University of Michigan PresidentsU_of_M_Presidents.html






The University of Michigan has a notable history. Its past is the occasion of just pride in the heart of every citizen of the state. The name of President James Burrill Angell is a synonym for educational statesmanship in America. The University today, its Faculties and students, its buildings, and Campus, give ample proof of the wise, and sagacious leadership of President Hutchins during the last decade. Since 1837, this University has filled a vital place in American education. For a generation its primacy among the state universities of our count try were conceded. That several highly important educational developments were initiated here is obvious to all who are familiar with the history of higher learning in America.

This University was founded and has been maintained by the state of Michigan. It therefore owes primary obligations to this state. However large it may become, or however attractive it may prove to students from all quarters of the globe, it finds its chief satisfaction in serving its own constituency. Nevertheless it shares with all of the colleges and universities of the land, represented here today, many common tasks of higher education. It counts it a rare honor to be numbered among these institutions.

The aims and functions of a true university, by the very nature and terms of the problem, defy definition. Even so, it is our privilege, upon occasions such as this, to ask ourselves a new just what we are attempting to do. Specifically, what do we conceive to be the function of the State University  I venture to answer that the function of the State University is to serve the state and through the state to serve the nation and the world.

This assertion requires of us, first, to make some appraisal, though necessarily incomplete, of the state; secondly, to at-tempt some critical estimate of the University; and finally, to suggest some forms of service which the University should render to the state.


Any complete appraisal here of the State of Michigan is quite impossible. We can, however, recognize certain considerations, which are pertinent to our discussion during this Conference.

The external facts are interesting simply because they serve as the basis for a marvelously beautiful and fascinating life. Here is a state the same size as England and Wales and one-fourth the size of France, inhabited, according to the census just completed, by three and two-thirds millions of people gathered from every land under the heavens.   Moreover, this state has the high honor and distinction of being one of the integral units of the United States of America, which must be numbered among the really great nations of all history.   Michigan gives to and receives from every state within the Union. She takes her color and quality from the whole nation. Strategically located in the very heart of America, within easy access of many of the chief centers of population, proud of possessing the fourth cit of the nation, conscious of her industrial power, she may be regarded as typically American. To appraise her is in reality to interpret America.

The vital facts are compelling because they tell us that here may be seen millions of people engaged in agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and commerce. They work and they attempt to play. They are prosperous, possessing now about six billion dollars worth of property. They desire to use rightly and wisely their leisure time. They are associated, perhaps unconsciously, and without any serious realization of its implications, in the task of community building. They have assumed the responsibilities of American citizenship. They have developed here a political, social, industrial, and educational order. Mighty problems have presented themselves for solution. The city of Detroit alone is spending this year thirty-one million dollars for her public schools. As we look at Michigan, we are thrilled by this heroic community, undaunted by its problems, and inspired by a great vision of its future.

America as a whole has made great contributions to this Middle West. If our Pilgrim forefathers were marked by independence, initiative, and moral insight, these characteristics have been especially necessary in the development of these great western empires. Along with the nation, the west must face problems and utilize opportunities which are apparent to every observer of American life.

Our country today is suffering from a lack of national unity. This statement does not need to be supported by statistical data, graphic charts, or long arguments. We are a polyglot people. We have been gathered from all of the nations of the earth. These peoples have come with varying traditions, differing religious beliefs, and with strange expectations. They have been confronted with stern realities rather than thrilling national hopes. They have experienced chilling disappointments and suffered from bitter disillusionments. And yet out of this heterogeneous mass we are making America. The war revealed in sharp outline our dangers. Sometimes a flash comes out of the dark pit of our social and economic world. But through it all, the war made us see the possibilities of a new order and illuminated our rough path with the enduring light which emanates from the eternal truths upon, which Democracy rests.

The striking fact about America is that more than any other nation she has been released from the past. Here is at once her strength and her weakness. Forward-looking movements in Europe are inevitably counterbalanced by the traditions of the past. In America, liberty easily becomes license, and freedom tends toward anarchy. At any rate, the plasticity of our entire social order is apparent.  Our detachment from the past has manifested itself in a curious disregard even for the laws enacted by ourselves and in a strange disrespect for the courts of our own making. With all of our worship of the individual, human life has been held a cheap thing. Arnold Bennett alludes to "that sublime, romantic contempt for law and for human life, which,  to the European, is the most disconcerting factor in the social evolution of your states." Our escape from ancient tyrannies and limitations has tended to soften our lives and to rob them of their rigor and vigor. The old Puritanical ideal of strictness and severity has been replaced by laxness and looseness. Luxury and extravagance have laid heavy penalties upon virility and militancy. Religious devotions have been replaced by riotous dancing, and hard work by happy play.  Hugo Munsterberg in his efforts to de-scribe the traits of Americans noted" everywhere the same willingness to do what the public likes, and nowhere the question what the public ought to have."

