BY: Claude S. Larzelere, M. A.

(Department of History & Civics)

(From: Michigan History Magazine, July 1919, Vol. 3)

One afternoon in October, 1891, four of the leading citizens of Mt. Pleasant sat in an office at the foot of a street in that city, now called Normal Avenue. One of them looking up the street to a grove nearly a mile away said, "A normal school would look well out there." This was the beginning of the Central Michigan Normal School.

Nothing further of importance was done in the matter until the next spring, when a gentleman interested in the project obtained an option upon sixty acres of land on the south side of the city for $6,000. This option, however, was allowed to lapse.

In the meantime the subject had been agitated and discussed, and in May, 1892, the Mt. Pleasant Improvement Company was formed, primarily for the purpose of starting a normal school. The capital stock was $10,000, divided into 400 shares of $25 each. Ten per cent of the capital was paid in and later assessments brought the amount up to forty per cent.

An attempt was now made to get the sixty-acre tract which was thought to be desirable for a site, but the price had now jumped to $12,000. The company finally secured fifty-two acres for $8,000. About ten acres were reserved for a campus and the remainder divided into two hundred and twenty-four city lots and offered for sale at $110 each, the purchaser to be assigned his lot by chance. By hard work on the part of several of the business men public spirit was aroused, many residents of the city and surrounding country were prevailed upon to make purchases, and most of the lots were sold.

The company now began to look about for a man to put at the head of the proposed school. Professor C. F. R. Bellows, who had been at the head of the department of mathematics in the State Normal School at Ypsilanti for many years and one of the best known teachers of the State, had recently left that institution and was conducting a summer school at Marquette. Mr. Michael Devereaux, one of the men who was pushing the matter, being a former student at the Ypsilanti Normal, was sent to Marquette to confer with him. This led to a contract with Professor Bellows, according to which he was to become principal of the new school and surveyor for the Improvement Company at a salary of $2,000.

Mr. Stratton D. Brooks, now president of the University of Oklahoma, was engaged as vice-principal. The contract made with him shows the precarious condition of the finances of the enterprise. He was to receive $1,200 for a year of twelve months. He was to be paid $800 "and wait for $400 till the school furnishes the same by its successful income, or till the same shall be assumed by the State of Michigan or otherwise disposed of by said company." One-half of the $800 was to be paid in monthly installments and the balance of $400 was to be paid at the end of the year, "if the school shall have been a financial success and have such $400 in its treasury after payment of other claims, and if not, then the same shall be paid when such money is on hand or when the company shall dispose of its school property."

Mrs. Lydia E. Kniss, for several years a teacher in the Normal at Ypsilanti, was secured as preceptress.

The new school opened in September, 1892, in rooms in a business block, under the name of the "Central Michigan Normal School and Business Institute." According to the first printed announcement its faculty numbered eight and there were to be five departments, - normal, academical, commercial, industrial, music and art. During the first year there were 42 students enrolled in the normal department, 46 in the commercial, and 35 in the night school - 123 in all.

In the meantime a contract had been let for a building to cost $9,980. This building, which after much remodeling and building over now constitutes the central part of the present main building, was commenced in October, 1892, and finished the next summer.

From the beginning of the movement to establish the school, there was present in the minds of the promoters the purpose to get the Legislature to take it over and make it a State institution. For this purpose Mr. S. W. Hopkins, an attorney of Mt. Pleasant and the man who had first suggested the idea of the school, was sent to the State Senate for the session of 1893. Mr. Hopkins worked hard and nearly succeeded in accomplishing his purpose, but the idea that more than one normal school was needed in the State had not yet become prevalent and the attempt to create a second one met with strong opposition. The citizens of Mt. Pleasant were not to be discouraged however by the first failure. They had already secured a United States Government Indian School and were determined to have a State Normal and they continued to support the new institution largely by private subscriptions.

Mr. Robert Brown was sent as representative from Isabella County to the Legislature for the session of 1895. Mr. E. O. Shaw, a Newaygo, was Senator from the district in which the school is situated. These gentlemen worked unceasingly to get the Legislature to make the school a State institution. As at the previous session, a committee was induced to visit Mt. Pleasant and look over the situation. At last, just at the close of the session, their efforts were successful. The opposition was especially strong in the House. By strenuous efforts and by trading with other members having bills which they desired to get through, Mr. Brown secured a bare majority. The credit for making the school a State institution is largely due to him. Governor Rich, however, was not disposed to sign the bill and it required a special trip by Senator Shaw from his home in Newaygo to Lansing after the Legislature had adjourned, and much persuasion on his part, to get the Governor to affix his signature to the measure on the last day allowed by law for it to be signed, June 3, 1895.

