Gymnasium. The Day report has remained as an outstanding example of a scholarly and statesmanlike attitude of the faculty toward the proper place of physical education and athletics in University life.

In 1932 a new committee was appointed by the University Council to investigate the place of physical education in the University and the immediate problems in this field. More specifically the committee was expected to determine the requirements in physical education, to express an opinion as to whether the separate schools of the University should determine requirements, and to make recommendations in view of the evidence gathered. The trend away from formalized activities to sports was apparent when the committee recommended voluntary play in place of required exercise and advised that the latter should be maintained at a minimum.

At this time all departments of the University with the exception of Oral Hygiene and Military Science required one year of physical education. Since 1928 military drill has been accepted in place of the physical education requirement. The objectives of physical education as reported by the 1932 committee, with Nathan Sinai as chairman, were to promote and maintain proper growth and development, to improve neuromuscular control, to provide corrective work, and to develop individual interest in physical education so that later life leisure time might be served. The recommendations of this committee included the following: the one-year requirement, thirty periods of selected activity, special requirements for varsity work, military drill, band members, and employed students, and a clarification of the organization of physical education at the University. This report resulted in a decision to the effect that the physical education requirement would be determined by the separate schools and that greater freedom would be permitted in the election of activities in the second semester. The Catalogue for 1932 stated that after spring recess "students … could select any outdoor or indoor activity for which facilities are furnished, namely, golf, tennis, swimming, baseball, softball, track and field, gymnasium activities, wrestling, boxing, fencing, handball, and squash." By 1939 the student was permitted to select activities in the first semester as well as in the second. Boxing, wrestling, basketball, track and field, fencing, and gymnastics were offered. In the second semester he was permitted a choice of badminton, volleyball, golf, handball, fencing, boxing, wrestling, gymnastics, and basketball.

With World War II, physical fitness became of paramount importance. The Regents, in May, 1942, adopted the following Page  1985program for the emergency period:

A physical conditioning non-credit course conforming to Army and Navy requirements, especially designed to fit students for services in the Armed Forces, beginning June 15, 1942. … This … course shall consist of three one and one-half hour periods per week … [and] shall be supplemented by corrective exercise where necessary.

As a condition to continued attendance at the University, the above physical training course is required of students who, at the beginning of a particular term, are (a) registered under the Selective Service Act or (b) enrolled in special enlistment programs. … This course may be substituted by the student for the present required course in physical education.

Each period of one and one-half hours is divided into two forty-five minute sections for mass activities and for individual activities. The mass activities program consists of calisthenics, games, relays, obstacle racing, and individual and mass combative exercises. The individual program includes boxing, gymnastics, wrestling, track and field, and games. All students are required to pass the standard Navy swimming test.


(Announcement, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, 1942-43, pp. 226-29.)

In order to carry out this program a complete change of departmental procedure was necessary. Only those activities which emphasized physical conditioning and the building of self-confidence were selected. The students were enthusiastic about the program and indicated a desire for postwar physical education along similar lines. As a result, in March, 1944, a committee was appointed by Herbert O. Crisler, Director of Physical Education and Athletics, to recommend a new physical education plan. The committee centered its attention on the required work, with the realization that the program should emphasize the individual rather than mass needs and that physical education should be an integral part of a University education.

The report, completed in October, 1945, stated that in 1938-39, of twenty-five universities surveyed by McCristal and Miller (McCristal and Miller, pp. 70-80), seventeen had a requirement of two or more years and that seventeen gave credit for physical education. The University ranked in the lowest quarter of this survey with respect to credit and requirement because Michigan did not give credit and required only one year of work. The committee made an intensive study of the program as it was before the war and of the emergency program which replaced it, and as a result the following recommendations were made: that the requirement, to become effective in October, 1946, be increased to six semesters, that credit be given for physical education, that a continuous program of research be established, and that steps be taken to secure adequate facilities and staff. No undergraduate was to be excused from physical education and, although special consideration would be given war veterans they, too, would be subject to the requirement. It was recommended that physical education be integrated with the other units of the University, that the program be centered around the needs of the individual and that counseling service be provided, and that the required program, intramural sports, and varsity athletics be integrated so that the various staffs could most fully serve the individual student. It was also recommended that the intercollegiate competitive program be broadened in order to accommodate more men and that extramural sports days be encouraged and planned.

No faculty action was taken to put the 1945 committee's recommendations into effect. The present-day curriculum in the required physical education program falls short of the proposed 1945 plan. Nevertheless, under the direction of Mr. Page  1986Howard Leibee, who was placed in charge of the Required Program in the fall of 1945, considerable progress toward the ideal curriculum has been achieved. Since 1945, when conditions have warranted it, new courses have been added. The curriculum has become much more flexible, permitting election of physical education activities that have a carry-over, life-long value. Progression in the instruction has been emphasized, too, so that students who choose certain sports may find advanced instruction available to them. Because of the complete coverage of the program, comprising activities for the handicapped as well as for all levels of physical fitness and skill, there is no need for exemptions from the requirement, as was frequently the case.

Despite the increasing enrollment of freshman students, every effort has been made to keep the classes small and the instruction as individualized as possible. A number of graduate students who have had special experience in sports are utilized as teaching fellows. The twenty courses offered, with several sections available in popular activities such as golf, tennis, and swimming include: Developmental Activities, Swimming (beginning and intermediate), Life Saving, Diving, Badminton, Basketball, Self-Defense (boxing, wrestling, and hand-to-hand), Golf, Softball, Fencing (beginning and intermediate), Trampolining and Gymnastic Activities, Individual Exercises, Tennis (beginning and intermediate), Squash, Weight Lifting, Fly and Bait Casting, Ice and Figure Skating, Bowling, Square and Social Dancing (Co-recreational), and Sports Survey.

At present all of the courses in the required physical education curriculum are activity courses with the exception of PEM 60, a sports survey course, especially for students who for medical reasons are unable to participate in physical activity. This unique course acquaints the student with theories, techniques, and practices utilized in sports activities suitable to his professional field. It deals with the place of sports in our social, economic, and educational life and emphasizes safety principles as applied to sports activities.

All students are required to have a health examination before attending the first class. During the year physical fitness tests and motor-skill tests are given, and advisory follow-up work is undertaken. All students failing to pass the swimming test must elect Beginning Swimming. At the end of the semester the students are graded upon their physical proficiency, knowledge of sports, attitude, and progress in improvement.