This separation from the past arises inevitably out of the conditions which gave birth to our nation and which have made possible its present prosperity. The one thing all Americans share is the future. A common hope has lured them on. The mastery of a great physical empire challenged every atom of their strength and courage. The establishment of free institutions commanded their best intellects. The creation of a new civilization required patriots, prophets, and statesmen. However much they may have loved the past the logic of events forced them to face the future. No doubt, many a natural conservative, who instinctively cherished the lessons of the past, was compelled by his American environment to live in a city without foundations whose main asset was its certain growth and whose chief glory was its future. Any effort to appraise America cannot neglect this remarkable fact that she has opportunity to become whatever her citizens desire to make her. She is clay in the hands of the potter. In a very unique sense she is free from the past and attached to the future.

The chemist would say that America is in a nascent state. She is just beginning to exist, to come into being, to develop, to lay hold on her own. We have made some show of political democracy. We need not confuse ourselves today by a recital of the terrible mistakes we have made in our efforts to set up a representative government. The corruption of our politics has at times become a stench in our nostrils. We take courage because our tendencies seem to be in the right direction. Socially, we have achieved results worthy of our democratic aims.  We have no actual class distinctions.   Men and women of ability are freely given the chance to pass from one group to another. Leisure classes are rapidly becoming extinct. Respectability no longer attaches to social parasites. Industrially, the situation is far less satisfactory. Undoubtedly, our paramount domestic problem centers in a more satisfactory application of the principles of democracy to the production and distribution of wealth. No single group sees this problem with greater clearness, nor with more concern, than those who represent the community as a whole. The public will become articulate sooner or later. It will not permit its interests to be sacrificed to conflicts between groups nor jeopardized by a continued series of compromises. From the standpoint of her artistic interests, America is showing most hopeful progress. In painting,  sculpture, architecture, and the drama, there is every evidence of a deepening appreciation of aesthetic values. America is actually beginning to grow. The war forced her into the conscious stage of self-definition. Today she is groping about for the way to higher levels of living. Just now we need the message which Lowell put into the mouth of Hosea Biglow, a message reminiscent of the days of shallow, superficial optimism, and crude, if not vulgar boasting:

"'Ef we're a goin' to prove we be growed up,  Twunt be by barkin' like a tarrier pup.  Rut turning 'to an' makin" things as good Ez wilt we're oilers braggin' that we could."

In America, a modern prophet could truthfully proclaim, "my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." At first thought, it may seem that, above all nations, America has a passion for education. We expend huge sums for the training of our youth. At the present moment more than twenty millions of children are being trained at public expense. Today as never before the people believe in the schools. The war revealed to literally millions of men that positions of leadership and opportunities for service go to the men of training and knowledge. But America suffers today from ignorance more than any other single tyranny. Our children may have knowledge of the facts necessary for individual living. Our youth may acquire professional training of high degree. Their minds, however, have not been focused upon those truths, which are so essential to a democratic community. The magnitude and diversity of our country accentuates the problem.

The multitude of our concerns smothers our social instincts. Preoccupation with personal affairs dulls our interest in community problems. Intense competition in business dealings tends to blur our vision. Marvelous possibilities for the promotion of basic enterprises of all sorts in widely separated areas compete with public mindedness. The disorganization arising out of a period of readjustment tends to erase ethical distinctions. Absence of actual contact with other groups and interests makes for narrow mindedness. Experience alone can banish provincialism. Positive lack of knowledge of American conditions is chiefly responsible for the continuation of some evils.   Failure to be intelligent upon public issues accounts for much of our weakness. The people need knowledge.

Back of these various aspects of American life lies the source of our unbounded confidence in the future. If we search for the possible greatness of America, it will be found not in the super-abundance of the things, which she possesses. It will be found rather in the ideals and hopes which have animated us from the beginning. We may speak of our marvelous physical empire and boast of our fertile fields and rich mines. We may allude to our great cities, our unsurpassed industrial development and our material prosperity. We may rejoice in our colleges, universities, and cathedrals. These things have value, however, just in proportion as they express the soul of America.

The very essence of Americanism is the supreme value which we place upon the individual. When we talk about freedom, equality, and opportunity, this is what we really mean. We are attempting actually to say that every man, woman, and child is infinitely valuable. We are insisting that nothing in all the universe can be compared to or should be given in exchange for a human being. We know that "a spark has disturbed our clod." We are among the final values of the universe. This confidence in the individual comes to practical expression in our national life. Every person is actually given a chance to become as large and useful as he was intended to be. This is Americanism. This is the promise that America makes and keeps.

