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

MARION LEROY BURTON (Carleton '00, D.D. Yale '06, Ph.D. ibid. '07, LL.D. Western Reserve '11) took office as President of the University of Michigan on July 1, 1920. He made his first public appearance in Ann Arbor, after his election to the presidency, when the honorary degree of doctor of laws was conferred upon him at Commencement, June 24, 1920. His formal inauguration took place in October of the same year and was made the occasion of an educational conference for the discussion of many problems relating to higher education, particularly the work of the state universities (see Part I: University of Michigan Celebrations). One of the conferences held at this time was attended by the trustees and regents of the state universities, and such was the interest created by the addresses and discussion that three years later a similar meeting was called in Chicago, and a permanent organization, the Association of Governing Boards of State Universities and Allied Institutions, was effected.

A number of important administrative changes were made in the first year of Burton's presidency. The committee organization of the Board of Regents itself was changed from a scheme whereby the various units of the University were represented by standing committees to one in which general interests of the whole institution formed the basis, a much more satisfactory arrangement and one which, with little change, is still in force. Soon after the new President's coming the Regents agreed to fix the last Friday of each month as the regular date for their meeting and adopted a new order of business, the basis of which was the assumption that all matters for the consideration of the Board should be submitted to them, in writing, at least one week before the meeting. Even before Burton's arrival, Regent Lucius L. Hubbard had begun a new compilation and revision of the bylaws of the University. This was finished and adopted by the end of 1922 and was published in May, 1923.

More intimately concerned with the campus was the conference of the president and deans, inaugurated by Burton in the fall of 1920 and maintained since then by his successors. This conference has always been an informal organization and does not ordinarily take a vote on any question. It has proved, however, a valuable means whereby the president may consult with the executives of the various units of the University concerning problems common to all. Very frequently ideas or proposals developed first in the deans' conference were presented to the Senate Council and to the University Senate, and eventually, with the approval of the Regents, became formal bylaws or policies of the University.

In order to reach the whole faculty and student body, President Burton instituted the "Daily Official Bulletin," a column for official notices published in the Michigan Daily, and it was his custom also to call general faculty meetings from time to time for the explanation of general University policy. This had very seldom been done in the past. In the year 1920-21 there were three such meetings. All University students were regularly brought together at the beginning of each year of the Burton administration, and one or two other convocations were held later in the session. Burton Page  82also began the annual Honors Convocation. This new method of recognizing students who had won prominence through superior academic work was inaugurated on May 13, 1924.

The thing for which President Burton will be longest remembered is, of course, his transformation of the campus by the addition of new buildings. The need for this was all too apparent. In the last years of the Angell administration little building had been done. During Hutchins' presidency two urgently needed structures, the Library and the Natural Science Building, had, to be sure, been provided, the first appropriation toward the new University Hospital had been received, and the Michigan Union as well had been erected, but the World War interfered with any systematic consideration of building needs. With the end of the war, however, the problem was even more painfully accentuated. In the years before America entered the war the enrollment had been increasing, but was still in the range between 6,500 and 7,500 students. In 1919-20, however, 9,401 registered, and in the next year, 10,623, and from this time on there was a steady increase. Most unfortunate conditions prevailed. Classes were held in such unsuitable places as the basement rooms of Tappan Hall and the former public-school building which was known as West Hall. The stuffy little rooms of Mason Hall and the South Wing, which are still in use, were crowded to capacity. The University Hospital presented an even worse problem.

Burton's first step in preparing to meet these problems was to conduct a University-wide study of needs. Reports from executive officers showed that $19,000,000 could be expended to good advantage to alleviate the situation. In the winter of 1920-21 the Regents asked the legislature for building appropriations totaling $8,690,000, and also for an increase in the rate of the mill tax from three-eighths to five-eighths of a mill — a provision which would raise the current income of the University from $1,687,500 to $3,125,000 and would permit much-needed increases in the salaries generally paid to members of the teaching staff. The legislature's action was to appropriate for buildings $4,800,000 to which was to be added $300,000 already appropriated for a model high school by the legislature of 1919. The total, thus, was $5,100,000, and the act provided that this money was to be made available at such times and in such amounts as might be determined by the State Administrative Board. The mill tax was increased from three-eighths of a mill to six-tenths of a mill, and its actual proceeds, in view of the increased valuation of the state, amounted to $3,000,000 a year, beginning with the last half of 1921.

