By: Anastasia Dula, Class of '58 researcher and UM-Flint student
When Donald DeGraaf finished his doctorate from the University of Michigan in 1956, there was a shortage of young Ph.Ds 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.
There was variety in our personalities, our experience, our opinions, our world views, but we were united in our vision for the new college and in our sense of community. We knew we had to work together and serve our students with a really good education.