Coupled with this reverence for personality is the ideal that work is noble. Here is America's contribution to the world's understanding of culture. We actually proceed upon the hypothesis that work is sacred. Every citizen is expected to do something. To be idle is unthinkable for a sane and healthy American.  This sense of the worth of work extends in all directions. It commands not service merely but achievement. It requires not only dull plodding, but courage. It demands that simple routine be transfused with heroism. For toil and thought it substitutes militancy and imagination.  It was personified in our generation by Theodore Roosevelt.

Here then is a hint of what America is. She must bear grievous burdens. She lacks unity. She has thrown off the limitations of the past and cast in her lot with the future. She is just coming into her own. She is terribly deficient in knowledge and experience. She is rich in faith and imagination. She believes in human beings and worships work.


We have said that the function of the state university is to serve the state, and through the state, to serve the nation and the world. It was essential for us, there-fore, even in a, very incomplete way, to ask ourselves what the state and nation are and what they need. Thus far we have attempted to interpret our national life. It now becomes necessary to make a similar appraisal of the university. We shall then, and only then, be in a position to venture some suggestions regarding the forms of service which the university can render to the state and nation.

What then is the University A stranger visiting this or any other institution of higher learning naturally begins by inquiring about the size of the campus, the number of buildings, the equipment of the laboratories and the facilities of the libraries. Very soon, however, he is asking about the size of the budget and the sources of income. To say that the University of Michigan has a campus of two hundred and sixty-one acres here in Ann Arbor, and for forestry, engineering and biological purposes owns in addition forty-two hundred acres, may suggest the magnitude of our work. To realize that approximately eleven millions of dollars are invested here in buildings and equipment is informing. To state roughly that the university budget reaches almost four millions of dollars this year indicates in a measure the scope of our activities.

Very soon, however, we discover that our vital interest is in the personnel. We are conscious of the enormous advantages accruing to the state, the students, and the University from the fact that the students come from every state of the Union and from thirty foreign countries. A national, cosmopolitan atmosphere is essential to broad culture and the development of a true sense of values. No greater service can be rendered to Michigan students than to give to them these opportunities for contacts with fellow students from all sections of the country and the world. To make the state of Michigan known intimately to groups of well-trained leaders in all the nations must inevitably produce immeasurable benefits for the industries and commerce of the state. One of the elements of greatness in this University is the unique way in which she has served an ever-increasing world constituency. Moreover, the University of Michigan enjoys the reputation of possessing one of the largest groups of living alumni and former students, numbering about fifty thousand and scattered throughout the entire world. Our deepest interest, however, must center in the teaching and investigating staff. To be told that they number six hundred and fifty is enlightening.   To remember the work they have done, to appreciate the contributions they havemade to learning, and to recognize the powerful stimulus that they have been to all that is highest and best in our civilization helps us to realize why Michigan believes in higher learning. It is only necessary to add that just as the state is an integral part of the nation, so too this University occupies a dignified place in the republic of letters. The casual superficial observer might pause here and say these facts tell us what the University is.

If our visitor were to remain for a semester he would doubtless replace these facts by his impressions of what really goes on here. He would begin to note the various forms of actual work in which men and women are engaged. At first he would be impressed with the teaching load, which the Faculties carry. Ten thousand and more students attending hundreds of different courses mean hard work for the teachers. Then he would begin to observe the very worthy and commendable emphasis placed upon investigation. He would discover here that if a man is to retain the real respect of his colleagues he must occasionally at least give some tangible evidence of his mastery of his own field. Ultimately he would come to appreciate why the problem of vital research lies so close to the heart of the real university man. He would understand why such sacrifices are made in the name of learning and the advancement of science. He would conclude that no institution can lay claim to the title of University unless it is making contributions to the world's knowledge.

Moreover, he would gradually recognize that the activities of the University are not limited to teaching and investigation. He would find that the institution is rendering the greatest variety of service to the state through its hospitals,  clinics, laboratories, museums, and extension service. He would finally sense aclear determination to have the University actually meet at every point the demands of the state. He would recognize limitations due to inadequate equipment and funds, but few arising from failure to understand our primary obligations to Michigan.

If this visitor remained for a year he would find himself going deeper and deeper into university life and sensing more and more fully the marvelously intricate and complex thing, which thrives upon, this campus. Sooner or later he would assay a mental venture to which there would be no ending. Especially if he should interrupt his visit at the University by a trip out into the "real world," he would be compelled to think upon this subject. He will discover upon the campus a most powerful and enigmatic influence. He will never be able to fathom it. It never congeals. It is subtle, irritating, and withal extremely delightful. It has occasioned more discussion,  done more good, and wrought more harm than any other single influence. It is the "academic mind." I shall attempt no definition of it. If you know it by experience I cannot add to your knowledge. If you do not know it you are to be congratulated and commiserated. All in all, I should prefer to defend rather than to attack the academic mind. I should not want to be the president of any university, which did not suffer from this disease in chronic form. It makes for stability, for sound weighing of evidence, for scientific scholarship, for the absence of sentimentalism, and for a frank recognition of the power of the mind.

