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The forms of education, which a university conducts apart from its regular schedule of academic and professional courses for students who live in the university community and devote their full time to study, come under the head of university extension service. Throughout the greater part of the nineteenth century certain adult education activities that have since been undertaken by the universities were being carried on outside such institutions. Among the speakers on lecture programs in the United States — lyceum programs, for example — were members of university faculties. In one sense they "represented" their institutions, for which reason the institutions were glad to have them take part in the work, but it appears that the universities left the planning and financing of such programs in the hands of separate organizations or of individual managers.

The event which may be regarded as the beginning of university extension work, in the strict sense of the term, occurred in England in 1867, when regular courses on the history of astronomy were offered, chiefly for workers, under the auspices of Cambridge University but outside the city of Cambridge. These courses were given in Manchester and in three other English cities by Professor James Stuart, a member of the Cambridge University faculty. The new kind of instruction was taken up by Oxford and other English universities, and also in Continental Europe, where, particularly in the Scandinavian countries, it was greatly developed.

At least as early as in the administration of President Haven, 1863-69, and possibly in the time of his predecessor, President Tappan, the University of Michigan was interested in the public-lecture movement. Andrew D. White, who joined the faculty in 1857 and left for the presidency of Cornell University in the very year when direct university sponsorship of adult education was begun abroad, has recorded having lectured frequently in the cities of Michigan and of neighboring states. He wrote:

“It was the culminating period of the popular-lecture system, and through the winter months my Friday and Saturday evenings were generally given to this sort of duty. It was, after its fashion, what in these days [he was writing in 1906] is called "university extension"; indeed, the main purpose of those members of the faculty thus invited to lecture was to spread the influence of the university.”

(White, I: 268-69.)

As a part of the same system and for the sake of the University — although the University's interest was probably not more than semiofficial — Professor White entertained the visiting lecturers in his home on the campus. He regarded the friendships which he made on tour, and also the privileges of having such men as Emerson and Bayard Taylor at his fireside and of bringing them into closer relations with the students and faculty, as more than compensating for the difficulties he underwent in lecturing outside Ann Arbor at a time when transportation itself was a difficult problem.

The first plan for university extension work in the United States known to be comparable to the Cambridge venture was that presented at a librarians' meeting in 1887 by Professor Herbert Adams of Johns Hopkins University, but the first university in this country actually to follow the lead of Cambridge and Oxford was the University of Chicago. When this institution, completely reorganized, opened its doors in the fall of 1892 under the presidency of William Rainey Harper, extension service constituted one of the five principal University divisions. Within a month, the University of Michigan was invited to join with other "western" universities to form a University Extension Association, but the invitation was "respectfully declined" by the faculty of the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

This decision was based upon a year's experience in extension work, the administration and faculty having launched an extension program, which had been outlined by a faculty committee and approved by the Regents in November 1891. President Angell had foreseen many difficulties, which the University was scarcely prepared to meet, and set them forth in his annual report of 1892, as follows:

“So much public interest was evinced in what is called the work of University Extension that early in the college year the Literary Faculty matured a plan for entering upon it, and the plan received your [i.e., the Regents'] approval. It contemplated the offering of courses of lectures by members of the Faculty at a moderate rate to local organizations in towns and cities not too remote from us. Several of our professors offered their services at considerable inconvenience to themselves. Courses consisting of six lectures each were given at Detroit, East Saginaw, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Hillsdale, and Toledo. Professor Demmon lectured on English Literature, Professor Adams on Political Economy, Professor Carhart on Electricity, Professor Hudson on the German Empire, Professor Steere on Zoology, and Professor Scott on Art. Quizzes and examinations were held on the subjects of the lectures. The experiment showed that there is at present a certain demand for such instruction, and the examination papers indicated, in the opinion of the lecturers that a considerable number of the hearers were much profited by it. It is, perhaps, too early to say whether the interest in such lectures, which are given primarily for instruction rather than entertainment, is to be abiding. It is clear that the lecturers find the task, taken in addition to their regular duties, rather a heavy draught on their strength. It is also impossible for them to discharge this duty without some absence from their classes here. … It seems worthwhile, even at the cost of a little inconvenience, to repeat the experiment of last winter. Should, however, the demand for University Extension teaching become as general as some anticipate it will, it would be beyond our power to meet it, unless provision should be made for special lecturers who could give a large part of their time to the work. We can safely postpone for the present the consideration of that subject. It is, however, desirable to call attention to the fact that there is a limit to the amount of this outside work, which a College Faculty can do without injustice to the regular college classes. The public should understand this if we fail to respond to all the calls they may make upon us for courses of lectures.”

