Timeline - 1857

Date: 1857
Title: Joseph R. Williams Named First President of the College
Description: Joseph R. Williams, a graduate of Harvard University, was selected by the State Board of Education to be the first president of the new college. Prior to serving as President of the new college, he worked as an attorney, a merchant, a miller, and a gentleman farmer in Constantine, Michigan.

Williams was constantly involved with the agricultural sector of Michigan politics. He served as president of the Michigan Agricultural Society and led the effort to write the need for an agricultural college into the laws and principles of the state. He also served as the editor of the Toledo Blade Newspaper in 1850 and also helped found the Ohio Republican Party. After unsuccessfully running for the US Senate in Michigan he was finally elected in 1860 to the Michigan Senate and served as the president pro tem of that body. He also eventually served as Michigan Lt. Governor.

Williams was also a key factor in winning passage of the Morrill Act, which created America's land grant colleges and universities in 1862. After resigning from the College Presidency, Williams served as a state senator and continued to work with the university. After a near closing of the college, Williams continued to help reorganize the college by standing behind a bill that created the State Board of Agriculture as the ruling body of the college. This assured a four year curriculum and secured the authority for the college president.

Source: The Spirit of Michigan State, J. Bruce McCristal