On the other hand, it is guilty of some delightful and confusing results. To be ascholar, a man must put the emphasis on his own special field. Difficulty arises, however, when this emphasis becomes excessive, when there is no adequate planning of curricula and when little if anything is done to help the student really understand that knowledge is a unity. The bewildered student apparently is never able to reunite the disjecta membra of his thought world and to fashion them into the living reality we call life. It is because of these results that the academic mind is berated. It inevitably engenders aloofness; occasions the lack of a general sense of humor and minimizes those plain, humble, human characteristics that we look for in all men.

I am inclined to believe that we must charge against the academic mind much of the dead formalism, and mechanical externality of American education. I should dislike to tell here all that I think of the various systems of admission, which have been in vogue in our universities. Surely by these methods we have not intended to find real college material,  but rather to encourage the accumulation of credits which will serve as a ticket of admission. At any rate, we have not encouraged intellectual interests and recognized vital facts, which do not appear in record sheets. Character, purpose, and spirit are more important than the skill to pass examinations or the ability to secure a diploma.

When the student is once in the university, he is face to face, though he sees through a glass darkly, with the academic mind. The atmosphere of the average classroom is not stimulating and inspiring. Henry Adams gave an accurate portrayal of the situation when he said, referring to the Harvard students: "All were respectable, and in seven years of contact, Adams never had cause to complain of one; but nine minds in ten take polish passively like a hard surface; only the tenth sensibly reacts." Doubtless a variety of causes produces this general situation and it is manifestly unfair to attribute it all to a single force. But we cannot deny the fact that the party primarily responsible for the entire situation is a frequent victim of the academic mind.

Surely the examination system now employed in American universities is a symptom of the same ailment. We ask the student to pursue a variety of courses and then submit to a series of examinations. If he is reasonably successful he piles away his credits like so much wood that he has sawed. He repeats the process eight times and we give him a diploma.   If we have been searching for a method of killing intellectual curiosity and a genuine spirit of inquiry we have been diabolically successful. If our aim is to convince the student that knowledge comes in chunks, that if it starts to melt or evaporate, it must be confined in water-tight or air-tight compartments,  and that knowledge consists of separate fields bearing no relationship to the fascinating reality of life, then our methods justify the procedure. If to become educated is to center one's interest on acquiring enough credits to receive a diploma,  then we have succeeded in quantity production beyond even the experts of the industrial world. If education is completed at Commencement, then we are dealing with a real paradox which I understand to be something that is apparently absurd yet true. If a man engages in study for the purpose of charging his mind once and for all, and if on Commencement Day he disconnects intellectually from the source of power, then again there is occasion for just pride. It is not strange that the word "academic" has come to stand not for broad culture and vital activity but for a general aloofness from life and a theoretical detachment from the world of action. Some such results as these may, with justice, be attributed to the academic mind. As we have already intimated, there is much that might be said in its favor but the emphasis is doubtless where we have endeavored to put it.

But our stranger would, if he remained long enough, endeavor to find out what goes on inside the head of the average undergraduate. By adopting this method in his effort to appraise the university he would come very close to the actual facts.   He would discover that the student lives in his own world of reality. And it is a very fascinating and challenging world!  Instinctively sensing the unreality of the academic world the student promptly builds one of his own. Like any real man, he is primarily concerned about the judgments of his colleagues. He seeks an outlet for his initiative and resourcefulness. So he organizes his student activities and gives to them his primary interests. He never questions the wisdom of this procedure. If you desire to know what a student really wants and what actually commands his attention, it is only necessary to watch the use he makes of his leisure time. College supposedly is a place where a man is set free from the usual demands of life in order that he may come into contact with the rarest spirits of all time. In reality it is four years of leisure, of unhurried association with scholars! It is a time when a man finds himself and his friends, develops his sense of values and browses among the best books of all the centuries! If this suggests the way the student uses his leisure then we know where he finds his deepest satisfaction and his real world!  Frankly, he regards his university work as secondary, if not tertiary, and finds a satisfying outlet for his energy and genius in athletics, dramatics, journalism,  and student government. Perhaps the highest test which American universities will ever be asked to meet lies just in this realm. Is there any method by which a student world can be developed in which the scholar, the thinker, and the writer will be just as highly honored as the man who achieves distinction in football. It will be noted that we have not ventured to hope that he might receive even greater plaudits. Legitimate sport deserves every encouragement. Youth must have an adequate outlet for its abounding energies.   Physical education is essential to the public health. There is no reason, however, why the ostensible work of the university should be relegated to a secondary position. Other nations have succeeded in placing the emphasis properly. The Englishman owes his success in the great war very largely to his genuine sense of sportsmanship. Nevertheless the games and races at the English universities are not neither primary nor all absorbing. Intellectual achievement carries off the first honors. The American students' world of reality is the inevitable counterpart of the "academic" mind.