(P.R., 1892, pp. 12-13.)

After the first year, Kalamazoo and Hillsdale were dropped from the list, but Cadillac was added. A brief restatement of President Angell's point of view in his annual report of 1894 was the last official reference to this project, the University's earliest genuine extension work. In 1897-98, however, by agreement with the Michigan State Board of Agriculture and at no cost to itself, the University sent out several professors to speak at the farmers' county institutes.

Extension work received no further attention for more than a decade, but was again brought before the Regents by President Hutchins in 1911. He apparently did this at least partly at the instigation of the Michigan Anti-Tuberculosis Association, which desired the University to conduct a preventive campaign.

After the subject had been considered at several meetings of the Regents, the sum of ten thousand dollars was allocated to extension service in the regular budget for 1911-12. In October 1911, an administrative plan for the work was adopted. The President and the deans comprised a committee, which selected the lecture subjects. The President personally directed the work.

Three objectives of the new extension service were set forth in the original announcement: (1) to serve the general cause of education and the advancement of culture, (2) to serve local communities insofar as the technical and experimental knowledge of the men doing university work might be available, and (3) to acquaint the members of the various faculties with local conditions throughout the state. Traveling expenses and a fee of twenty dollars for each lecture were paid to the speaker. Only the local costs were borne by the society or organization under whose auspices a lecture was given.

The Regents created the part-time position of director of University extension work in June 1912, and appointed William D. Henderson ('03, Ph.D. '06), then Junior Professor of Physics. His connection with this work came about partly by chance. One day while passing President Hutchins' door he had been called in by the President, who said: "I have here a letter from a place called Gwinn, asking for a lecture on city planning. Where is Gwinn?" Henderson, who had formerly lived at Petoskey, replied that Gwinn is a small mining town in the Upper Peninsula, between Escanaba and Negaunee. "Why in the world," asked the President, "should a small town in the Upper Peninsula want a lecture on city planning?" Henderson explained that this was a newly organized mining community, and that some of the local leaders, instead of allowing the miners' houses to grow up in a hit-or-miss way, as is common in mining communities, had conceived the idea of building a model town. With this in mind, it was natural that they should call upon the University for expert counsel and advice.

President Hutchins was so impressed by the circumstances under which the request had been made that he asked Henderson to give a half-day each week to the consideration of requests for extension lectures. This half day a week grew into two days a week, and by 1918 the extension work had grown to such proportions that he was asked to sever his connection with the Department of Physics and accept a new appointment as Professor and Director of the Extension Division.

Begun as an auxiliary service of the President's Office, extension work in the University of Michigan has now become a task that involves the direction of the off-campus activities of some ten University bureaus and co-operation with them. It reaches every part of the state and brings the University directly or indirectly into contact with more than a million people every year. The University Extension Service furnishes single lectures and series of lectures outside Ann Arbor, radio broadcasts from the campus, and systematic extension courses conducted in person, as well as correspondence study courses and intensive short courses in Ann Arbor of the nature of conventions, known as institutes. It participates in the activities of the joint committee on health education and in those of the Michigan High School Forensic Association, described below, and, through the Library, furnishes library extension service.

When William D. Henderson reached his seventieth birthday in the autumn of 1936 he expressed the wish to retire from active service. The Regents granted this request, effective with the beginning of the second semester, and gave him the title, Professor Emeritus and Director Emeritus of the University Extension Division. When the Division of Extramural Services was set up in January, 1937 (see Part II: Division of Extramural Services), the University Extension Division was renamed University Extension Service, and Charles A. Fisher (DePauw '10, Ph.D. Michigan '30), Assistant Director for the previous ten years, was designated Director, beginning with the second semester of 1936-37.

