The Student and His Professor

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About the author:
David J. Young practices Internal Medicine in Holland, Michigan. He grew up in East Lansing, graduated from the University of Notre Dame du lac ('77) and Wayne State Medical School ('82). He completed his residency training at the University of Minnesota Hospitals ('85). His first book, "Arrogance and Scheming in the Big Ten: Michigan State's Quest for Membership and Michigan's Powerful Opposition," reviews in great detail how Michigan State, an unpopular suitor, was selected by conference leaders to replace the University of Chicago in December of 1948.

The Student and His Professor

John Hannah, Ralph Aigler and the Origin of the Michigan State-Michigan Rivalry

Authored by David J. Young
Edition: 1

"The Student and His Professor: John Hannah, Ralph Aigler and the Origin of the Michigan State-Michigan Rivalry" explores the long-standing, adversarial relationship between Michigan State President John Hannah and Michigan Law Professor Ralph Aigler. Their behind-the-scenes feud-based in large part on the controversial "athletic" scholarship-arguably played a major role in eventually transitioning a lopsided, politically mandated intrastate football series into a bona fide regional rivalry of national interest; one that even included a trophy!

It was late September of 1921; the second week of the academic year in Ann Arbor. The lecture on procedural law had just ended. Professor Ralph Aigler asked the student to step forward. He was impressed with the young man's presence under fire during didactic dialogue a few minutes earlier. The student performed extremely well considering the arcane question had nothing to do with the assigned readings. They shook hands. The professor predicted a bright future for the Grand Rapids native. Nine months later, John Hannah would drop out of law school. He planned to transfer to Michigan Agricultural College and study poultry science instead. Professor Aigler was surprised by the decision. He wished him well.

Twenty years later, in late December of 1941, the student and his professor would rekindle their relationship. But this time, it was not nearly as cordial. Ralph Aigler was now a nationally recognized legal scholar in contracts. He was also considered the most powerful man in intercollegiate athletics-a reputation gained while serving as Michigan's faculty representative to the Big Ten and the NCAA in the interim. And John Hannah, after working for his alma mater in various roles following graduation, had recently been appointed the school's president. The board of trustees was impressed with the college secretary-effectively the chief operating officer-and his knack for leadership. At age 39, Hannah was not content with maintaining the status quo. He had a grand vision for the land-grant school-transforming it into a major research center offering advanced degrees in disciplines unrelated to agriculture and the applied sciences.

President Hannah had just announced plans to implement a financial aid program for Spartan athletes. His controversial proposal was based on a concept of justice honed during his one-year of studying law at the University of Michigan. Professor Aigler, who had long-since lost track of his student, was livid over the announcement from East Lansing. The Jenison Awards were contrary to the 1916 amateur code of ethics, which he had dedicated his career to upholding. A 14-year gentleman's quarrel between two academic giants followed, one that would profoundly impact institutional relations at the board of trustees level by the mid-1950s.

The story of that feud and its role in advancing the intrastate series is built around four historical events: Michigan State's quest for membership in the Big Nine; the Spartan Foundation Probation of '53; the Paul Bunyan Trophy controversy; and the "name change" civil war of 1954-55. As it turned out, Professor Aigler and fellow Wolverine leaders-obsessed with keeping the newbies in their rightful place-played no small part in trying to influence each outcome.

Publication Date:
069236241X / 9780692362419
Page Count:
Binding Type:
US Trade Paper
Trim Size:
6" x 9"
Black and White
Related Categories:
Sports & Recreation / History

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