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May 21, 1951 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1951-05-21

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Ruthven Retirement Closes sy E in Michigan E


Genial Presiden Leaves eigh Pst

*i:. :

of sensational or unfavorable sacrifices," he said, "but you are disheartening conditions, howeve
news, for he called for the es- preparing to make them.... You .Iurge you with allsincerity to lo<
tablishment of a news service will detect, if you have not already to your own resnonsibilities I

t (Continued from Page 1)
tion as a whole. Many able ad-
ministrators, facultymen, alumni
and private citizens aided the Uni-
versity with skill and funds.
Yet when some University his-
torian gets around to writing the
history of the thirties and forties
at the University, the period will
be known as the Ruthven era, and
rightly so, according to campus
For it was his firm administra-
tive hand and his driving edu-
c cator's desire to make the Uni-
versity "worthy in all respects of
a great democracy," which
showed the way in the period of
His thinking and action in the
field of administrative reforms,
student housing, alumni relations
and the expansion of teaching re-
search and public service, his
friends agree, were founded on a
base of steady optimism in the fu-
ture progress of mankind through
the education of youth.'
This faith in the powers of en-
lightenment in the hands of fully-
educated men, mortared with his
tactful, genial personality, is cre-
dited as being the major reason for
the success of President Ruthven's
tenure of office.
s* s
his life began to display the quali-
ties which would serve him so well
in his position of the University's
top official.
Born in Hull, Ia., on April 1,
1882, he soon began to display his
keen interest in the outdoors
which has stayed with him all his
life. At the age of twelve, his
father John Ruthven a business
man and railroad contractor who
died in 1939 at the age of 94, pre-
sented him with a copy of Darwin's
"Origin of the Species."
Young Alexander devoured the
contents of the book and decided
to make the study ofbiology and
natural science his career.
After attending public schools in
the area, President Ruthven en-
tered Morningside College, Sioux
City, Ia., from which he was grad-
uated with a bachelor of science
degree in 1903. While in school he
helped pay his way by breaking
horses for neighboring farmers. He
played tackle on the football team
and was a member of Phi Beta
HE CAME TO the University in
1903 after a professor under
whom he had begun work at, the
University of Chicago transferred
to the University. President Ruth-
ven came along as an assistant as-
signed to operate an old lantern
elide projector at 15 dollars a
One of the students in the class
who had the most sympathy for

the young assistant's clumsy first
attempts with the projector as
President Ruthven recalls, was a
physician's daughter named Flor-
ence Hagle, '04. President Ruthven
married her in 1907, a year after
he had been awarded his doctor's
degree and ,appointed an instruc-
tor in the zoology department.
The Ruthvens have three
children: Mrs. Lawrence C.
Stuart, of Ann Arbor; Bryant W.
Ruthven of Tennessee; and
Alexander Peter Ruthven of De-
troit and Ann Arbor. All grad-
uated from the University.
President Ruthven began to con-
centrate his studies on reptiles and
amphibians. He took part in or led
expeditions throughout Michigan,
the Middle West, Mexico and
South America. Promotion fol-
lowed rapidly.
By 1911 he was an assistant pro-
fessor and curator of the museum
of zoology. Two years later he was
appointed director of the museum,
a post he held until moving on to
the presidency. In 1915 he became
a full professor and in 1922 was
appointed director of the rapidly-
expanding University museums.
For two years, 1927-29, he served
as chairman of the zoology depart-
ment and director of the zoological
* * *
AN ARDENT supporter of the
administration of President Clar-
ence Cook Little, he was made dean
of administration, a post equiva-
lent to the present position of pro-
All during this period of aca-
demic and administrative advance-
ment, zoology remained President
Ruthven's major interest. He con-
tinued his field work in South
America and the West, at one time
falling victim to a severe case of
malaria. Mrs. Ruthven, a zoologist
herself, accompanied her husband
on many of these expeditions.
President Ruthven is the
author of more than 104 scien-
tific and educational articles and
has to his name authorship of
two books and co-authorship of
two others.
After his appointment as presi-
dent, he found to his regret that
he no longer had time for his sci-
entific studies. He continued re-
search in his spare time for a few
years and saw several of his stu-
dents through their doctoral ex-
aminations but finally had to drop
his zoological activity entirely. He
resigned as director of University
museums in 1936.
* * *.
THROUGH his "extra-curricu-
lar" activities, however, he main-
tained his interest in biology. He
imported from Vermont, the first
pure-bred Morgan horses in the
He keeps his Morgans at a

