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Into the Twentieth Century

Century of Opportunity Logo with presidents images

West Michigan's vast lumber supply had dwindled by the time the Institute went into its third decade. To the southeast the automobile manufacturing business was beginning its climb to industrial gianthood. By 1904 it had become fashionable for the well-to-do families to have automobiles. The price of $2,000 was too much for the middle-class families, but salesmen and farmers and others who had to travel distances could get a motor buggy for as little as $250.

In the third decade, W.N. Ferris was elected governor, the second elected Democratic governor in the state's history. His duties kept him away from the school for months at a time. In 1912 there was no governor's mansion in Lansing, and the governor lived in a hotel room.

Although ill, Helen Ferris accompanied her husband to Lansing much of the time while he was performing his gubernatorial duties.

By the third decade, the school had stabilized and Gerrit Masselink and Bert Travis were able to hold the reins and keep the Institute headed in the direction set by Mr. Ferris.

In 1901, after he had changed the name from Industrial to Institute, W.N. Ferris issued a new quarterly publication, the Ferris Institute Journal for which he charged 25 cents a year. By 1906 he was issuing the publication free.

His 1906 announcement of a new term beginning Oct. 29 contained a historical statement: "The Ferris Institute is thoroughly democratic -- that is to say, it is a school for all people regardless of race or station."

"The only kind of student who receives special favors," the article said, "is the student who for any cause has gotten behind his age. He is intellectually hungry, and consequently is anxious to be fed. However backward, he is carefully and patiently looked after." (This was long before the advent of special education provisions.)

"He is intellectually hungry and consequently is anxious to be fed."

When Pestalozzi couldn't get government subsidy for his school for the culturally and intellectually deprived, he educated them free. W.N. Ferris did not pretend to educate them free, but he often stated that the educationally deprived who attended his school were his favorite pupils. By the third decade of the Ferris Institute, it was the only school in the nation emphasizing the Pestalozzian concept.

One of the outstanding examples of educationally deprived people who attended Ferris was Isaiah Bowman, who served as president of Johns Hopkins University from 1935-1949. Almost illiterate, Bowman came to Ferris Institute to prepare for college in 1900. From Ferris he went to Michigan State Normal College (now Eastern Michigan University). He earned the B.S. degree at Harvard and the Ph.D. degree from Yale. Before assuming the presidency of Johns Hopkins, Bowman distinguished himself as a geographer.

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