Reading Today

The University of Michigan’s most legendary president coined what’s become an unofficial mission statement for one of the nation’s first public universities: to provide “an uncommon education for the common man.”

Michigan, he declared, would be an antidote to aristocracy.

“Have an aristocracy of birth if you will or of riches if you wish, but give our plain boys from the log cabins a chance to develop their minds with the best learning and we fear nothing from your aristocracy,” that president, James Angell, said in 1879. “In the fierce competitions of life something besides blue blood or inherited wealth is needed to compete with the brains and character from the cabins.”

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