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Introduction

Origins

The City

Collegeville (1887, 1895)
College Delta (1898, 1899)
Oakwood (1899)
Cedar Banks (1900)
College Grove (1903)
Fairview (1904, 1905)
College Heights (1904)

Charter of 1907

Avondale (1913)
Bungalow Knolls (1916)
Chesterfield Hills (1916)
Ardson (1919)
Ridgeley Park (1921)
Strathmore (1925)
Glen Cairn (1926)

The Campus

Chronology

1855–1870
1871–1885
1886–1900
1901–1915
1916–1927

 

Interactive Map

Sites on the National and State Historic Registers

Complete list of
Significant Structures

Sources

The Semicentennial Celebration of 1907


President Roosevelt gives the Commencement address, May 31, 1907. In the background are houses of Faculty Row. Image Credit: M.S.U. Archives.

Its early difficulties far behind it, by the turn of the twentieth century the Michigan Agricultural College had reached a position of prominence and high regard among the nation’s agricultural and mechanical colleges. Many M.A.C. graduates had gone on to become deans, directors, and professors at other colleges, spreading the influence of the pioneer land-grant institution far and wide.

Wanting to celebrate this success, and to “mark the fiftieth milestone in the progress of the type of education which this college so fittingly represents,” the College invited all its alumni to return to campus for a massive Semicentennial celebration in 1907.*[MAC Record, 11(38), 12 Jun 1906, p. 1]

The week-long event began on May 26 with a Sunday afternoon Baccalaureate sermon by Dr. Matthew Henry Buckham, President of the University of Vermont (that state’s land-grant institution). Two solid days of addresses and presentations followed on Wednesday and Thursday, May 29 and 30, most of them in a large assembly tent erected on the campus. These included speeches from Governor Fred Warner and various state education luminaries, an open session of the American Association of Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations, and a multi-lecture retrospective of the school’s early days including “The College in 1870” presented by Professor Beal.[Blaisdell, pp. 3–12]


Map of campus by Beal used during his presentation on “The College in 1870.” Although its title might imply that it is a map from 1870, it was actually drawn thirty-seven years later and depicts how Beal recalled the campus to have appeared when he first arrived. For numerous reasons, this map is suspect: it is missing several important farm buildings, its roads are oversimplified and likely incomplete, and the area surrounding the west entrance (ironically, today named for the man himself) is inexplicably depicted as unimproved. In this author’s opinion it should not be used for research beyond being an accompaniment for the lecture Beal gave on Wednesday afternoon, May 29, 1907. Image Credit: M.S.U. Archives.

On Thursday evening, along with a ceremonial illumination of the campus buildings, a procession of students singing college songs, and a bonfire in front of the brand-new Wells Hall, a new “Alma Mater” written especially for the occasion was performed for the first time. With lyrics by Board Secretary Addison Makepeace Brown, “Close beside the Winding Cedar” used a familiar melody “that was the college song for over a dozen colleges all over the nation,” reputedly first as “Far above Cayuga’s Waters” by M.A.C.’s land-grant sibling Cornell University. (This song was officially replaced in 1949 by “The Shadows,” written in 1927 by Bernard Traynor, which remains M.S.U.’s alma mater song today.)[M.S.U. Archives, 29 Mar 2011. The Helmet student handbook (1948), p. 114; (1949), p. 100]


President Roosevelt (rear seat at left) rides to campus in a REO Touring Car with Ransom E. Olds at the wheel. Also aboard are M.A.C. President J. L. Snyder (beside Roosevelt) and William Loeb, Roosevelt’s secretary (beside Olds). Image Credit: M.S.U. Archives.

The highlight of the week came on Friday, May 31, with Commencement, its address delivered by President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt. The President arrived in Lansing by train early Friday morning and was paraded down Michigan Avenue to the campus in a brand-new two-cylinder REO Touring Car—driven by Ransom E. Olds himself, having won a coin toss against Oldsmobile president Samuel Smith.* After a brief respite from his travels, Roosevelt attended a private luncheon at the home of M.A.C. President J. L. Snyder, № 1 Faculty Row.[Kestenbaum, p. 127]

On Friday afternoon, following his participation in a tree planting between Faculty Row №s 1 and 2, Roosevelt took the stage that had been erected on the drill field (now Walter Adams Field). He delivered a stirring address on the importance of scientific agriculture education, his un-amplified voice booming out over the crowd, whose estimated size ranged from 20,000 to 40,000 spectators. Roosevelt’s comments on the federal responsibilities of farmers and the land-grant colleges were very warmly received, and prompted the later formation of the Extension Service, the annual Farmers’ Week, and other programs.[Kestenbaum, pp. 68, 128]

Along with numerous congressmen and senators, a great many distinguished delegates attended the ceremonies, including several from universities and colleges of Europe and Canada. Among American schools, Cornell University was perhaps best represented, with seven delegates including alumni Liberty Hyde Bailey (M.A.C. ’82, Dean of Horticulture) and Rolla Clinton Carpenter (M.A.C. ’73, Professor of Mechanical Engineering). Carpenter was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws for his “valuable service… as a member of [the M.A.C.] faculty,” and for his “engineering skill” and “ability as a designer of great construction render[ing him] worthy of special recognition.”[Blaisdell, pp. 260, 365–371]

Also in attendance was Myrtle Craig, who became on that day the first African-American woman to graduate from the College. As with all other M.A.C. ’07 graduates, she was handed her degree by President Roosevelt himself.[MAC Record, 12(37), 4 Jun 1907, p. 4]


The “Huntington Elm” planted by President Roosevelt in 1907 grew to become a prominent campus landmark. In this undated photo a student kneels to read a commemorative plaque placed by the M.S.C. Forestry Club in 1937. The exact location and later years of the tree are unknown to this author, in particular whether it was lost or accommodated by the construction of Yakeley and Gilchrist Halls in its vicinity in 1947. Image Credit: M.S.U. Archives.