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A Finding Aid for the Gerrit Masselink Papers 1907-1930

Collection Summary

Collection Title: Gerrit Masselink Papers

Creator: Ferris State University. Office of the President.

Dates: 1907-1930

Abstract: Gerrit Masselink (1872-1929) was the second president and early instructor at the Ferris Institute. He taught mathematics, science and Bible study from 1898-1929. Masselink was also one of the earliest supporters of athletics at Ferris. As a politician, Masselink organized the Mecosta Bull Moose party, and later ran unsuccessfully as a Progressive Republican and Democratic candidate for several offices. The papers consist of correspondence, writings and subject files primarily relating to his involvement with the school and the first major fundraising campaign. The papers span the dates 1907-1930, with the bulk of the papers covering 1925-1929.

Language: English

Quantity: 4.5 cubic feet; 3 records center boxes

Identification: UA 1.2

Repository: Ferris State University Archives and Records Management Program

Historical Note

Gerrit Masselink was born 3 July 1872 in Oversel, a small town in Allegan County, Michigan. He was the eldest of eight children. After working his way through school as a teacher, Masselink graduated with high honors in mathematics and chemistry and a bachelor of science degree in 1895 from Michigan Agricultural College (Michigan State University).

He served as a superintendent of schools in Cass, Michigan for three years. In June 1898, he came to Ferris Institute in Big Rapids, Michigan to teach mathematics and science. He took over many of the classes originally taught by Helen Gillespie Ferris, who was in poor health. Apart from a one year absence in 1903 to edit Michigan State publications, Masselink was to remain at Ferris for the remainder of his career.

Masselink was an active and popular teacher at Ferris Institute who was also instrumental in the formation of an athletic program. He was also well known for his Bible study class conducted both at the Big Rapids Presbyterian Church and at Ferris Institute. One of his Fundamentals for Life's Success noted, "God is in every house, live accordingly." Following Ferris' election as governor in 1912, Masselink frequently acted as the head of Ferris Institute. As such, he held a variety of titles from acting president to manager and vice-president. After Ferris' death in 1928, Masselink became president. He was the driving force behind a major fundraising campaign from 1926 until his death.

Masselink was also extremely active in civic affairs and local politics. He served on the Mecosta County War board, Red Cross board, and held memberships in the following clubs: Masonic Lodge, Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows, Rotary, Authors and Schoolmasters. In 1912, he organized the county Bull Moose party. Later he became involved with the Progressive Republicans and the Democratic Party. He ran for several offices, although he never won. In 1913 and 1915 he was a candidate for the Superintendent of Public Instruction. In 1910, he was the Prohibition candidate for lieutenant governor, and in 1926 he was Democratic candidate for that office.

Gerrit Masselink became seriously ill in March 1929. Following a struggle with influenza, Masselink developed typhoid fever. After a period in which he briefly improved, he was transferred to the hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He died on 20 April 1929.

On 24 December 1897, Masselink married Lavinia MacArthur, sister of his college roommate. He had three children: George, Rollo and Lillian (Masselink) Wright.

Scope and Content Note

Gerrit Masselink, second president of Ferris Institute, handled much of the daily administrative activities while Woodbridge Nathan Ferris pursued a state and national political career. While the material relating to Masselink's political ambitions is sparse, it is known that he ran at least five times for statewide office and lost. Limited information on his political career and non-Ferris activities can be found in the biographies and nearprint files.

The correspondence series primarily documents the activities of Ferris Institute in 1925-1926. At this point Masselink was acting president- some of the letters are written on his behalf by either Karl Merrill or Bert Travis. Of some significance is correspondence with Woodbridge Ferris about Ferris' political activities and about the expansion campaign. Also, one letter to H. Bueker details Masselink's views on World War I and its impact on local taxes. Also of interest is a file of correspondence about instructor Flora Baeske who did phrenological readings. Typical correspondence subjects include: nonpayment of student bills, references for former students, certificates of recommendation, alumni activities and supplies and employment at the Institute.