But our visitor and critic, having sensed all of these things, if he possesses real discrimination, will not conclude his appraisal at this point. Beneath all of these tendencies he will detect a mighty undertone that can never be entirely silenced. Through the rattle and clamor of student activities, back of the endless ratio cinations of academic minds, there shine the abiding realities of true university ideals. Here men know the freedom of the truth. Ancient tyrannies may still oppress the multitudes. New monarchs may arise to enslave men. Others may enjoy great wealth. The University man possesses his mind and soul in self-respect. He will brook no interference with his untrammeled search for truth in all fields. Regardless of the consequences to preconceived notions, prejudices or superstitions, he goes calmly on his way patiently, painstakingly seeking for knowledge. His joy is to banish ignorance. His only fear is error; his deepest satisfaction is truth. He kneels at the shrine of truth. If one desires to understand the depth of this spirit, let him venture to rob the academic man of his freedom. Let one suggest that investigation shall be limited and the professor shall be muzzled if one desires to know how adamant is his devotion to science and how inviolate are his ideals of freedom.   No, the university, with all of its short-comings, stands as the impregnable citadel of truth. It can never be shaken without irreparable injury to society. In this era of industrial turmoil and social unrest, when mankind must cut its way through the twisted materials of a rudely shaken social order, the university, with its open and free search of truth, stands as the bulwark of civilization. The professor may not constantly affirm this solemn reality, but to him it is more in violate than life itself.

Consequently, through experience, he knows the power of knowledge. He has a perfectly amazing confidence in the value of facts and the worth of the mind.  He proceeds upon the Socratic doctrine that knowledge is virtue. He is certain that his mission in life is to help youth catch some glimpse of the value of intellectual ability. Just now his convictions are buttressed by the war experiences of millions of American men. They actually discovered in the war that mind is the master of mankind. They are hungry for information. They are crowding all of the schools of the nation because they want knowledge, which means life. Today as never before the critic who studies the American university will find in full operation these potent forces. University ideals are the sternest facts with, which states and civilizations finally deal.  The university says that man can recognize no master but the truth and that mind is a mighty force making for rich and abundant life. Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.

Our stranger and critic, if his stay has been sufficiently prolonged, will conclude his visit in a genuinely optimistic mood.  Without glossing over the limitations of the university he will be conscious of its elements of strength, charmed by its enduring ideals and thrilled by its changing status. He will recognize a fine new spirit among the Faculties. For large numbers of these men have been out in the vital world of action rendering invaluable war service. Two results have followed. The professor has learned in a most surprising and satisfying fashion that he possesses wares, which command large returns in the open market. The world has discovered that the professors' training,  knowledge, and capacity for solving new problems are qualities indispensible to the nation. The public has put a higher mark on the theoretical professor. He in turn has reassumed his university relationships with new ideas, broader out-looks, and more confident of the eternal truth of his convictions. These facts combined with the lessons our boys learned in the Army, has given our country an almost pathetic confidence in the universities. Consequently men of affairs everywhere understand that these institutions of higher learning must be reckoned with. There was a time when the practical man of the world and the Successful Business Man silently ignored a university. That day is gone for our generation, if not forever. On the one hand we find abounding confidence in education, and on the other, a tendency to scrutinize carefully, if not to criticize severely, the whole system of public instruction. That the status of the university has been changed remarkably by the war is indisputable. Its position was never so secure, its opportunities never so challenging and its obligations never so heavy as at this very hour.

Here then is the university. Possessing equipment of lands and buildings, watched over by men of great training and scholarship, it has committed to itscare the most precious assets of the state—the citizens of tomorrow. Afflicted with all the maladies of the academic mind,  hypnotized by the students' world of reality, stabilized by the ennobling and ancient ideals of all true universities, it finds itself suddenly elevated into a unique position of leadership and directly sharing responsibility for the standards of a rapidly changing civilization.


We have now reached the point where we can ask ourselves specifically what we mean when we say that the university must serve the state. Not until we had attempted some statement of the needs of the state and had ventured upon some appraisal of the university as the instrument to be used could we with any clarity or cogency indicate just the forms of service which we are convinced should be rendered.