Extension lectures. — At first, as requests were received, a few extension lectures were given by members of the faculty. The work has gradually grown. Representatives of the University now speak in many localities of the state on various subjects related to their specialties. For several years more than six hundred lectures a year were given — approximately four hundred of these by members of the regular University faculty and two hundred or more by selected members of the medical and dental professions, who were chosen by the Michigan State Medical Society and by the Michigan State Dental Society.

Because the sum allocated for this work is small, organizations have, as a rule, been charged for speakers, and the few free lectures have been reserved for those groups and communities that are unable to contribute toward the expense of bringing their speakers. Since luncheon clubs, women's clubs, and similar organizations have treasuries upon which to draw, it has been customary to ask them for a contribution ranging from traveling expenses to the entire cost.

Extension courses. — In 1913 a request for the organization of extension classes with regular academic credit was received from Detroit. After some consideration the University approved the plan. Accordingly, in 1913-14, courses were organized and given there — in philosophy by Professor Robert M. Wenley and in English and history by Assistant Professors Thomas E. Rankin and William A. Frayer. The enrollment was relatively large; there were more than one hundred and twenty students in Professor Wenley's course alone. Credit was given for these classes, which corresponded to similar courses on the campus. The fee established was five dollars per credit hour. Some fifteen hundred such courses were given outside Ann Arbor in the period 1913-19, with a total class enrollment of more than thirty-eight thousand.

Several colleges and schools on the campus accept some extension credit toward the bachelor's degree, provided all the residence, scholarship, and other graduation requirements are satisfied. The maximum of extension credit and the conditions under which it is granted vary from one unit to another; the School of Education and the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts accept a total of thirty hours.

In February 1926, Charles A. Fisher, who was at the time Principal of Kalamazoo Central High School, was appointed Assistant Director of the University Extension Division. He began his duties that fall, it being understood that the organization and development of extension courses should receive the greater share of his attention. The growth of this work has not been phenomenal, but the enrollment has continued to increase regularly. In 1938-39 more than six thousand students were enrolled, and in 1939-40 there were 6,585.

An important forward step in the organization of adult classes has been the recent development of the noncredit phase of extension work. Nearly four thousand persons were enrolled in noncredit classes in 1939-40. The number and variety of requests for this type of work, as well as the educational and vocational status of the persons from whom the requests come, indicates that the future of adult classes lies more largely in this field than in the field of credit courses, although the latter will continue to be given. The noncredit class, by its freedom from restrictions regarding hours, examinations, and certain prerequisites, offers much more flexibility than the credit course and is therefore more attractive to adults who are interested in cultural advancement but have so little time that they are unable to meet more exacting requirements.

Because Ann Arbor is as far away from the western end of the Upper Peninsula as it is from New York City, it has been and still is difficult to organize extension classes in that section of the state. One way of overcoming this difficulty has been utilized in the field course in education. The class meets four times in the fall and four times in the spring, and thus the number of trips necessitated for a two-hour course is reduced by one-half. Another method was successful in the Upper Peninsula: a competent local person was appointed instructor, and his work was supervised by a member of the regular University staff who visited the class two to four times during the semester.

Correspondence courses. — At the beginning of his administration at the University of Chicago, President Harper organized a bureau of correspondence study, which for nearly fifty years has continued to function as an integral part of the adult education program of that university. Correspondence study, when properly supervised, seems to have established itself as a necessary part of any well-rounded adult education program.

During Henderson's term as Director of the Extension Division, he was instructed by a faculty committee to investigate the possibility of offering credit courses by correspondence. The faculty did not then feel disposed to go forward with the work, and nothing was done until the second semester of 1935-36. At that time the Michigan Works Progress Administration offered to finance a supervised correspondence study center at the University. The center was established in order to furnish instruction to certain individuals in the state who wished to go forward with some college work, but who, for valid reasons, were unable to attend the University.

