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The Masselink Months

When W.N. Ferris hired Gerrit Masselink in 1898, he had in mind turning the mantle of the Institute over to him when the time came. Thus it was a foregone conclusion that Masselink would succeed Mr. Ferris on the senator's death. Masselink had already served as director of the school while Mr. Ferris was governor.

Masselink, like Ferris, had been born in a log cabin. His birth date was July 3, 1872, near what is now Oakland, Mich. Mr. Ferris had intimated to him when he hired him that if Mrs. Ferris should retire that he, Masselink, would help guide the school. Mr. Ferris kept telling Masselink that he couldn't pay him as much as he was worth, but in the end Masselink would be rewarded.

Unfortunately the reward was short lived. Masselink died April 25, 1929, just 13 months after Mr. Ferris' death.

Masselink knew the rules that Mr. Ferris had run the school by, and Mr. Ferris had taught Masselink well. But Masselink was more amenable than Ferris. He often placated a student scathed by W.N. Ferris' sarcasm.

When Masselink saw a game in progress he would get right in the middle of it, good clothes and all.


Although he believed in physical fitness, Mr. Ferris was not inclined toward athletic corn petition. He felt athletic competition was a waste of time, and when he saw students playing football or baseball, he often looked the other way.

Gerrit MasselinkGerrit Masselink

But Masselink loved athletics. He had been a high school wrestler of some talent -- a heavyweight champion -- and when he saw a football game or a baseball game he would get right in the middle of it, good clothes and all, and serve as coach. He often used his own money to provide equipment or material for an FI team.

As a teacher he had infinite patience with the students who were discouraged, and he gave freely of his time to those seeking advice.

Masselink made no attempt to parallel Mr. Ferris' political career, but he did run for lieutenant governor in 1926 with William A. Comstock.

But again the Democratic party was defeated; Comstock, however, was elected governor in 1932.

The administration of the school remained pretty much the same under Masselink as it had been under Ferris. Masselink's major concern was a building fund the school had launched while Mr. Ferris was in Washington.

Family members claim it was a misunderstanding about the building fund which hastened Masselink's death.

Groundbreaking cerimony for alumni building

Early in 1929 Masselink was stricken with typhoid fever, misdiagnosed for a few weeks as influenza. While he was in his sick bed plans were afoot at the school to build the Alumni Building -- at that time planned to be named the Woodbridge N. Ferris Memorial Building. The city of Big Rapids had pledged $20,000 to the school for the building, but the indications of an economic depression were evident, and a businessman called Masselink to state that he was not sure under the present economic conditions that the school could depend on this pledge.

Masselink, who had just taken a turn for the better, got up and went around town in the pouring rain seeking assurance from the businessmen that their pledge would be honored. He later caught pneumonia, from which he never recovered.

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