If we remind ourselves why the American people established the public school,  we shall understand the logic and sanity of our thesis that the state university exists to serve the state. We may with advantage go back into the eighteenth century when this whole region was a part of the Northwest Territory. In the Ordinance of 1787, with great foresight,  it was affirmed that "Religion, morality,  and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of man kind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." Even a superficial study of the history of Michigan reveals from the very beginning a firm purpose to organize a university.  Even before we became a state, provisions were made for an institution of higher learning. On August 26, 1817, the governor and judges of the territory passed an act looking to the establishment of the University of Michigan. On April 30, 1821, this act was superceded by the provisions for a corporate body to be known as "The Trustees of the University of Michigan." In 1837, the State Legislature authorized the organization of this institution. In 1838, the Revised Statutes provided for the establishment of the University and stated its purpose in the following terms: "The object of the University shall be to provide the inhabitants of the State with the means of acquiring a thorough knowledge of the various branches of literature, science, and the arts." These plans of the State of Michigan are typical of the convictions held by the American people as a whole. Daniel Webster once solemnly avowed that "on the diffusion of education among the people rests the preservation and perpetuation of our free institutions." Speaking historically, then, Americans have expected their schools to serve the state. The Great War has made this truth a part of our popular convictions.   No arguments upon this subject are needed today. We now appreciate both intellectually and emotionally the fact that the future of our American democracy depends upon a high level of intelligence among all the people.

I therefore venture to affirm that a new day must dawn in American higher education. All of us have been feeling our way gradually toward this conclusion.  Anyone who has been close to the people during the years of the war realizes that educators are expected to understand America and to interpret her. I am convinced that in serving the state we must aim consciously and deliberately to assume our share of responsibility for the new American civilization that inevitably must develop in this period of re-adjustment. Our universities have failed to focus. We have discussed and advocated all kinds of educational aims but none has gripped the imagination of all of us and none today emerges as pre-dominant and comprehensive. That education must serve the state is a doctrine that has been proclaimed many times and in many places. The years of the war,  however, have burned it into our souls.   Education simply must serve America.   This University cannot escape from its primary responsibilities to the people as a whole. Professor Jay William Hudson of the University of Missouri has given us recently one of the most stimulating formulations of this educational aim. In his book entitled "The College and New America," he defends logically and with real passion this thesis: "The aim of American education is to produce a definite American social order, in relation to a definite world order." I believe we can say to ourselves, to our students, and to the public that our institutions of higher learning exist in a very definite and compelling fashion to help in the establishment of the new American civilization.   And we must say it, not only at inaugural exercises and annual gatherings, but also in Regents' meetings, classrooms, public assemblies and even in Faculty meetings.  We must actually do the thing rather than formulate it in nebulous and vanishing flourishes of rhetoric.

Precisely then what does this aim involve In one sense it will be merely therebirth of original American intentions. It will bring us back to the principles upon, which our educational system was established. Translated into the terms of our day it will mean that this versatile,  complex, growing, pulsating entity which we call "America" must be welded into a unified whole. It means that we must deliberately attack the problem arising out of our lack of national unity. We are sprawling and amorphous. The latest reports upon immigration show that the state of Michigan next to California is receiving the largest numbers of new immigrants. Here is a part of our University problem if we are consciously and deliberately aiming to assume our share of responsibility for the new American order. We must weld all these divergent elements into a coherent, consistent, harmonious whole. The entire problem of Americanization confronts us at this point.

To share in this gigantic task demands unusual insight and, if you please, philosophical power. Some one must ascertain what are America's flaming desires and intense yearnings and direct them into proper channels. Some one must drag out into the full light of day the most serious national and international obligations that rest upon our people and focus public attention upon them. American thought needs clear direction to its opportunities in establishing the standards of its new day. There is no advantage in chiding Americans for their crudities and vulgarities. New types of culture are being developed in this forward-looking nation. She is attached to tomorrow. Our function is to select the permanent values and idealize them.  America must have interpretation. If we may judge the interests and spirit of our people by the things they do most, we must begin to understand moving pictures, dancing, motorcars, and machinery. There is no need of railing against these things. Mighty elements of truth are written in capital letters all over these factors of American life. The "academic mind" may not see it but the college professor of today discerns it. The university must interpret American life. Its universal tendencies must be reckoned with. It is possible to give the people at one and the same time what they want and what they ought to have. To accept literally and spiritually this aim of American education, which assumes obligations to the civilization of tomorrow requires the most human, scientific, philosophical approach to the whole problem of culture as it is to be solved in America. John Dewey was quite right when he wrote "that there is perhaps no better definition of culture than that it is the capacity for constantly expanding in range and accuracy one's perception of meanings." The University must expand to the breaking point the range of its understanding of American life as it is today. The usually accepted standards of accuracy applied at this point would produce a remarkable forward movement. America must have unification, direction, and interpretation. Here in lies the specific duty of the university.