As soon as the action of the legislature was known, a systematic plan for carrying out what was called a "comprehensive building program" was adopted. The direction of the program, subject only to the approval of the Regents, was placed in the charge of the so-called "committee of five," which consisted of the President and the Secretary of the University, Regent William L. Clements, chairman of the Regents' committee on buildings and grounds, ex officio, Albert Kahn, of Detroit, who was named as a consulting architect, and John F. Shepard, Professor of Psychology, who was chosen to act as supervisor of plans. Shepard had represented the educational needs of the University when the Natural Science Building and the new Library had been constructed, and his duty as supervisor of plans was to see that the new buildings should adequately meet the educational purposes to be served. It was further decided that for each building there should be a subcommittee, of which representatives of the departments Page  83concerned should be members. The problems of landscape architecture were also to be considered, and all business transactions in connection with the building program were to be carried out through the Business Office of the University, under the direction of Secretary Shirley W. Smith. In June, 1921, the Regents determined the allotment of the lump sum appropriated by the legislature for building purposes. It was to be expended for an addition to the dental clinic, for the University High School and its site, for the East Engineering Building and its site, for a building for the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, for a new physical laboratory (East Physics Building), for the completion of the University Hospital, and for miscellaneous land purchases needed to round out the University holdings.

During 1921-22, much preliminary work had to be done. The purchase of the sites was carried out and much attention was given to a general campus plan. Plans for the various buildings were being made ready, and by the end of the year the addition to the Dental Building was completed and contracts had been let for the University High School and the East Engineering Building. The two latter were actually occupied in September, 1923. In the meantime, the University had greatly enlarged its storehouse and shops in anticipation of the building activities which were to follow, and two important gifts of buildings, in addition to those put up at public expense, had been announced, namely, the Lawyers' Club and the Clements Library. The Board in Control of Athletics, too, was making plans for the erection of the Yost Field House.

The legislature of 1923 was presented with requests for building appropriations totaling $7,277,000, of which $2,990,000 was to complete the University Hospital. On March 15 and 16, 1923, the entire legislature came to Ann Arbor, listened to an eloquent appeal by President Burton, and surveyed the campus. Their action on the appropriation bill was to allot $3,800,000 to the University for building during the biennium, the largest item of which was $2,300,000 to complete the University Hospital. Provision was also made for a new building for the Medical School and for an addition to the heating and power plant, which was very necessary if the new buildings were to receive proper care. The bill contained an equally necessary provision for enlarging and rebuilding the system of heating tunnels and sewers serving the various buildings.

The action of the legislature of 1923 limiting the proceeds of the mill tax to $3,000,000 for each year of the biennium was a noteworthy occurrence. The University acquiesced in this action, but with the feeling that it was not wholly consistent with the principle of the mill-tax law, and endeavored in successive years to have the limitation removed. This was done in 1927, but the legislatures of 1925 and 1931 followed the precedent set in 1923.

The tunnel system was built during the year 1923-24, at the time when the additions to the heating plant were being made and suitable facilities for coal storage were being installed. Work on the University Hospital was resumed after January 1, 1924. The East Physics Laboratory and Yost Field House were occupied at the beginning of this academic year, and James B. Angell Hall at the beginning of the year 1924-25. An addition to Waterman Gymnasium was built in 1923-24, and work continued on the Lawyers' Club group and upon the nurses' home, which was presented to the University by Senator James Couzens. President Burton did not live to see the Hospital, Couzens Hall, and the new Medical Building actually occupied. Page  84They were, however, finished during the late winter and spring of 1925.

Because of his sickness, it was, of course, impossible for him to present to the legislature of 1925 the University's requests. Others, however, notably President Emeritus Hutchins and Secretary Smith, as well as several representatives of the Board of Regents, presented the University's needs in his place, and the legislature in that year voted appropriations of $500,000 for land, $900,000 for a new Museums Building, and also $400,000 for an Architecture Building, at the same time setting the amount to be realized from the mill tax at $3,700,000.

Burton's administration was a time in which many new departments and units were established. The first of these was the Department of Engineering Research, which was created in October, 1920, and at first was called the Industrial Research Laboratory. This was not, strictly speaking, the President's idea, although it came into being under his direction. The first suggestion for its establishment came from a group of Chicago alumni in 1916, and during the intervening years lengthy negotiations had been carried out between the University and representatives of the industries of the state. Next came the office of the dean of students, created by the Regents on February 10, 1921, in answer to the obvious need of such an agency and historically as a development from the Senate committee on student affairs and the Housing Bureau. This bureau had been established by the University in the fall of 1920 and had been under the direction of Joseph A. Bursley, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, who became the first Dean of Students. In April, 1921, the name of the Department of Rhetoric was changed to Department of Rhetoric and Journalism, indicating that special attention was to be paid to the curriculum in journalism.