small farm out along the Huron
River which he calls "Stanerigg"
for the Ruthven ancestral home in
Scotland. Thursday afternoons,
whenever he can manage it, he
sneaks out of his office and heads
for "Stanerigg" for a few hours
of riding.
In the summers which he and
Mrs. Ruthven spend at their sum-
mer cottage in Frankfort on the
shores of Lake Michigan, he liter-
ally lives on horseback, according
to Mrs. Ruthven.
Dogs have been another inter-
est of the president. After a
succession of scotties and bull-
dogs, he turned to boxers a few
years ago and several of the
pups of Lexie, his present boxer,
have won show prizes.
Another outside interest which
President Ruthven has pursued is
book collecting. He has accumu-
lated autographed copies and first
editions of publication of faculty
members and alumni, numbering
between 300 and 400 volumes. He
also has about 1,000 volumes of
first editions on the general his-
tory of biology.
* * *
THROUGHOUT his administra-
tion, President Ruthven has
taken special pains with the prob-
lems of students. His policy has
been to grant responsibility to stu-
dents whenever he felt that they
were capable of shouldering it
without danger to the reputation
of the University.. In the early
days of his tenure, students were
constantly getting the University
into hot water by consistent vio-
lations of the 18th Amendment.
The dormitory system, inaugu-
rated among the male students
by the construction of Allen-
Rumsey unit of the West Quad
in the late thirties, also proved
a source of trouble for a time.
One night President Ruthven
intervened personally to halt a
combination water fight and de-
trousering spree which preceded
a Black Friday celebration-tra-
ditional pre-war hazing day for
President Ruthven's office is al-
ways open to students. "On my
schedule, the students get in first,
the faculty next and the deans
whenever they can," is his dictum
on appointments, one which his
secretary Miss Ruth A. Rouse has
followed since she first arrived on
the presidential scene 22 years ago
to dust out the office before the
newly-appointed president moved
downstairs from his old office as
dean of the administration on the
second floor of University Hall.
BY AND LARGE students have
reciprocated this regard. Before the
war, they used to refer to him as
"Butch" and in 1939, on the anni-
versary of his 10th year as presi-
dent a thousand students partici-
pated in a banquet and pageant
given in his honor in Yost Field-
house. More than 2,500 guests sat
down to dinner.
The pageant parade in which
students acted out episodes in
President Ruthven's life and por-
trayed the various activities and
services of the University lasted
for hours. U.S. Attorney General
Frank Murphy, accompanied by an
unknown clerk named G. Mennen
Williams, flew down from Wash-
ington to speak at the testimonial.
In order to handle all the busi-
ness of the University, President
Ruthven sticks to an exhausting
schedule. On weekdays and Sat-
urdays he rises every morning at
6:30, has a light breakfast and
then walks to his office on the
second floor of the salmon-
colored Administration Building.
If the weather is particlarly
nasty, however, he calls for a
car and drives over.
Appointments and dictation take
up his time until noon when he
usually goes out for a luncheon
meeting with either a University
committee or to welcome some vi-

siting group to the campus.
He returns to his office after 1
p.m. and the rest of the afternoon
is usually taken up with appoint-
ments. He generally leaves some-

operated by the University to in-
terpret its work to the citizens of
the State in his first press re-
lease after being appointed. The
present University News Service
grew out of this idea.
A field of education which
claimed President Ruthven's in-
terest from the first was adult
education and other types of ex-
tension work. The University pio-
neered in this field, establishing
branches in Grand Rapids and De-
troit. The current television pro-
grams are administered under the
Extension Service.
R ELUCTANT as he is to step into
the public spotlight, on fre-
quent occasions President Ruth-
ven has felt it his duty to the Uni-
versity and American education as
a whole to speak out.
In the early thirties, he aroused
criticism from some quarters for
raising the entrance requirements
of the University.
He has continually spoken out
against the tendency for Univer-
sity semester fees to "escalator" in
recent years. "There is no wrong
side of the tracksso far as in-
d-ividual rights to state-supported
higher education are concerned,"
he repeated again and again.
He also has urged Congres-
sional passage of a bill to estab-
lish a labor educational exten-
sion service on the grounds that
labor is being discriminated
against in respect to educational
Both in the early years of the
national defense effort before Dec.
7, 1941 and later during the war,
President Ruthven spoke out
against the lowering of standards
of education. The years of the first
WorldWar when the University
was nearly ruined by a policy of
draining off the top faculty to
wartime jobs, corrupting curricu-
lum in order to turn out needed
technicians and turning the cam-
pus over to the various ROTC
units, were clearly in President
Ruthven's mind when he warned
of the consequences to be expected
if educators allowed the humane
element in education to be de-
stroyed under the pressures of
* * *
"AS THE FLOOD of barbarism
comes down pver the world," he
said, "educators should concern
themselves with plans to maintain
or restore civilization and they
should hold the standards of edu-
cation on as high a level as pos-
sible in the hope that, when the
storm is over, there will be some
who will be prepared to recover
our freedoms and reorganize a so-
ciety of free men."
"It is not our duty to develop
soldiers alone, nor skilled puppets,"
he said in another speech. "Edu-
cators in times of trouble must
continue to emphasize the im-
portance of instruction in humani-
ties and pure science."
Some of his utterances have
as much meaning today as they
did then:
In 1942 he addressed the in-
coming members of the freshman
class. "Yours will be the major

--Daily-Jack Bergstrom

time after five. If he has no dinner
engagement, President Ruthven
dines at home with Mrs. Ruthven
and then spends the rest of the
evening until 11:30 working on
speeches, reading, or catching up
on his paper work.
PRESIDENT Ruthven often finds
it necessary to be absent from
the campus on business. There are
countless educational confereneces
to attend and speaking engage-
ments to be met. Since the inaugu-
ration of the Michigan Memorial-
Phoenix Project, President Ruth-
ven has travelled from one coast
to another, selling alumni on the
research program.
President Ruthven is a Method-
ist in religion, a life-long Mason

and is generally considered a Re-
publican in politics.
A naturally modest and retiring
man, he prefers to stay behind the
scenes and allow it to appear that
the University runs itself. Im-
mediately after his appointment he
expressed a desire to "keep out of
the news." He saw the University
as "a quiet place for learned men
to work out the problems of man-
kind and for youths to become
learned." A reporter was told that
"I have no desire to keep news
away from newspapers, but I want
the University run in such a way
that there won't be any news."
In this statement, President
Ruthven was obviously thinking


We Congratulate You
on a job Well Done


Fountain Pens

314 South State Street

Since 1908
Phone 7177




Here's ( a ribute
for his 22 years
of excellent service
to the University.
Congratulations to our
208 Michigan Theater Bldg.
Phone 2-2072



Neither a good
appearance nor a
good education can
guarantee success.
But what a head start
they give you !
Ask the man who
buys his clothes
from .. .

..* ''~.r~: is:'%:?i:I:%C:vt

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