Known alternately as “the Colonel,” “T.R.,” and “Teddy,” Theodore Roosevelt made an impression upon U-M students during his three known visits to Ann Arbor.
Over the course of his public life, Roosevelt came to U-M as New York City police commissioner, as the hero of San Juan Hill, and as a former president hoping to win another term in office.
Roosevelt’s biggest turnout came eight months after the end of the Spanish-American War, where he earned acclaim as the rugged leader of the Rough Riders. During a daylong campus visit on April 11, 1899, Roosevelt spoke to more than 3,000 students at University Hall.
He praised the men who served with him in Cuba, and challenged U-M students to show a similar zeal for life. “I have small respect for the man who wants to avoid the painful shock of contact with the world at it is outside” news accounts reported him saying.
Roosevelt later camped out at Waterman Gymnasium, where he shook hands with some 3,500 people eager to see the war hero and New York governor.
His time at U-M left a strong impression on Roosevelt. “I have had a corking good time. I knew I was going to be well received but I didn’t expect anything like this,” he said. “I have enjoyed it thoroughly everywhere.”
Roosevelt first visited U-M on April 25, 1896, when he spoke on law enforcement.
As a former Republican president, and one who was working to be re-elected on the Progressive Party ticket, Roosevelt paid a 5-minute visit to Ann Arbor on March 30, 1912. Stopping at the Ann Arbor train station, Roosevelt was greeted by some 5,000 U-M students, according to reports.
Sources: Chicago Daily; New York Times; The Washington Post; Michigan Alumnus; James Burrill Angell: An American Influence, by Shirley W. Smith; The Making of the University of Michigan by Howard H. Peckham; The Michigan Daily
Photo: Library of Congress