THE Alumni University as it has developed at the University of Michigan forms one aspect of a broad plan designed to carry the educational and intellectual stimulation of student days into postcollegiate years. In concrete form it carries on an idea first expressed by President Clarence Cook Little, who advocated a broad program in continuing educational effort based on a co-operative movement on the part of both the University and the alumni, to which he gave the name of the Alumni University.
Upon the establishment of the Bureau of Alumni Relations in 1929, one of the first projects to be planned was a week of lectures and classes for such alumni as desired to return to the University for a period of recreative study under conditions similar to those of their student days. Such a project had been tried with great success by President William Mather Lewis at Lafayette College the previous year, under the name of the Alumni College. This was attended by Wilfred B. Shaw, at that time with the American Association for Adult Education, and on his return to Ann Arbor as Director of Alumni Relations he made plans for a similar project, the first to be held in a large institution.
The first session began on Tuesday, June 24, 1930, and ended on Saturday, June 28. Ten courses in all were given — American History, Modern Art, Heredity, the Far East, the Symphony, Investments, Geology, Aesthetics, Landscape Design, and Contemporary Drama — with five lectures in each course. In addition, there were special programs in the evenings, including a reception in the William L. Clements Library, lectures, and plays in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater. The attendance at this first session was seventy-two.
In the ensuing years the attendance grew slowly. Although the general program of courses remained about the same, different members of the University faculty were asked each year to give the courses. In the 1938 session, the courses were grouped roughly into three sections: the World Abroad, which included a program of four lectures each on the Far East, the European Crisis, the Situation in Spain, and the Near East; Contemporary Society, with Monetary Policy, Security, and the Youth Problem; and finally, Science and the Arts, in which Evolution of the Earth, the Symphony, Modern Architecture, and Modern Drama completed the program.
The Alumni University has always opened on the afternoon of Monday of the week between Commencement and the summer session. At the 1938 session 115 alumni were registered, many of whom had attended previous sessions. The students represent all classes and divisions of the University, and in addition, a number of graduates of other institutions are always in attendance.
The programs have generally been arranged to meet the varied interests of a widely diversified group of college graduates, as well as to emphasize contemporary thought and problems. Reading lists have been furnished by the members of the faculty who gave the courses, and notes of some of the more recent lecture series have been published and distributed to those who have asked for them.
Since the establishment of alumni week at Lafayette College and at the University of Michigan, many other colleges and universities have begun similar efforts in alumni education. Although Page 341some institutions have been content with short programs of single lectures by different members of their faculties, the program of the University of Michigan has been unique in its emphasis on courses of lectures in related subjects rather than on single lectures. This integration has given a greater solidity to the work and has vitalized its serious educational purpose. The fee of ten dollars and the duration of the series for six days have limited the enrollment somewhat as compared with the attendance at similar enterprises in some other institutions.
The evening programs in recent years have included plays, an open house by President and Mrs. Ruthven, and visits to the Observatory, the William L. Clements Library, and the University Museums.
No Alumni University was held in 1937 because of the week's centennial celebration of the establishment of the University in Ann Arbor held in June of that year. The Alumni University, in June, 1938, was the first educational body to utilize the facilities of the newly dedicated Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies.