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Memorial

John Robert Effinger
The Michigan Alumnus 561

Head of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts Since 1915, an Alumnus of the University, 
 Passes Away Suddenly at His Ann Arbor Home


The sudden death, on June 7, of 
John Robert Effinger, Profes
sor of French and Dean of the
 College of Literature. Science and
 the Arts, was a severe shock to his colleagues and 
countless friends. He had been ill only four days from a heart attack, which was not at first considered
 serious. For forty-five years he had been identified
 with the University as student, teacher and adminisrator, and for more than half of this period he had 
taken an honorable part in the 
broader educational life of the
 State and the Nation. 


Dean Effinger was born in 
Keokuk, Iowa. June 3. 1869. 
 His father, Reverend John
 Robert Effinger, a well-known
 Unitarian clergyman, was a 
descendant of Captain John 
Ignatius Effinger, a Revol
tionary soldier, and his
 mother, Lucretia Knowles belonged to an old New Eng
land family. He entered the
 University in 1887, and was
 graduated with the degree of
 Ph.B. in 1891. After a year 
as Assistant Principal of the
 Manistee High School, he be
came Instructor in French at
 the University, where he re
ceived the degree of Master of 
Philosophy in 1894 and the
 degree of Doctor of Philoso
phy in 1898. Meantime he had 
studied in Europe, at Paris
 and Siena, during the year
1895-1896. He was made Assistant Professor of French 
in 1898, Junior Professor in 1906, and Professor in
1912. The latter position he held until his death. In
1927 Kalamazoo College conferred upon him the hon
orary degree of Doctor of Letters. 


As a teacher Dean Effinger was sound and thorough. 
 Even in recent years, when his time was so much taken
 up with other matters than teaching, the courses which
 he alternately gave on the French Drama and the
 French Novel, were kept up to date, and his students 
testify to their orderliness and clarity, and to the 
inspiring quality of the interest he showed in the prog
ress of all those who themselves gave evidence of some
 real desire and ability to learn. 


Dean Effinger was not primarily concerned with re-
search and publication, despite which he has a number of solid works to his credit. In addition to two books
 on which he collaborated with Professor Hugo P. Thieme. "Women of 
Modern France" (1907), and "A 
French Grammar" (1908), he was 
the author of four standard editions of French texts: 
 ''Selected Essays of Ste. Beuve" (1895), Victor Hugo's
 "Preface de Cromwell and Hernani" (1899), Labiche's
 "Voyage de M. Perrichon" (1905), and Moliere's
 Les Precieuses Ridicules and Les Femmes Savantes" 
(1912). More recently, his interest in educational prob
lems found expression in a 
number of articles published 
in various journals.


Early in his career Dean
 Effinger's ability as an execu
tive was recognized, and it is 
in this capacity that his most
 valuable work for the Uni
versity was accomplished. 
 After serving as Dean of the
 Summer Session from 1908 to
1912, he was made Acting
 Dean of the College of Liter
ature, Science and the Arts in
1912, and Dean in 1915. The
 latter position he occupied at 
the time of his death. In judg
ing his accomplishment as 
Dean, it is necessary to bear 
in mind that during the two 
decades of his incumbency, 
 the College doubled and the 
University trebled its enroll
ment, while the whole prob
lem of college administration 
became infinitely more complex than these figures would
 suggest. It was not until 1921 that the appointment of 
a Dean of Students and an Assistant Dean of the Col
lege gave him relief from time-consuming labor, often 
of a purely routine character, and enabled him to turn 
his attention as fully as he wished to the fundamental 
problems of education and personnel, and to claims
, which state and national organizations were beginning
 to make upon his time and interest.


During all of this period of unprecedented growth 
and change, full of educational cross-currents, he 
kept a firm hand on the helm, and avoided many a 
shoal. While he was not at all inclined to take up
 educational fads and fancies, and refused to be stam
peded by the political pressure exerted by certain
 groups, he was always open to the consideration of 
ideas of real merit, and eager to promote them with all the force of his personality and his position. In 
all matters his first thought was always for the University he loved with a jealous love, and whose pres
tige he promoted with the best that was in him.


He was an excellent, if not an infallible, judge of 
men, and the promotions sponsored by him were quite 
generally approved by his colleagues. In the few cases
 when they were not, it is safe to say that the Dean 
had a fuller knowledge than others of a man's value
 to the University. When he was slow to appreciate 
merit, we may assume that a candidate's worth had 
been inadequately urged by the chairman of his de
partment: and there is ample evidence that the Dean 
frequently took the initiative. While he especially
 valued good teaching, no one had a greater apprecia
tion of those on the faculty whose prime interest was 
in research, which he recognized as an indispensable 
function of a great university, and many will recall 
the warmth with which he received a new book or
 article by a member of his staff, and the pride with
 which he displayed the large collection of their publi
cations in his office.


It has already been suggested that in the last decade 
Dean Eftinger's labors and influence had extended beyond the limits of the University. Since 1923 he had 
been a valued member of the Commission of Higher 
Education of the North Central Association of Col
leges and Secondary Schools. In 1928 he was Presi
dent of the Association of American Colleges. Since
1926 he had been a member of the Committee on 
Classification of Colleges of the Association of Amer
ican Universities. Because of the long illness of his 
wife he was obliged during the last year to refuse the 
appointment to another important post in the same
 Association. His relations with other educational insti
tutions in Michigan, both public and private, were of 
the closest, and the regard in which they held them 
may be best expressed by an excerpt from one of the
 many letters received since his death. 


"He is a distinct loss to our educational forces. 
 Open to frank consideration of educational issues
 and problems, but with very definite ideals and 
loyalty to them, he made a most valuable contribution to the work of education in Michigan, and 
throughout the country."


On the personal side Dean Effinger had, in the
 words of a resolution drawn up by a committee of his 
faculty, "a rugged honesty and almost disconcerting 
candor, a blunt impatience with sham and pretense of 
any sort", and it may be added that those who were
 suspected of trying to take advantage of him or of the 
University were not comfortable in his presence; but
 the essential trait of his nature was what amounted to a
 genius for making friends. He had great social charm, 
 and a peculiar ability to remember, not only the faces, 
but the names and personal history of those he met, 
 which naturally made them feel that he had a personal
 interest in them, as indeed he had. His affectionate
 interest was amply reciprocated by all those who came 
to know him at all well, and the blow which so un
timely took him from us will be cruelly felt by stu
dents, colleagues, and alumni assembled in Ann Arbor 
as these words are being written, and by countless 
others who will now learn for the first time of a 
loss the University has suffered.