But what will such leadership require Back of any successful effort in this field there must be first of all a real understanding, or if you prefer, some clear definition, of America. But America cannot be defined. The only permanent thing about her is that she is in a constant state of flux. Even so, today we have more sources to which we may turn with confidence than ever before. Information is actually available. Not only do our histories, our constitutions, state and national, and our official records contain first hand and authoritative statements, but during the war America came nearer to finding herself than ever before. Confronted with the exigencies of war, we knew what America meant. The morale of our armies was based upon an actual appreciation of American ideals. They were no hazy, unreal, vague generalities.   They were incisive, clear cut, and compelling facts. They were the personification of definiteness. They were gripping enough to make red-blooded, clear-headed American boys willing to die for them.  We know what America is today or we never shall know. When we set up our "War Aims Course" as a part of the Students Army Training Corps no one seemed to fear that we had nothing to say. The best professors in all subjects in all American universities knew what America stood for and what she was. It is for America now in times of peace that we must assume consciously our share of responsibility.

Now some one will say that this is a curious point of view. It will be objected that we defeated Germany just because she brought up a generation in accordance with this very theory. Such an objection is born of the failure to see that America and Germany were grounded in totally different philosophies of life.  There is no conflict between whole-hearted Americanism and a proper interpretation of the individual and mankind.  In fact, America is established upon the universal and eternal truth that every person is of supreme worth. The citizen does not exist for the state. To aim at the enrichment of the new American order is to seek the best interests of all men and all nations.

If the University, however, is to render this service; it will require something more than a definition of America. Certain new qualities must enter into our very life and atmosphere. The detachment and aloofness of the "academic mind" must give way to a new sympathy with all groups. More imagination is needed. We must have faith in American deeds, American spirit, and American hopes. A new type of morale must arise.  Without sacrificing our scholarly aims or our cautious intellectualism, we must rise to meet America today as we did in the days of war. We did not lose our self-respect then. In fact many of us found life infinitely more worthwhile. In reality our quality of sportsmanship must be called into full action. We must be able to see the future through all the disconcerting and even disgusting tricks of the American game as played today. George A. Gordon caught the right vision when he said: "Out of this composite land—this nation gathered from every people under heaven, rags and tatters and dirt and all, I believe that the Eternal Spirit will evolve and establish the most gifted,  the most far-shining and the mightiest people in the world."

Now with this as the aim of our service to be rendered to the state, let us. Ask precisely what concrete things should be done, what changes are necessary, and just what methods must be adopted.  Purely by way of illustration and with no thought of offering either a complete or adequate program, I suggest four things:

1. The work and teaching of the university should be unified with our primary aim in full view. If we are to serve the American order and to keep this purpose consciously before us, it will give point to all of our instruction. It will help, if not compel, the university to focus. Specifically it will demand that some effort shall be made to correlate the courses offered. In some way the student will be given such guidance that he will see the relationship of his courses to one another, to knowledge as a whole,  and to life in its most practical relationships. Quietly but inevitably he will begin *to have convictions. He will see, if he is a self-respecting man, that he must begin to live for America just as his colleagues died for her. It will awaken him to new responsibilities. He will see that this is a real place, vitally connected with the mightiest proposal the world has ever known. He will instinctively understand that Democracy, just as much as military life, requires backbone. He will develop moral fibre. He will banish slouchiness of every form. Laziness, mediocrity, and smattering will give way to work, quality, and a thorough mastery of a few vital things. Such results are just as possible as the present realities of student life. In fact, to the college man of this generation they are more nearly possible.

2. The curricula of our various schools and colleges within the University must be definitely directed toward community needs. In fact this tendency is already in full tide. The College of Literature, Science, and Arts is accepting its obligations to society. It recognizes that it must serve the state through the professional training of the high school teacher. Upon this campus are those subject-matter departments which, properly correlated with professional training courses, can render an inestimable service to Michigan life and meet a long deferred and earnest desire of the schoolmen of the state. A similar tendency is manifested in the courses in business administration. The College of Engineering is conscious of the necessity of broadening and liberalizing its training.   It has seen that more emphasis must be placed upon problems of management,  upon the economic side of production,  and upon all those phases of engineering which make for community improvement. The present emphasis upon highway construction and transportation is a very pertinent illustration. The School of Law recognizes its obligations in adjusting the law to the changing social order. Real leadership in this highly important field simply must emerge from our law schools. Our Schools of Medicine have long since shifted the emphasis to preventive medicine. They see the vital importance of public health service and more and more are thinking in terms of group and community medicine. Dentistry is no longer concerned chiefly about the training of the "tooth carpenter" but sees its responsibilities to the general health of the individual and its bearings upon public hygiene. These statements represent marvelous shiftings of emphasis. They indicate clearly that by giving this direction to our various curricula we are attempting to assume our responsibilities to American life.