There are also a number of files relating to the expansion campaign from 1926-1930. Originally begun as a benefit association, the campaign in 1927 began to specifically raise funds to replace a burned out building. Following Ferris' death, this building became a memorial building later named Alumni Building. Campaign materials include correspondence with W.M. Kellogg, who urged them to hire a former Kellogg employee, Ward Systems of Chicago, Illinois to run the campaign. This was unsuccessful, but Kellogg became a later donor. Materials consist of campaign plans, reports from field agents and subscription cards and related correspondence. There are also tribute statements written by alumni for use in the fundraising campaign. Following Masselink's death, the campaign continued and later records have remained filed in the Masselink collection.


The papers are divided into two series:

Access Information

Conditions of Access

The Gerrit Masselink Papers are open for research to all users in accordance with University Archives and Records Management access policies. It is available in the reading room of the Ferris State University Archives.

Conditions of Use

Requests for permission to publish material should be directed to the University Archivist. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Copyright interests for this collection have been transferred to Ferris State University. For more information, contact the University Archivist.

Subject Headings

Below are a list of names, organizations and subjects relating to the collection. Names have been taken from Library of Congress Authority headings whenever possible.

Related Materials

None specified.

Administrative Information


Footnotes and bibliographic references should use the following format:
[Item], Folder, Box). Gerrit Masselink Papers. Ferris State University Archives. Big Rapids, Michigan.

Provenance (Acquisition Information)

The Gerrit Masselink Papers were partially located in various parts of the Ferris State University campus and through Lillian Masselink Wright, Big Rapids, Michigan.

Processing Information

The Gerrit Masselink Papers were processed by Melinda McMartin Isler in September 2003. Some correspondence had previously been organized by archivist Larry Martin. A finding aid was prepared in a word processing format and converted to EAD 1.0. It was revised in December 2007. A collection level MARC-format record was prepared and placed in the library online public access catalog. Description was based on Describing Archives: A Content Standard (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2004).

Technical Requirements


Content Listing

Series 1. Correspondence. 1917-1929.

The correspondence series consists of 3 cubic feet of correspondence written primarily by Gerrit Masselink as acting president and president of Ferris Institute. Some letters have been written by Bert S. Travis or Karl G. Merrill while Masselink was unavailable. Correspondence relates to Ferris Institute student recruitment, job placement and ordering supplies for the school. Correspondents such as T.E. Johnson, Michigan Public Superintendent of Education, requested job references and universities requested background educational information that showed the later educational endeavors of Ferris graduates. A series of letters between Masselink and Woodbridge Ferris in Washington D.C. discuss the current political climate and school related issues.

The series is arranged alphabetically.

