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School for Sale

In late 1945 and early 1946 the Board of Trustees was in communication with the Mennonite Brethren to take over the school. At a special meeting of the Board of Trustees, Board member Donald Worcester reported that the Mennonite Brethren offered $50,000 for Ferris Institute. The amount was not enough to pay off the debts, and the offer was rejected by the Board of Trustees at a Feb. 11, 1946, meeting.

At that meeting the Board recommended that any proposal to be considered for disposing of the school should show financial ability to buy and operate the school and that the price should cover all outstanding obligations in full.

Upon his arrival in 1946, President Byron Brophy began analyzing the situation. In his first "State-of-the-College" annual report in 1946-47, he said: "The basic weakness in Ferris Institute has been that it has been inadequately financed. It is unique as a standard college in that it is totally dependent for its support upon tuition and fees, which ordinarily constitute less than one-third of the support provided standard colleges."

At the Oct. 12, 1948, meeting of the Board of Trustees, Brophy suggested that the main key to the continued existence of Ferris Institute was a sufficiently large financial reserve which would subsidize tuition income in case of an enrollment decline.

He suggested that the Institute form an affiliation with the University of Michigan, Michigan State College, or Central Michigan College of Education. Central Michigan was the most logical choice because of its proximity and because the 1943 Bill had assumed that Central Michigan would administer the Ferris Vocational and Trade School concept.

Charles L. Anspach, who was then president of Central Michigan, wrote to Brophy to say, "Our program here is such that the unit would not fit our present program." Michigan State and the University of Michigan felt likewise.

Next came prolonged communication with the Episcopal Bishops of Michigan, asking that they accept sponsorship of Ferris Institute.

The bishops submitted their conditions:

  1. A tangible project, either building improvement or cash, to indicate the institution's earnestness.
  2. They would retain the traditions and principles of W.N. Ferris and operate Ferris without regard to race, color or creed.
  3. All obligations of the college to be completely settled.
  4. All present contracts would be settled.

A note attached to the minutes of a meeting held Friday, May 21, 1948, stated, "This meeting was a complete failure."

The record of a subsequent phone call reads: "They had their meeting o.k. . . . They needed to get into the spirit of this -- six laymen and three bishops met May 11 . . . . Whole thing liable to blow up at any time . . . ."

Attached was a clipping about the bishops withdrawing their support of Canterbury College, Danville, Ind., for lack of funds.

A later communication from Brophy states, "We will explore future possibilities of outright sponsorship by some competent agency."

In 1947 Judge Raymond W. Starr, a loyal alumnus, who was later to become chairman of the Board of Control, was elected to the Board of Trustees. From the onset of his membership on the Board, Judge Starr was determined to see that the school progressed.

In November 1948, at Judge Starr's suggestion, Brophy made a long distance call to Murston Peer, research director for the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) suggesting that the CIO buy Ferris Institute and have its own institute of higher education.

All that remains on record from this conversation are some pencilled notes from Brophy showing that in 1941 the United Auto Workers spent more than $250,000 to train 2,500 members. "There is a desperate need in the unions for trained individuals in the locals." The significance of the pencilled note is that it indicates Judge Starr got this idea of the CIO having its own institution of higher education from reading an article in the October, 1948, issue of Fortune.

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