The Act provided that "A normal school for the preparation and training of persons for teaching in the rural district schools, and the primary departments of the graded schools of the State, to be known as 'Central Michigan Normal School.' be established and continued at the city of Mount Pleasant," on condition that the campus of about ten acres with the building and contents be donated to the State Board of Education, the school being put under the control of that Board.

The Legislature however failed to make any appropriation for its support and the citizens of Mt. Pleasant continued to go down into their pockets and supply the necessary funds until the Legislature met in January, 1897, when an emergency appropriation was made. Much time and money were spent by many residents of the city in order to get the institution established and to keep it running. There was no considerable wealth among them and the burden was especially heavy as it came during the hard times following the panic of 1893.

Principal Bellows continued at the head of the school until the summer of 1896 when failing health compelled him to retire and Mr. Charles McKenny was made principal. Mr. McKenny had occupied the chair of history in Olivet College. He was an excellent choice for the work of building up the school. He is a man energetic, scholarly, enthusiastic, sympathetic, and full of magnetism that attracts and holds young and old.

The Legislature at its session of 1897 made an appropriation of $12,000 for current expenses for each of the years 1897 and 1898 and $5,000 for improvements to the building, and passed an Act providing "that the State Board of Education shall maintain substantial uniformity and reciprocity in the courses of study of the Central Michigan Normal School and with any related courses which may be offered a the State Normal School at Ypsilanti, so that transfer of students from one school to another shall not lead to loss of standing for similar courses."

The Act further provided for two courses of study at the Central Normal, - a rural school course, "containing the branches of instruction required by law for a third grade county certificate, and such work in the science and art of teaching" as the State Board might require. This let to a certificate good for two years, "authorizing the holder to teach in any district school of this State employing not more than one teacher." The certificate might be renewed for two years after a successful teaching experience by the holder. A graded school course was also to be given "containing the branches of instruction required for a first grade county certificate, and such additional work in the science and art of teaching" as the State Board should determine. At the end of this course a certificate was granted for three years, valid through the State. This might be renewed for three years after successful experience in teaching. The same Act empowered the State Board to change the name of the Ypsilanti school to "Michigan State Normal College."

The establishment of a second Normal was strongly opposed by citizens of Ypsilanti and some members of the faculty of the Normal School at that place. After the Mt. Pleasant school was taken over by the Legislature that opposition was continued in the form of attempts to keep that school in a subordinate position by restricting its courses of study and the certificates which it could grant. It was felt that another Normal would lessen the attendance and lessen the importance of the older institution. This opposition died out when it was found that the new school did not diminish the attendance at Ypsilanti and that the greatest growth and prosperity of the Normal College came after there had been not only a second Normal but two others established in the State.

Mr. McKenny continued as principal until the spring of 1900 when he was called to the presidency of the Wisconsin Normal School at Milwaukee. The school had prospered under his administration, having grown in size of faculty, attendance, equipment and prestige. The faculty then numbered twenty-five. The total enrollment the first year under State control was 84, the second year 196; the third year 314; the fourth year 410; and when Mr. McKenny left it was nearly 500.

Mr. Charles T. Grawn, who as a superintendent of the schools of Traverse City had established a reputation as one of the leading school men of the State, was chosen to succeed Mr. McKenny, and the wisdom of the board is shown by his successful administration and the continuous development and improvement of the school in many lines.

The Legislature in 1899 appropriated $25,000 to defray the current expenses of the school for each of the fiscal years ending in June, 1900 and 1901. An additional sum of $43,000 was appropriated for adding a wing to the building and for fixing over the original structure. This work was completed in the fall of 1900.

In 1901 the Legislature appropriated $35,000 for the support of the school for each of the following years, $32,000 for the erection of a training school building and $18,000 for another wing to the main building. These additions were completed in the following year.

In 1903 the appropriation for current expenses for each of the following years was $55,560 and for special purposes $11,000, including $5,000 for additional land.

Two years later the amount for maintenance was $66,565 for each year of the biennial period ending June 30, 1907. A special appropriation of $25,000 was made for a heating and lighting plant and $5,000 for land.

Since 1905 the appropriations for each biennial period have run as follows:

1907-1909 current expenses, $149,180; special purposes, including new buildings, $57,300.

1909-1911 current expenses, $150,000; special purposes, including new buildings, $14,000.

1911-1913 current expenses, $160,000; special purposes, including new buildings, $6,500.

1913-1915 current expenses, $180.000; special purposes, including new buildings, $26,500.

1915-1917 current expenses, $190,000; special purposes, including new buildings, $26,500.

1917-1919 current expenses $206,000; special purposes, including new buildings, $8,650.

