Harry Burns Hutchins

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Harry Burns Hutchins
Harry Burns Hutchins.png
President of the
University of Michigan
In office
Preceded by James Burrill Angell
Succeeded by Marion LeRoy Burton
Personal details
Born (1847-04-08)April 8, 1847
Lisbon, New Hampshire
Died January 25, 1930(1930-01-25) (aged 82)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Spouse(s) Mary Louise Crocker
Children Harry C. Burns
Alma mater University of Michigan

Harry Burns Hutchins (April 8, 1847 – January 25, 1930)[1][2] was the fourth president of the University of Michigan (1909–1920).


On April 8, 1847, Harry B. Hutchins was born in Lisbon, New Hampshire. Hutchins got his education at New Hampshire Conference Seminary as well as the Vermont Conference Seminary. Hutchins, at the age of nineteen, entered Weslyan University. Hutchins, unfortunately, was not able to complete his first year however due to falling ill.[3] Subsequently, Hutchins graduated from the University of Michigan in 1871.[4][5][6] While at the University of Michigan, he was a member of the Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity. After graduation he became the superintendent of schools in Owosso, Michigan and then was appointed instructor in rhetoric and history at Michigan for three years.[7] While teaching, he simultaneously studied law. Though he never received a degree in law he took advantage of a loop hole that allowed him to take and pass the law bar and was certified to practice law in 1876. After practicing law in Mt. Clemens, Michigan with his father-in-law for eight years, he returned to Ann Arbor to teach law as the Jay Professor of Law.[7] December 28, 1872 Hutchins married Mary Louise Crocker, together they would adopt one son, Harry C. Hutchins.[8]


Hutchins suddenly become ill on January 22, 1930, three days later he would die in his home in Ann Arbor on January 25, 1930 at the age of 82.

Dean of Law at University of Michigan[edit]

Hutchins served as the dean of the university's Law Department from 1895 to 1910. Hutchins Hall, the main classroom and administrative building of the law school, is named after him.[9] During Hutchins time as the Dean he raised the entrance requirements to the law school, as well the adoption of a complete three-year course in Law, it was Dean Hutchins opinions that the standards set by a law school should be rigorous.[10]

President of the University of Michigan[edit]

Acting President[edit]

Hutchins twice served as acting president of the University of Michigan. His first appointment as acting president came in 1897 when current President Angell left to be Minister of Turkey.[11] The second stint as acting president for Hutchins came in 1909 when President Angell resigned. Hutchins was to serve until a new permanent president was found. After a year long search which included the courtship of Woodrow Wilson, the Regents at the University of Michigan decided to offer Hutchins the full-time appointment of President of the University of Michigan. The regents offered 3 years, but Hutchins wanted a 5-year appointment, so after a stormy meeting they agreed on a five-year appointment. However, after 5 years, Hutchins would stay on another five years bringing his time as president to a full ten years.[12]

Alumni Association[edit]

Hutchins was very instrumental in strengthening the universities alumni association. As the first Michigan Alum to serve as president of the university, Hutchins “wanted to reclaim them (alumni) by organization, to persuade them to maintain a continuing interest in the welfare of their university, to advertise in their communities so as to attract the best new students, and to contribute financially toward the University development”[13]

Campus Growth[edit]

The University saw great growth in his tenure as the student body grew from less than 5,000 to more than 9,000, the Alumni Association grew leaps and bounds, the faculty grew from 427 to 618, the formation of the graduate school, and with the help of the newly organized Alumni Association and their many wealthy donors, there was the addition of many new building.[14] The most prized addition in Hutchins eyes was that of the Michigan Union (1919). The Union was something that he very much pushed for. Many other buildings were erected under Hutchins watch and many of them are still in use today. That list includes: Hill Auditorium (1913), Martha Cook Dormitory (1915), Helen Newberry Residence (1915), the Natural Science Building (1915), the General Library (1920), and the Betsy Barbour House (1920). Though Hutchins may not have been on the forefront of the development of all the new buildings on campus, the way he was with the union and housing for women, his leadership in establishing an organized alumni organization helped to make much of the new growth possible. During Hutchins’ tenure, the University received 130 private gifts, totaling $3,600,000[15]

Graduate School[edit]

