Faculty & Leadership
By: Anastasia Dula, Class of '58 researcher and UM-Flint student
Students of the Flint College had a unique relationship with their professors. Many students were left with the impression that these professors were excited by the idea of coming in right at the beginning of a new college's history, and that they were determined to do everything in their power to make it succeed. Many had degrees from big schools such as Columbia, Stanford, Harvard, the University of California, and the University of Michigan, among others. Some seemed to the students to be a little taken aback by the dirty, noisy, industrial nature of the town, and thought that even the buildings of the college looked like factories; however, they were generally thought to be good instructors who were extremely knowledgeable in their fields and intent upon demonstrating that the quality of instruction at the new college was equal to the original campus in Ann Arbor.
Several professors also believed that becoming acquainted with their students socially would help them to develop a better working relationship with students by making the professors seem more human and approachable. To this end, they would attend student dances and family fun nights, they would socialize with students in the coffee shop that faculty and students shared, and some, such as psychology professor Dr. Raphelson, would even play basketball with students. Others, however, had a reputation for being more austere, both with students and with fellow faculty.
There were only fourteen faculty members for the first year, but several more professors, secretaries, administrators, and librarians were added by the following year. Some of those prominent among the faculty and staff by Spring of 1958 were:
Dr. David French-- Dean
Dr. French, a Rhodes Scholar with a Ph.D. in political science, seemed optimistic about the future of the new college. Students and faculty both thought of him as a hard worker and seemingly kindly person, but he seemed to some to be more "hands off" with the students than he might have been. Others, however, found him very approachable, such as the student who confronted him in his office about the lack of sidewalks around the new college that was causing her to muddy her shoes. He and his wife would occasionally host dinners at their home for the faculty of the college to socialize, though his business in running the college may have contributed to his tendency to remain slightly aloof from the other professors. Students surmised that he was busy attempting to attract enough students to keep the new school afloat, and many remember him as being quite helpful and encouraging overall.
Dr. Donald DeGraaf-- Physics Professor
When Donald DeGraaf finished his doctorate from the University of Michigan in 1956, there was a shortage of young Ph.D.s in academia. He soon began to receive offers of employment from several different universities-- some unsolicited-- as schools attempted to cope with the influx of new student veterans taking advantage of the G.I. Bill. One offer in particular appealed to him: the brand new college of the University of Michigan located in Flint, a college he had first heard of through a university newspaper while he was a graduate student at U of M. The Flint College's Dean, David M. French, invited DeGraaf to tour the new building under construction that was to house the College in the fall. In spite of the poor impression made by the smoky, noisy, dirty industrial town, DeGraaf and his wife ultimately decided to accept the offer from the new college and move to Flint.
DeGraaf was initially somewhat anxious about his new position, but this anxiety stemmed mainly from his own desire-- as a new, untenured professor-- to demonstrate that he could be useful to the school, not from the newness of this college. In fact, the fact that the college was in its infancy was a major part of the school's appeal for DeGraaf. He felt that he, with all of the other faculty at the Flint College, were trailblazers. As he had always enjoyed the excitement of doing things that have never been done before, this made the newness enjoyable even if it did sometimes make things particularly stressful.
Dr. William Murchie-- Zoology Professor
Dr. William Murchie, the most senior faculty member of the natural sciences, was known for his passion for his subject and for his carefully thought out teaching methods. One student recalled taking an entomology course with him to fulfill a general education requirement. Only two students enrolled in the course, and so instead of lecturing, Murchie assigned them projects to work on. A student in another course remembered that Murchie's exams in consisted of amusing cartoon animals on cards that had to be labeled with the correct genus and species epithet. He explained later that he liked to give exams this way because students would often laugh and relax, reducing test anxiety.
Murchie was also well known for his fascination with and research on earthworms, a passion that tended to show through in examples given in several of his courses. Some students, inspired by his passion for seemingly mundane creatures, developed a new appreciation for the natural sciences that they have not forgotten decades later. Other faculty remember him as a wise counsellor, as he had teaching experience acquired at other colleges before he came to the Flint College.
The Flint College of the University of Michigan was housed on the campus of the Flint Junior College for the first year of its existence. The three buildings that made up this campus had once held the Oak Grove Sanitorium. These structures, which reminded some students of old castles, were connected by a series of tunnels lined with student lockers. There were side rooms off of the tunnels where students could play cards, but when it rained hard, students sometimes found themselves dodging drips from the leaky tunnel roofs.
In stark contrast with the Junior College buildings, the more spartan, utilitarian Mott Memorial Building-- completed and ready for occupancy by the fall semester of 1957-- was purpose-built to house the Flint College. Thus, while it and the nearby Ballenger Field House reminded some of the selfsame factories that supported the industrial city of Flint, it functioned better as a school in some ways than the old Sanitorium buildings had. For instance, some classrooms in the Junior College had been inconveniently laid out-- there was sometimes room for only four seats per row of desks, making twelve or so rows necessary to fit the entire class in. This made it it very difficult for those in the back to hear the lecture given at the front of the classroom. Even if the new buildings lacked the character of the old, many felt them to be much more functional as a school.
There was one large lecture hall in the Mott Memorial Building, several other classrooms and science laboratories of various specialties, a greenhouse, a coat check, a coffee shop where both students and professors would relax and mingle together, a library, and scant decoration on the cinderblock walls. ((Illustrate this bit with JA112.jpg)
In 1957-58, the Flint College offered nine programs of concentration, all of which culminated in bachelors of arts: biological sciences, business administration, elementary education, English, history, mathematics, physical sciences, secondary education (with an academic teaching major), and social sciences. There were no departments at that time, as a minimum of three tenure track faculty were necessary for a subject area to receive that designation.
In the fall of 1956, 28 courses were offered in a range of 13 subjects. By the spring, 31 other courses had been added, and more still were added the following year. Furthermore, the nature of this college required that some of these courses be unique. For instance, general education requirements dictated that each student complete a number of credits in the sciences. However, because this was a senior college, all classes offered needed to be at the junior or senior level. This situation necessitated the creation of upper-level science classes with no prerequisites-- a difficult task, given that many such courses depend heavily upon mathematics (mathematics that many of the older students hadn't studied since high school, decades earlier). No textbooks appropriate for such courses existed. This situation created a need for professors to write intensive self-guided reviews to make such courses succeed.
At the Flint College, 15 semester hours was considered full-time, though a student could take up to eighteen with his or her faculty adviser's permission (or even more, in exceptional cases). Those who worked, however, were required to carry fewer credits. For the first year, tuition was a $100 flat fee per semester for ten credits or more. For the second year, it was $125 per semester, and each semester's textbooks tended to cost $20-$25.
Extra Curricular Activities
Numerous extra curricular activities were available to students even at the very beginning of the Flint College. A number of clubs existed, including Bridge club, business administration society, Cinema guild, the Arrow society (a service honorary), and a pre-med and pre-dental society. In addition, there was a yearbook, student government, intramural sports including basketball and football, a Flint station for the University of Michigan Radio, a number of plays, many school dances, and a few school-hosted family fun nights. Many more clubs and activities were soon added, sometimes suggested by faculty and sometimes by students-- in general, students simply needed to find a faculty sponsor to start a new club, positions that many of the faculty were happy to accept. There were some organizations, however, that were not permitted in the beginning, such as religious clubs and sororities/fraternities (because the dean and faculty were wary of the exclusionary element such societies might bring to the new college).