Alexander Grant Ruthven

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Alexander G. Ruthven)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Alexander G. Ruthven
Alexander G. Ruthven.png
Ruthven from 1951 Michiganensian
7th President of the
University of Michigan
In office
Preceded byClarence Cook Little
Succeeded byHarlan Hatcher
Personal details
Born(1882-01-01)January 1, 1882
Hull, Iowa
DiedJanuary 19, 1971(1971-01-19) (aged 89)
Alma materMorningside College, University of Michigan
Professionacademic administrator, herpetologist

Alexander Grant Ruthven (April 1, 1882 – January 19, 1971) was the President of the University of Michigan from 1929 to 1951.[1]


Ruthven from 1948 Michiganensian
Ruthven grave

Alexander Grant Ruthven was born in 1882 in Hull, Iowa. He graduated from Morningside College in 1903.[2] In 1906, he received a Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Michigan.[3] He worked as a professor, director of the University Museum, and Dean.[3] He became the President in 1929.[3] As such, he promoted a corporate administrative structure.[1][3] He also approved of police raids against bootleggers at fraternities.[4] He retired in 1951,[3] and died in 1971.[1] He is buried at Forest Hill Cemetery which is adjacent to the university.[5]

The work of Ruthven on the familiar garter snakes, published in 1908, may be regarded as founding an essentially new school of herpetology in the United States. This was a revision of a genus, carried out by the examination of large numbers of specimens, and evaluated largely in geographic terms. Ruthven attracted many students of reptiles to the University of Michigan, his most brilliant pupils being Frank N. Blanchard and Helen T. Gaige.[6] Ruthven described and named 16 new species of reptiles, including three with Gaige.[7]

Ruthven and his family visited Frankfort, Michigan, from Ann Arbor in 1929 as guests of the Dean of the Dental School, who owned a cottage on Crystal Lake. While in Frankfort, Ruthven fell in love with the area. He purchased a piece of property from the railroad. At that time, the property was believed to be 24 acres. The property was vacant and proved to be an excellent place to build stables, a bunkhouse, and adequate riding facilities with pasture land. The Ruthvens and other Ann Arbor friends were equestrians and brought their horses up from Ann Arbor via train—or actually rode them the entire 250 or so miles—every summer. Soon it was determined that there was not sufficient pasture land, so Ruthven purchased the property to the north, on the other side of George Street. This property extended from M-22 to Lake Michigan. The Ruthvens built a small barn for their Morgan stallion, a barn which still stands today on the corner of George Street and Michigan Avenue. (Ruthven, an avid horseman, brought the first Morgan horses from Vermont to Michigan.) The property was named The Rolling R Ranch. The main house was completed in 1932. Stables were built, and what is now called “the white house” was the bunkhouse for the stable boys. The main house included five bedrooms, because Ruthven hosted the U of M regents in the summertime. As such, there were separate bathrooms, one for men and one for women.[8]

The Ruthvens had three children: Kathryn, Peter, and Bryant. When Ruthven and his wife died, the property was passed on to Bryant and his wife, Beatrice (Nesbitt) Ruthven. The couple lived there from 1972 to 1989. During this time period, they converted “the bunkhouse” or “white house” into a guest cottage. In 1985, Mook, Hook, Good, and Howe—a group from the First Congregational Church in Benzonia—approached Bryant and Beatrice to ask if they would ever consider selling the property for an imagined project which was to become Michigan Shores, a nonprofit co-op for retirees. (Bryant thought that his parents would like this idea for the best use of their property, according to Beatrice.)[8]

Groundbreaking for Michigan Shores took place on September 9, 1990. It opened for residents less than a year later. Bryant and Beatrice themselves moved into Michigan Shores in the year 2000.

NOTE: Many Ann Arborites were charmed with the beauty of the Frankfort area and built their own summer homes there, including Dr. Ruthven’s sister-in-law. The pink art deco house next door to the Ruthvens was built by the Dean of the Medical School, Dr. Furstenberg. Mrs. Canfield, widow of a prominent medical doctor in Ann Arbor, built the house now known as the “King House” and the property where “The Bluffs” stands. In downtown Frankfort, there is no consistency in the naming of the cross streets. For example, it doesn’t go 1st, 2nd, 3rd streets. Instead, what should be 1st street is actually called Michigan Avenue. According to Beatrice (Nesbitt) Ruthven, when all of the University of Michigan people moved up to Frankfort and built homes on the street, it was referred to as “Michigan Avenue,” and the name stuck.[8]


Ruthven is commemorated in the scientific names of seven reptiles: Geophis ruthveni, Holbrookia maculata ruthveni, Lampropeltis ruthveni, Lepidoblepharis ruthveni, Macropholidus ruthveni, Masticophis schotti ruthveni, and Pituophis ruthveni.[9]


  • Miscellaneous Papers on the Zoology of Michigan, W.H. Crawford Co., 1916
  • A Naturalist in a University Museum, 1931
  • Laboratory Directions in Principles of Animal Biology, by Aaron Franklin Shull, George Roger Larue, Alexander Grant Ruthven, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc, 1942
  • Naturalist in Two Worlds. Random Recollections of a University President, 1963
  • The Herpetology of Michigan
  • Description of a New Salamander from Iowa
  • Variations and Genetic Relationships of the Garter-Snakes
  • The Amphibians and Reptiles of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Columbia, etc. With map


  1. ^ a b c "Medicine at Michigan". Archived from the original on 2011-03-15. Retrieved 2010-02-02.
  2. ^ University of Michigan Bulletin:1929. University of Michigan. 1929. p. 46.
  3. ^ a b c d e The Michigan Saga
  4. ^ Time
  5. ^
  6. ^ Schmidt KP, Davis DD (1941). Field Book of Snakes of the United States and Canada. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 365 pp. ("History of Snake Study", Alexander G. Ruthven, pp. 14-15).
  7. ^ "Ruthven". The Reptile Database.
  8. ^ a b c "History of Michigan Shores, from a Ruthven's Point of View". 2016-06-24. Retrieved 2016-07-06.
  9. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. ("Ruthven", p. 230).

Further reading[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Clarence Cook Little
7th President of the University of Michigan
Succeeded by
Harlan Hatcher