The executive committee of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts gave the Extension Division permission to offer correspondence courses, and the courses were begun in January 1936. It was decided that this work should give credit in the freshman year at the University. The Extension Division was also authorized to give certain noncredit courses of an industrial and vocational nature for the specific benefit of adults, including boys in the Civilian Conservation Corps camps, throughout the state of Michigan. The correspondence work, both in its credit phase and in its more vocational aspects, has grown very rapidly; the total number enrolled for one or more courses increased from 3,232 in 1937-38 to 4,915 in 1939-40.

Joint committee on health Education. — During President Burton's administration the Michigan State Medical Society and the University of Michigan entered into a joint program for health education within the state, under the name, Michigan joint committee on public health education. From the beginning the work has been carried on through the Extension Service. As years have passed, representatives of other organizations have been added to the committee, until at present there are twenty-four professional and nonprofessional organizations in the field of health education represented.

The work of the joint committee is carried on under four main divisions:

(1) Lectures on cancer control, on dental hygiene and child problems, on syphilis, and on mental hygiene are given to adult groups. One hundred and forty-two of these lectures were given in 1937-38.

(2) The work of the subcommittee on school health education, headed by Dr. Mabel Rugen, has so far consisted in the preparation of two bulletins (School Health Bull.) entitled "The Problem Solving Approach in Health Teaching" and "Health Goals of the School Child." These bulletins have been widely distributed to schools throughout the state and the nation, and their popularity is attested by the fact that 20,590 of them have been distributed upon request.

(3) The joint committee prepares a daily health-and-hygiene column for the Detroit News and for numerous other daily and weekly newspapers in the state.

(4) A series of health talks is broadcast over Michigan radio stations, November 1-March 31.

The aim of the committee is aptly expressed by the following creed, which was adopted when the organization was formed:

The function of the Joint Committee is to present to the public the fundamental facts of modern scientific medicine for the purpose of building up sound public opinion relative to the questions of public and private health. It is concerned in bringing the truth to the people, not in supporting or attacking any school, sect, or theory of medical practice. It will send out teachers, not advocates.

Michigan High School Forensic Association. — In 1917, Thomas C. Trueblood, Professor of Oratory, suggested the advisability of organizing a high school debating league. The suggestion was favorably acted upon. The work of the league has been carried on through the Extension Service by a manager who devotes a part of his time to the Department of Speech and a part to the Extension Service.

The name Michigan High School Debating League was changed in 1933 to Michigan High School Forensic Association, and the activities of the High School Oratorical Association and of the Extempore Speech Association were absorbed. The present organization sponsors contests in debate, oratory and declamation, and extempore speech in Michigan high schools. The Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News co-operate with the Extension Service in giving individual and school awards to the winners in these various contests. In 1939-40, 327 different high schools participated in contests sponsored by the Michigan High School Forensic Association. Twenty thousand students had a part in the work, and the total attendance at the various contests was nearly 180,000.

Library Extension Service. — The Library Extension Service was organized in 1916, and since that time has been carried on, in part through the Extension Service (see Part II: Library Extension Service).

The Library Extension Service plays an important part in the work of the Michigan High School Forensic Association. In 1939-40, 217 packages containing 4,340 pamphlets and bibliographies on the government ownership of railroads (the subject used for debate) were sent to schools enrolled in the debate contests. Many other pieces of material were sent to high-school students engaged in extempore speaking and declamation contests.

University specialists frequently furnish the information that enables this office to perform a requested service, and they are often called upon to deal completely with such requests; nevertheless, there remains for the Library Extension Service itself a large and highly specialized task, and its activities are widely appreciated and utilized by schools and adults throughout the state.

Radio broadcasting. — The University Broadcasting Service was organized in 1925 under the direction of Waldo M. Abbot, Assistant Professor of English. In 1933-34 the radio service was placed under the direction of the Extension Division. Its activities have multiplied many times in content and scope since its organization. During the academic year 1939-40, 315 programs were broadcast from Detroit — some over Station WJR and others over WMBC (see Part II: University Broadcasting Service).

