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Exhibit - President Edwin Willits (1885–1889)

Edwin Willits was born on April 24, 1830 in Otto (Cattaragus County), New York. He received an A.B. degree in 1855 and later an A.M. degree from the University of Michigan. After graduation, he studied law in the office of Isaac P. Christiancy, who was responsible for drafting the act that founded the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan. In 1857, he was admitted to the Michigan Bar and served as the prosecutor of Monroe County, Michigan, from 1860-1868. He also served on the Michigan State Board of Education from 1861 to 1873 and as Postmaster of Monroe County from 1863-1866.

In 1873 Willits was selected as a member of the State Constitutional Convention and later elected as Representative to the U.S. Congress from Southeastern Michigan in 1877. He retained his position in Congress until 1883. In 1882, he became the principal of the State Normal School but resigned in 1885 to assume the presidency of the State Agricultural College vacated by Theophilus Abbot. During his four year tenure at the College, Willits obtained $60,000 from the State Legislature for the construction of nine new buildings including a much needed mechanical arts building. He left in 1889 to accept an appointment in the Cleveland Administration as Assistant Secretary of Agriculture.

Willits was married to Jane Ingersoll and they had one son, George S. Willits. Edwin Willits died on October 24, 1896 in Washington, D.C.

Finding aid to the Edwin Willits papers (UA 2.1.4).

Written by MSU Archives staff.
Exhibit created by Megan Badgley Malone.
 

Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections

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