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Alexander G. Ruthven

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Alexander G. Ruthven

Alexander Grant Ruthven, the son of John and Katherine Ruthven, was born on April 1, 1882, in Hull, Ia. His rise to the presidency of the University of Michigan was gradual but steady after he received a Bachelor of Science degree from Morningside College, la., in 1903, and attained his Doctorate at Michigan three years later.

He showed great promise in his preparatory work and upon finishing his course was engaged as instructor in zoology and curator in the Museum of Zoology at Michigan.

His work as a teacher and in research was regarded so highly that he was elevated to a full professorship and named director of the Museum of Zoology in 1911. He became director of all Michigan museums 11 years later.

In 1927, Dr. Ruthven was named chairman of the department of zoology and director of the zoological laboratories, where his work so impressed the then president of the university, Dr. Clarence Cook Little, the position of “dean of administration” was created for him in 1928.

University Head Since 1929

It was only a few months later that Dr. Cook resigned as president and Dr. Ruthven virtually took charge of administration of the university. In October, 1929, the Board of Regents named him president.

During Dr. Ruthven’s incumbency, assets of the university grew tremendously, largely through gifts of Horace M. Rackham, Detroit philanthropist and William Wilson Cook, New York attorney.

Bulk of the Cook estate went toward completion of Michigan’s magnificent law quadrangle with the remainder being placed toward endowment. Total value of the Cook gifts was approximately $8,000,000.

The many and various gifts from the Rackham estate reached their peak late in 1935 when the trustees presented Michigan with $6,500,000 for a graduate school.

Dr. Ruthven chose Herpitology, the study of reptiles and amphibians, as his special subject in the field of zoology and attained a wide reputation as an authority on that phase of the subject.

Led Many Expeditions

Up to 1931 he had led 18 expeditions from the zoology museum and had 128 papers published in 28 journals.

During his expeditions. Dr. Ruthven studied and made his collections from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, in Colombia. Vast interest was shown by geographers, ecologists, and zoogeographers as well as herpitologists.

Dr. Ruthven’s noteworthy papers were not confined to his chosen field, however. He made valuable contributions by publishing articles on molluscs, spiders, insects, fish, birds and mammals.

From 1908 to 1912 Dr. Ruthven served as chief naturalist of the Michigan Biological Survey. He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Academy of Arts and Science, a member of the Society of American Zoologists, American Society of Naturalists, Association of American Geographers, and the Michigan Academy of Science, of which he once served as president.

Dr. Ruthven married Florence Hagle in 1907. She was an Ann Arbor girl and a graduate of the university.

Aug. 30,1940.