In 1937-38, for the first time, Joseph E. Maddy, then Professor of Music Education in the School of Music, presented his "Fun in Music" series over a coast-to-coast hookup of the National Broadcasting Company, from Chicago. This program of music instruction is now broadcast from the University broadcasting station on the campus to the schools of the entire nation.

More than 936,000 radio homes in Michigan are reached by the University's educational broadcasts, which are also heard regularly in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, western Pennsylvania, western New York, Ontario, and northern Indiana. This primary area, which has a total population of 8,743,399, is the one regularly served by Station WJR, of Detroit. Within the area are more than 3,777,000 homes in which there are radios, according to reports of the United States government.

Adult education institutes. — When the extension work was organized at the University of Michigan nearly thirty years ago, the term "adult education" was practically unknown, although most of the work of the Extension Division from the beginning would now be classified as adult education.

The first of the adult education institutes conducted by the Extension Division was held in the autumn of 1929 in co-operation with the Michigan Congress of Parents and Teachers and was organized by Charles A. Fisher, then Assistant Director. An institute brings many people to the campus for three to ten days' intensive study of a particular subject. The organization of institutes has grown so rapidly that it is now a major part of the Extension Service program. More than five thousand persons attended the eight institutes which the University held in 1939-40 in co-operation with the National Association of Foremen, the Foremen's Club of Michigan and Ohio, the Fuel Engineers Conference, the Ann Arbor Chamber of Commerce, and several state organizations of Michigan — the Congress of Parents and Teachers, the Council of Churches, the Board of Control for Vocational Education, the Federation for Women's Clubs, and the state district of Kiwanis International.

Similar work is carried on in other universities under the general head of "short courses," and it is rapidly assuming an important place in all state universities and agricultural colleges, as well as in many private institutions. In some universities — for example, the University of Minnesota — the work is considered so important as to necessitate the appointment of a full-time director and the erection of a building in which institutes may be held. No special effort has been made to expand this work at the University of Michigan, but the University has co-operated with groups, which have requested that institutes be organized. An increasing number of adults throughout the state are arranging their work so that they are able to come to the University for a short period of rather intensive instruction each year. The institutes are of value not only to them but also to the University faculty. It is clear that requests for meetings of this sort will increase as the years go by.

Visual education. — The visual-education program of the Extension Service originated in 1916, when a small collection of slides was purchased and sent out on request to schools, churches, women's clubs, and other organizations. This service has continued uninterruptedly for a number of years. With a special University appropriation for educational motion pictures in 1937-38 the Visual Education Bureau of the Extension Service was organized, and forty silent films and thirty sound films were purchased for the Bureau. The silent films were shown by schools and adult groups 521 times during the first year, and the sound films 321 times. Reports from the organizations using them indicate that the teaching film has already taken its place as an important educational adjunct at the elementary, secondary, and collegiate levels.

Beginning in 1938-39 the University undertook to deliver a specified number of films during the year to any school or other organization in the state, provided a flat rental fee was paid and arrangements were made for the particular films and for exhibition dates. Before November of the first year, 135 schools had entered into this co-operative arrangement, and as a consequence the number of films on new subjects in the Extension Service film library was materially increased; there are now 300 member schools. The films, worth about $25,000, are used not for entertainment but exclusively as an instructional aid in school and college classes. Requests for their use on the campus and throughout the state increase daily.

William D. Henderson

Charles A. Fisher


Extension Credit and Noncredit Courses, Univ. Mich., 1911 — .

Miscellaneous pamphlets on broadcasting, high school forensics, visual education, and numerous institutes.

President's Report, Univ. Mich., 1892-1909, 1921-40.

Proceedings of the Board of Regents …, 1911-40. (R.P.)

School Health Bulletin, Nos. 2-3 (1937).

Shaw, Wilfred B. The University of Michigan. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1920.

White, Andrew D. Autobiography … New York: Century Co., 1905. Vol. I.

The University of Michigan: An Encyclopedic Survey, Page 341

History of the University of Michigan

Extension Service