The School of Education, formerly a department of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, was given independent status in May, 1921. In June, 1921, the Regents voted to establish two University departments, one, that of intercollegiate athletics, and the other, that of hygiene and public health, including a department of physical education. During the next year the Department of Geodesy and Surveying was separated from the Department of Civil Engineering, of which it had previously been a subdivision, and in May, 1922, an entirely new department, the Department of Physiological Chemistry, was set up in the Medical School. In May, 1923, the separate Department of Geography was organized in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and in 1924 the School of Business Administration was built up on already existing foundations — the courses in accounting, marketing, and similar subjects in the curriculum of the Department of Economics.

Closely allied with these changes was the introduction into a number of departments of the committee system of administration, whereby the practice of appointing a permanent head was relinquished in favor of the less permanent designation of a chairman and the delegation of more responsibility to the senior members of the staff in departmental administration. This scheme was adopted in the Department of English in 1920, in the Department of Economics in 1921, and in the Department of Mathematics in 1922.

A substantial increase was made in the salaries paid to the members of the faculty. This process was begun in the preparation of the budget of 1920-21, although at that time the proceeds of the mill tax were insufficient to cover the amount needed, and the savings of the previous years had to be used in order Page  85to permit the general increase necessitated by a general rise of prices in the postwar period. No further general increase was possible in 1921-22, because at least one-half of the increase in the proceeds of the mill tax had already been apportioned in advance, in the application of the salary schedule adopted in the previous year. More adequate compensation, however, was provided for two classes of faculty members — the heads of departments and the instructors — and an increase in the number of the faculty had to be made because of the large increase in enrollment.

During the last few months of President Burton's life there was under discussion a schedule definitely stating the qualifications that should be possessed by members of the faculty for appointment to or promotion within the various ranks. In May, 1925, after President Burton's death, this schedule was finally revised and presented to the Regents, and it has subsequently been a second time revised.

The establishment of a fellowship in creative art was a most treasured scheme of President Burton's which the generosity of benefactors very soon permitted him to carry into effect. Robert Frost came to Ann Arbor in this capacity in both 1921-22 and 1922-23, and in the following year Robert Bridges, the venerable poet laureate of England, occupied the position.

A uniform method of administering student discipline, through a University committee on discipline, was devised, particularly to care for situations in which students in more than one unit of the University were involved.

The curriculum for social workers and the course in oral hygiene were inaugurated in 1921, and the University committee on student loans was established. This period also saw the first planning for the Michigan League Building. In February, 1921, the Regents agreed to provide a site which they selected in December of the same year.

An occurrence which attracted much public attention at the time was the discontinuance of the Homeopathic Medical School as an independent unit. Previous to 1921 there had been in the mill-tax law a clause which provided that, in order to secure the effectiveness of the law, the Regents must maintain all the existing departments of the University, which were specifically named. Independently of any suggestion from University officials, the legislature of 1921, when it revised the mill-tax law, removed this proviso, and both houses passed a resolution requesting the Regents, as a measure of economy, to take steps to combine the two medical schools. The proviso which had formed a part of the mill-tax law had for years past constituted a very effectual bar even to the consideration of this whole question. In view, however, of the clearly expressed desire of the legislature, the Regents, in September, 1921, appointed a committee to consider whether and how the legislature's request could be carried out. A public hearing was held December 12 of that year, and somewhat later a special hearing was granted the faculty of the Homeopathic Medical School. The majority vote of the committee, which was adopted, provided that at the end of the year 1921-22 the two schools should be consolidated, but that two chairs, in homeopathic therapeutics and in materia medica, respectively, should be maintained. The faculty was to be notified that the chairs in the Homeopathic Medical School would be discontinued. The students, however, were to be permitted to transfer to the Medical School, and the nurses' training schools were to be consolidated. The Homeopathic Hospital building was to be made a division of the University Hospital. Page  86The building called the Children's Unit was to become the Health Service Building at the beginning of the next year and served this purpose until the completion of the new Health Service Building in 1940.

The period of the Burton administration was particularly notable for scientific exploration. William H. Hobbs, Professor of Geology, made an extended trip in 1921-22 to the western part of the United States, Hawaii, and Japan. He visited the islands of the South Seas, the Philippines, and other points and returned through Europe. The primary purpose of the expedition was the study of mountain formation. In the next three years came the expedition to the Philippine Islands led by Carl E. Guthe, then Associate Director of Anthropology in the University Museum. The funds for this work were furnished by Horace H. Rackham, of Detroit, and the late Honorable Dean C. Worcester, of Manila, loaned his yacht to the expedition and assisted in many other ways. The anthropological and archaeological results of this work were very fruitful indeed. It was in this time also that Francis W. Kelsey, Professor of Latin Language and Literature, made his first trips to the Near East and assembled the bulk of the University's great collection of Greek papyri, the Oriental books from the library of the Sultan Abdul Hamid, and the Greek and Latin manuscripts purchased at the Burdett-Coutts sale. The excavations at Pisidian Antioch in 1923-24 were also made under Kelsey's general direction. In the next year the excavations on the site of Karanis in Egypt, which were to be continued for ten seasons, were begun, and a brief campaign was carried out on the site of ancient Carthage. William J. Hussey, Professor of Astronomy and Director of the Observatory at Ann Arbor, visited southern Africa in 1923-24 in order to make plans for the installation of the large telescope presented to the University by the Honorable Robert P. Lamont.

