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Francis Willey Kelsey
The Michigan Alumnus 645-647

The Death of Professor Francis W. Kelsey, 1858—1927

By Professor Henry A. Sanders, 90, Ph. D. '94

It may seem strange to speak of the untimely 
death of one who has been a leader in his University and in the cause of classical education 
for forty years. But never in his long, energetic, 
 and successful career has Professor Kelsey been 
more productive in scholarship and indispensable 
as an organizer and a leader than during these last
 years, while Director of the Near East Expedition
 of the University of Michigan.

Though perceptibly aging under the pressure 
of business, travel, and study, which his position de
manded, he exhibited no flagging in interest or in
 work up to the very end. On his return from
 Europe in April he went to the Cowie Hospital for 
needed rest and for relief from an attack of rheuma
tism in the chest. This had followed upon a severe
 cold brought on by the climatic conditions of Paris 
and London in March after a winter spent in Egypt. 
 His condition was not considered serious, though 
he was in pain much of the time. Even in his room 
at the hospital he was surrounded by books and
 correspondence and often engaged in important conferences. The end was due to heart failure and
 came without warning on May 14, after he had
 passed a more comfortable night and had been al
lowed to hold a brief conference in the forenoon. 

Professor Kelsey is survived by his wife, who was
 Miss Isabelle Badger of 
Mies, Michigan, and to 
whom he was married in
 1885, and three children, 
 Charlotte (Mrs. Frank J. 
 Hubley), '18, of New York, 
Ruth (Mrs. Fred C. Diel), 
'18, who is now living in
 California, and a son, East
on, now studying in the 
Law School. 

Francis Willey Kelsey
 was born at Ogden, N. Y., 
 on May 23, 1858. He re
ceived his Bachelor of Arts 
degree from the University 
of Rochester in 1880, and 
the same institution gave
 him the Ph.D. in 1886 and 
LL.D. in 1910. He taught
 as an Instructor and Professor at Lake Forest Univer
sity from 1880 to 1889, 
 though he twice had a leave
 of absence for study in
 Europe during this period. 
In 1889 he was called to the 
University of Michigan as
 Professor of the Latin Lan
guage and Literature and 
on the death of Professor 
Frieze in the following
 year he became the head of the department.

In his earlier years of teaching Professor Kelsey was conspicuous for the number and excellence of the textbooks, which he edited. Of these the best known is “Caesar’s Gallic War,” now in its twenty-first edition. Others that have been much used are “Select Orations and Letters of Cicero,” “De Senectute and De Amicitia of Cicero,” “De Senectute and De Amicitia of Cicero,” “Selections from Ovid,” and De Rerum Natura of Lucretius.” In 1899 appeared his translation of Mau’s Pompeii,” which has been the standard authority on the subject since that time. It is now out of print and for several years Professor Kelsey had been gathering material for a newer and larger work on Pompeii.

Soon after 1900 he organized the University of Michigan Studies, Humanistic Series, of which the 
first volume appeared in 1904, and he has been 
Managing Editor since that time. The twenty-first
 volume will appear this year. This series of studies 
was not only created and directed by Professor 
Kelsey, but in very large measure he has secured 
the funds for publication by personal solicitation. 

From 1907 to 1912 Professor Kelsey was Pres
ident of the Archaeological Institute of America, 
 years which were marked by rapid growth and
 broadening of influence of that great Classical As
sociation. In 1907 he was President of the Amer
ican Philological Association. He belonged to the
 various learned societies of
 America with which his
 varied activities brought 
him in touch, and besides 
was a member of the Classical Association of Great
 Britain, of the Deutches
 Archaeologisches Institut in Berlin, and of the Academic
des Inscriptions et Belles-
Lettres in Paris.

Professor Kelsey has 
been no less interested in 
the training of teachers and 
in defending the cause of 
the Classics. Many of the 
Classical teachers of the
 West have studied under 
him and all have been in
fluenced by him. He early 
organized the Classical Conference as an adjunct to the
 Michigan Schoolmasters' 
Club and it has had an unbroken existence with in
creasing influence since that 
time. One of the most note
worthy of the earlier con
ferences was devoted to a 
defense of the Classics. The
 papers and discussions of 
that meeting were collected and published by him in 1911 under the title "Latin 
and Greek in American Education." This work 
also is out of print and he was preparing a new 
edition at the time of his death. 

In 1920-1922, Professor Kelsey secured the funds 
for and directed the first Near East Expedition
 of the University of Michigan. It brought a wealth
 of papyri, manuscripts, photographs, and archaeo
logical material to the University. Encouraged 
by this success the second Expedition was organized
 in 1924 and has continued to the present with even
 greater acquisitions of research material and with 
the addition of successful excavations conducted at 
ancient Antioch of Pisidia, at Carthage, and for 
three successive years at Karanis in the Fayum of
 Egypt. The continuation of the excavation of that site for another year is assured. As a result of his
 cooperation with the representatives of the French
 Government in the tentative excavations on the site
 of Carthage, he was decorated with the insignia of
 Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres. 

With so many engrossing activities it might
 seem that Professor Kelsey could not have
 found the time for the original research in which 
he was most deeply interested, yet even in the press
 of work during the past decade seldom has a
 year failed to bring notable contributions from
 his pen in one or more of the Classical Journals. 

The University of Michigan has lost one of its 
most inspiring teachers and a scholar, an organizer, 
 and a director of research that has made the University better known and more highly esteemed in 
university circles throughout the world. He had 
great plans for further work and at the time of his 
death was arranging a program that called for five
 years of consecutive effort. His guiding hand and 
his indomitable energy have been taken from us but 
his example and the inspiration of his vision of a
 greater Michigan will never die.