Hutchins was instrumental in the creation of a separate graduate school from the undergraduate school. He wanted it to be "tough" even if only half the students got in.[13] On January 19, 1910, Hutchins made a speech to the New York University of Michigan Club which was published in the New Yorker; it read, “many of these graduate schools work too hard to get students and too little for results. Some of them are not a credit to the country, and Michigan is not without fault of her own in this respect, but we are working at Ann Arbor to remedy this condition, and we expect soon to have a graduate school in the true sense of the word. There are men in many of the schools who ought to be pushed out into the world to do a man’s work instead of hanging around the universities. A reorganization of the system is needed, and at Michigan we are trying to accomplish a renascence. I do not care if we have only thirty students in the school if we only have one real one.”[16]

Women on campus[edit]

The University also saw considerable growth for women on campus during Hutchins' tenure. Ruth Bordin writes in her book Women at Michigan: The Dangerous Experiment, that, “by 1920, in addition to Newberry and Martha Cook, four small dormitories in converted houses had been provided, and the Betsey Barbour dormitory opened that year. About 350 women lived in sororities, but the great majority lived in a league house.” Specifically the development of the Martha Cook Building was due in large part to the great relationship Hutchins had with William W. Cook, who provided the financial contribution for this all female housing facility in honor of his mother, Martha.[17]


Much of Hutchins' tenure was during WWI. There was much desire from many alumni, faculty, and students to include military drill as part of the class requirements for the male students, as possible preparation if they were called to duty in the war that was happening in Europe. Hutchins felt differently and would not be stampeded into this idea. Hutchins felt at the outset that the University’s unique function was to furnish trained leadership for the nation. To make the University simply another military camp for privates was in his view a gross misuse of its potentials, and he resisted it.[18] Hutchins believed with an ever-changing warfare that the students would be better served in engineering to help with the modern war, “whose weapons were applications of physical, chemical, mathematical, and engineering principles.”[18]


Hutchins retired in 1920, taking the title of President Emeritus. He would live the next ten years up to his death in 1930 in Ann Arbor.


  1. ^ Slosson, E.E. (1999). Great American Universities. Elibron Classics. p. 189. ISBN 9781402172649. Retrieved 2014-11-30. 
  2. ^ "February Meeting, 1930" (PDF). 9 April 2009. Retrieved 2014-11-30. 
  3. ^ Hutchins, Harry C. Harry Hutchins Biography page 3,box 19 Bentley Library
  4. ^ "Harry Burns Hutchins". umhistory.dc.umich.edu. Retrieved 2014-11-30. 
  5. ^ Denis Larionov & Alexander Zhulin. "Read the eBook Alumni record of Wesleyan university, Middletown, Conn by Conn.) Wesleyan University (Middletown online for free (page 83 of 111)". ebooksread.com. Retrieved 2014-11-30. 
  6. ^ "Harry B. Hutchins". law.umich.edu. Retrieved 2014-11-30. 
  7. ^ a b Peckham, Howard H. (1981). "Presidential Profiles". Michigan Alumnus: 16–21. 
  8. ^ Hutchins, Harry C. Harry Hutchins Biography page 14,box 19 Bentley Library
  9. ^ "University of Michigan Law Quad's corbels tell a story". annarbor.com. Retrieved 2014-11-30. 
  10. ^ Hutchins, Harry C. Harry Hutchins Biography page 26, box 19 Bentley Library
  11. ^ Smith, S. W. (1951). Harry Burns Hutchins and the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. p.111 http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015000200546;view=1up;seq=151
  12. ^ Peckham, H. H., & Steneck, M. L. (1994). The making of the University of Michigan: 1817 - 1992 ; 175th anniversaty edition. Ann Arbor, MI: Univ. of Michigan Press. p.111 http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015041316780;view=1up;seq=143
  13. ^ a b Peckham, H. H., & Steneck, M. L. (1994). The making of the University of Michigan: 1817 - 1992 ; 175th anniversaty edition. Ann Arbor, MI: Univ. of Michigan Press. p. 129 http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015041316780;view=1up;seq=145
  14. ^ Hutchins, Harry C. Harry Hutchins Biography page 36 ,box 19 Bentley Library
  15. ^ Hutchins, Harry C. Harry Hutchins Biography page 22-25,box 19 Bentley Library
  16. ^ Smith, S. W. (1951). Harry Burns Hutchins and the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. p.142 http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015000200546;view=1up;seq=186
  17. ^ Shaw, W. B. (1941). The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey .. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan. page 79 http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015046427251;view=1up;seq=97
  18. ^ a b Peckham, H. H., & Steneck, M. L. (1994). The making of the University of Michigan: 1817 - 1992 ; 175th anniversaty edition. Ann Arbor, MI: Univ. of Michigan Press. p. 141 http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015041316780;view=1up;seq=157

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
James Burrill Angell
President of the University of Michigan
Succeeded by
Marion LeRoy Burton