Important gifts were received by the University during the years of Burton's presidency. In his first year came the William L. Clements Library of American History and Adelia Cheever Residence Hall. The second year, 1921-22, was marked by the announcement of William W. Cook's gift of the Lawyers' Club and dormitories, and a large bequest from the late Cornelius Donovan for the establishment of scholarships was also announced. In 1922-23 came the late Honorable James Couzens' gift of a nurses' home, which was subsequently built adjacent to the University Hospital. Also in that year came the gift of the Lamont telescope and the first of a series of donations of $50,000 a year from Horace H. Rackham for humanistic research — the basis of the excavations and allied activities in the Near East. The Frances E. Riggs fund, which was originally intended to facilitate the appointment of a young English student as a fellow at Michigan, but which was later modified to serve as a student-aid fund, was received in 1923-24, in addition to the George G. Booth traveling fellowship in architecture and a substantial gift from William W. Cook to aid the Michigan Law Review. The year 1924-25 was marked by the gift of the Thomas Henry Simpson Memorial Institute for Medical Research. The erection and endowment of the building that houses the Institute were financed by the gift of Mrs. Simpson.

The record of faculty changes is a significant part of the history of any administration. While the years of Burton's presidency saw the retirement or the death of many prominent professors, it was likewise a time in which a number Page  87of new men who added a great deal to the distinction of the faculty came to the University. Among the losses by death were those of Professors Isaac Newton Demmon, Charles B. de Nancrede, Henry Carter Adams, James G. Van Zwaluwenburg, Wooster W. Beman, Louis H. Boynton, Arthur G. Hall, and Edward D. Campbell. Those who retired included Dean Victor C. Vaughan, Dean Myra B. Jordan, Assistant Dean William H. Butts, and Professors Warren P. Lombard, Frederick C. Newcombe, Filibert Roth, Albert A. Stanley, and Alexander Ziwet. Among those who were called to the faculty by President Burton may be mentioned Professors Burke Shartel, Frank N. Wilson, Frederick A. Coller, John Sundwall, Henry W. Miller, Preston M. Hickey, Herbert F. Good-rich, Howard B. Lewis, Clifford Woody, James H. Hanford, Oscar J. Campbell, Edmund E. Day, John S. Worley, Thomas H. Reed, Carl E. Guthe, Randolph G. Adams, Margaret Bell, Roger L. Morrison, E. Blythe Stason, Clarence S. Yoakum, Olin W. Blackett, and Palmer Christian. Fielding H. Yost was made Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, with professorial rank, in 1921, and in 1924 Dr. Harley A. Haynes was called from Lapeer, Michigan, to become Director of the University Hospital.

President Burton's last illness was a long one and was a period of general distress. He was suddenly taken ill on October 22, 1924, after presiding at a lecture by Vilhjalmur Stefansson. His illness, at first severe, seemed to yield to treatment and gave encouragement to his friends to expect ultimate recovery, but the strain was too great for an already overtaxed heart, and on the early morning of February 18, 1925, he passed away peacefully in his sleep. On Friday, February 20, he lay in state at Alumni Memorial Hall, and on the next day the funeral was held at the President's house, and the burial took place in Forest Hill Cemetery. During the long period of his illness, the ordinary affairs of the University were carried on by the general officers. President Emeritus Hutchins, in this emergency, rendered valuable service, and in January he, together with the Secretary, Shirley W. Smith, and Frank E. Robbins, Assistant to the President, was formally charged by the Regents with carrying out the routine duties of the presidency. Shortly after President Burton's death, Alfred Henry Lloyd, Dean of the Graduate School, was selected by the Regents as Acting President. He continued in this position until the arrival of Clarence Cook Little.

Such, in its general outlines, was the Burton administration. It will best be understood if President Burton's character and special abilities are also fully understood. He was gifted with an unusual talent for organization. His active and retentive mind was an orderly one, and he was quick to see where reorganization was needed and to put it into effect. Physically, and spiritually, too, he was gifted with the power to attract others and to win their liking. He could co-operate with other people and make allowances and concessions which permitted the work to proceed without friction. Furthermore, it must not be forgotten that President Burton was one of the greatest and most persuasive orators of his day. His voice was a wonderful natural instrument, always completely under his control, and his platform appearance was compelling. It would have been a dangerous gift if it had been possessed by a man of less character and good sense.