3. The University must utilize definitely its equipment and personnel for research work in solving the problems of the state. In fact this University should be the research center of the state. Questions of all kinds and descriptions immediately related to the welfare of the people must be answered. The actual organization here of an Industrial Research Laboratory in co-operation with the Michigan Manufacturers' Association is an illustration of the application of this principle. All results of research work will be published. By these plans the University relates itself directly to the industrial welfare of the state without in any sense violating its obligations to any group.

Just so in every realm, the University should serve the people. With every problem of government, economics, sociology, art, and education, the University should concern itself. In a word, it should become the thinking, investigating,  philosophizing center of the common wealth.

No one need interpose here that this violates the cardinal principle of learning for learning's sake. Research activities of the kind described will only stimulate investigation of every type. We must never lose sight of the fact that the quality of civilization waits upon discovery,  invention and research. A true university as distinguished from a college must function mightily in this respect or it fails utterly. To aim at genuine service to the people through the solution of all types of problems can only give vitality and power to our graduate work.

4. Finally the University must permeate the state with knowledge. The people of today as never before understand the power that accrues to anyone who has the facts and the propertraining. The people are literally hungry for knowledge. The British Labor Party showed statesmanship when it affirmed that we must aim to "bring effectively within the reach not only of every boy and girl, but also of every adult citizen, all the training, physical, mental, and moral, literary, technical, and scientific, of which he is capable." Such an ideal is democracy applied to education. For the university it takes the form of extension service. Such a division requiresvery little in the way of its own teaching staff. In fact its instructional work should be done by those who are regular members of the university Faculties. Knowledge is one. We cannot tolerate one type for the campus and another for the state.  The mutual benefits are not to be ignored.  To become a successful extension teacher would vitalize a man's campus instruction. This University must come into closer contact with all of the schools of the state. They are making the citizens of tomorrow. We must be of vital service in recruiting the teaching profession.  Groups of progressive business men throughout the state need and desire various business courses. We should attempt the training of social service workers, including fieldwork and co-operation with the various departments of county, municipal, and state govern mints. There are limitless possibilities of wise and valuable cooperation with all kinds of private enterprises. Our Extension Division has done and is doing much. It deserves high approbation. It now needs adequate support and recognition. These aims may call for a clearer demarcation between university work and the duties of executive departments of our government. They may even suggest the necessity of new units in our educational system. But in the meantime, if we consciously aim to assume our share of the responsibility for the new America, we must remember that knowledge is the property of every man. In a word, we pretend to believe that men must be free. They are only free when they know how to live wisely and understand how to govern themselves justly and efficiently. In our appraisal of America we said that her greatest tyrant was ignorance. If now we are to serve her, we must give her knowledge.

Here then are four suggestive possibilities of the specific type of service which the University can and must render to the state if it is to be worthy of its history, its opportunities, and its ideals.


I am quite conscious that the main proposals of this address have far-reaching ramifications. I am equally aware that I have left many questions untouched and some of our most serious problems unsolved. A man cannot remake the universe or even the educational world with words in a short half hour. A wise administrator must often use an inaugural address to conceal not revealing all of his education fads, frills and fancies! I appreciate the fact that some things at, which I have hinted today, if carried out, , would involve radical changes in our educational system. The necessity of economy of time in education is very pressing. Two or three years for every one of our millions of youth might be saved.  The startling problem of growth may call for new units in our educational machinery. Junior Colleges may make a temporary reduction of enrollment in the first two years but they will only accentuate the problem in its ultimate form. Cooperation with all kinds of enterprises may assist materially in reducing the expenses of education and contribute mightily to the more thorough unification of the state.

In conclusion, it is quite useless to observe as usual that we must acquire a new sense of individual responsibility,  unless we actually point our finger at the individual. With considerable audacity and abandon I desire to express the belief that the professor is the man who can turn this trick. He is at the center of the stage. Sometimes we maintain the illusion that Regents, Presidents, Deans,  Alumni, or Students are primarily to blame for existing conditions. If we forget the question of praise and blame, and face the future with its luring possibilities, we must crown the teaching professor today. As one of his own group, Professor Hudson, has said so wisely: "Our ultimate hope is in the college professor himself." Alluding to necessary changes in education he affirms, "no such reform is likely to be permanently effective,  unless it emerges directly from the aggressive convictions of the college professor himself."

Here then is our message today. The function of the State University is to serve the state, and through the state to serve America and the world. I like to re-read Henry Van Dyke's poem entitled claimed: "Home Thoughts from Europe." When he wrote it he had a proper perspective of America.  With all his appreciation of Europe he could not smother his native American instincts and so he exclaimed:

"But life is in the Present, and the future must be free;

We love our for what she is and what she is to be.”

The Michigan Alumnus

Oct 1920, page 17-32