By an Act of the Legislature in 1903 the State Board of Education was empowered to prescribe such courses of study and grant such certificates as it saw fit, provided that in the Central and Western Normals there always be maintained a department for the training of teachers for rural schools. Under this authority the Board authorized the Central Normal to grant like certificates.

Since Mr. Grawn became principal in 1900 the progress of the school has been exceedingly gratifying. The campus has been increased from ten acres to thirty-two acres by appropriations made by the Legislature and donations by the city of Mt. Pleasant. The main building has been enlarged to three times its original capacity and the training school, a heating and lighting plant, a fine gymnasium and a large up-to-date science building have been erected. The grounds have been greatly improved. The library has increased from 3000 volumes to 20,000 volumes and the laboratories in a similar proportion. The growth in equipment, furniture, apparatus, pictures and statuary has been no less marked. The faculty now numbers about forty.

It was stated in an early catalog of the school, "A university, eleven colleges, and a normal college offer courses which prepare teachers for the high schools of the State, but no institution in Michigan except the Central Normal has for its sole object the training of teachers for the grades and for the rural schools." This was said with truth at that time. Conditions have changed much since then. The Normal College now sends out hundreds into the grades as well as into the high schools. Two more State Normals have been established and fifty county training classes are preparing teachers for rural schools. While the Central Normal is sending out many young men as superintendents and principals and many of its young ladies who show especial ability and fitness into high school positions, its main purpose has not changed. Its principal work is fitting young people to teach in grades of the city and village schools and in rural schools.

At present there are offered the following courses: a four years' course leading to the degree of A. B.; a life certificate course consisting of certain required professional work in psychology, pedagogy, history of education, practice teaching, and methods, and considerable academic work to be elected from a large range of subjects, - this is a two years' course for high school graduates and a four years' course for pupils who have finished a tenth grade; a limited certificate course requiring one year for its completion by a high school graduate and consisting almost entirely of required professional work, - this leads to a certificate entitling the holder to teach in the grades for three years; rural school courses designed to prepare teachers for country schools. There are also courses for kindergartners, and in agriculture, physical training, music, drawing, manual training and domestic science, fitting teachers for special work in those lines in public schools.

The faculty is composed of men and women of good scholarship and teaching ability, nearly all of whom besides being specialists in their respective lines have had considerable experience in public school work. They are graduates mostly of Harvard, Columbia, Chicago, Michigan and other universities. Several have traveled and studied abroad.

A monthly publication, The Central Normal Bulletin, is maintained by the school under the management of a committee of the faculty and serves the threefold purpose of being a medium for the publication of educational articles by members of the faculty, a record of school news and a means of keeping the school and its graduates in tough with each other.

The president and faculty of the school believe in an all-round development for teachers. Physical training is required and athletics are encouraged. The athletic spirit of the school is excellent and strong teams in football, basketball, tennis and baseball have been maintained. The management of all athletic contests is in the hands of a committee of the faculty.

The musical life of the school is also a high order. Besides the various classes in music and opportunities for individual training, a large chorus gives an excellent drill in choral work and furnishes music for concerts during the year. Eminent soloists from the larger cities of the country assist in rendering the great musical masterpieces. A lecture and music course brings many prominent people and high-class entertainers before the students. The Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A., organized among the students, together with the churches of the city, minister to the religious needs. A healthful social life exists in the school. Frequent social functions such as receptions and parties are given by faculty or students in the Normal building and students are often entertained at the homes of faculty members. The school has a reputation for the cordial relations and closeness of touch between faculty and students. All social affairs are under the management of a faculty committee.

The greatly increased demand for trained teachers is shown by the fact that calls for graduates of the Central Normal in all courses far exceed the supply. Graduates from the life certificate course easily find positions in some of the largest cities of the State, while those finishing the limited and rural school courses are placed in the best village and district schools a the highest salaries. Graduates prepared to teach special subjects are in great demand.

After eighteen years of faithful service and feeling that he had earned a rest, President Grawn handed his resignation to the State Board of Education to take effect April 1, 1918. During the time that he was at the head of the school he signed the diplomas and certificates of thousands of young people to whom he endeared himself and who look upon him as a father.

Mr. Grawn's successor is Mr. E. C. Warriner, for many years superintendent of the schools of Saginaw and one of the leading educators of the State. Under his administration the Central Michigan Normal School promises to continue its successful career and increase its usefulness in the educational work of the State.

It is believed that the Central Normal is doing much for the public schools of the State. It endeavors to be one of the leaders in educational progress in Michigan and at the same time keep in close touch with the schools. While it is always ready to advance, it endeavors not to chase fads or ride hobbies, and while it is always anxious to raise its requirements and strengthen its courses, it recognizes that to do so too rapidly would mean a smaller number of trained teachers as its product and a smaller service to the schools of the State.

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