Box Folder Contents
1 1 Correspondence. A-Ai.
1 2 Correspondence. Al.
1 3 Correspondence. Am-An.
1 4 Correspondence. Ap-Ar.
1 5 Correspondence. As-Az.
1 6 Correspondence. Baa-Bak.
1 7 Correspondence. Baeske, Flora. 1926.
1 8 Correspondence. Bal-Baz.
1 9 Correspondence. Bea-Beh.
1 10 Correspondence. Bei-Bez.
1 11 Correspondence. Bi-Bl.
1 12 Correspondence. Bo-Bp.
1 13 Correspondence. Br-Bz.
1 14 Correspondence. Ca.
1 15 Correspondence. Ce-Cl.
1 16 Correspondence. Cm-Col.
1 17 Correspondence. Com-Cz.
1 18 Correspondence. Cp-Cz.
1 19 Correspondence. Da.
1 20 Correspondence. Dea-Del.
1 21 Correspondence. Dem-Dez.
1 22 Correspondence. Di-Do.
1 23 Correspondence. Diplomas. 1925.
1 24 Correspondence. Dr-Dz.
1 25 Correspondence. Ea-Ek.
1 26 Correspondence. El-Ez.
1 27 Correspondence. F-G.
1 28 Correspondence. Ferris paintings. 1928.
1 29 Correspondence. Ferris, Mary. 1925; 1928.
1 30 Correspondence. Ferris, Woodbridge N. 1924-1925.
1 31 Correspondence. Ferris, Woodbridge N. 1926.
1 32 Correspondence. Ferris, Woodbridge N. 1927.
1 33 Correspondence. Ferris, Woodbridge N. 1928.
1 34 Correspondence. Ferris Institute. Board of Directors. 1924.
1 35 Foreign students. 1925-1929.
1 36 Correspondence. Ha-He.
1 37 Correspondence. Hi-Hn.
Box Folder Contents
2 1 Correspondence. Hoa-Hol.
2 2 Correspondence. Hom-Hoz.
2 3 Correspondence. Hp-Hz.
2 4 Correspondence. I.
2 5 Correspondence. Insurance policies. 1925-1928.
2 6 Correspondence. Ja-Ji.
2 7 Correspondence. Jl-Joh.
2 8 Correspondence. Johnson, T.E. 1925.
2 9 Correspondence. Jok-Joz.
2 10 Correspondence. Ka-Kel.
2 11 Correspondence. Kem-Kez.
2 12 Correspondence. Ki-Kn.
2 13 Correspondence. Ko-Kz.
2 14 Correspondence. L-M.
2 15 Correspondence. Lane, Davenport and Peterson. Alumni Building. 1928-1929.
2 16 Correspondence. Na.
2 17 Correspondence. Ne.
2 18 Correspondence. Ni-Nz.
2 19 Correspondence. O.
2 20 Correspondence. Pa.
2 21 Correspondence. Pe.
2 22 Correspondence. Ph.
2 23 Correspondence. Pi.
2 24 Correspondence. Pl-Pz.
2 25 Correspondence. Q.
2 26 Correspondence. Ra.
2 27 Correspondence. Re-Ri.
2 28 Correspondence. Roa-Ros.
2 29 Correspondence. Rot-Rz.
2 30 Correspondence. S-Z.
2 31 Correspondence. Woodbridge N. Ferris Memorial Committee. 1928.

Series 2. General Files. 1907-1930.

The general files consists of 1.5 cubic feet of general materials that are not administrative correspondence. The majority of these files relate to the first Ferris Institute expansion fundraising campaign, and spans the dates 1925-1930 (although Masselink passed away in 1929.) Materials include: correspondence, circulars, calenders of events, receipts, and subscription cards. There are also biographical and nearprint files about Masselink, and in particular his political career and death.

The series is arranged alphabetically by topic.

Box Folder Contents
2 33 Biographical files. Undated.
2 2 Character Delineation. Windsor, William. 1921.
Box Folder Contents
3 1 Ferris Institute. Unpaid notes. 1912-1927.
3 2 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Binder. August-December 1927.
3 3 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Circular letters. 1926-1929.
3 4 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Correspondence. A-B. 1926-1929.
3 5 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Correspondence. Bergelin, J.A. 1926-1929.
3 6 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Correspondence. C-D. 1926-1929.
3 7 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Correspondence. Culbertson, A.J. 1927-1929.
3 8 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Correspondence. E-G.
3 9 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. H-K.
3 10 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Hein, Wally. 1926-1929.
3 11 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Correspondence. L-M.
3 12 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Correspondence. N-Q.
3 13 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Correspondence. R-S.
3 14 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Correspondence. Rose, Henry. Woodbridge N. Ferris Memorial Committee. 1928.
3 15 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Correspondence. T-V.
3 16 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Correspondence. W-Z.
3 17 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Correspondence. Ward Systems Company. 1925-1926.
3 18 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Expense reports; receipts. 1926-1929.
3 19 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Hewitt Company. Fundraising plan. 1926.
3 20 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Organization. 1927.
3 33 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Pledge book. 1926.
3 21 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Reports. 1926-1928.
3 22 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Subscription cards. 1926-1927.
3 23 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Subscription cards. 1927.
3 24 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Subscription cards. 1928.
3 25 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Subscription cards. 1928-1929.
3 26 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Subscription lists. 1925-1930.
3 27 Ferris Institute. Expansion campaign. Tribute statements. 1926.
3 28 Ferris Institute. Homecoming. 1927.
3 29 Ferris Institute. Stock certificate. 1907.
3 30 Ferris Institute. Tuition certificates. 1916.
3 31 Nearprint. 1922-1929.
3 32 Studies in Christ. Prayerbook. 1906.