henry simmons frieze


Latin 1854-1887

HENRY SIMMONS FRIEZE was born in Boston, Massachusetts, September 15, 1817, and died at Ann Arbor, Michigan, December 7, 1889. The years of his boyhood and young manhood were spent for the most part in Newport and Providence, Rhode Island. He fitted for college in the first of these cities, and was graduated from Brown University in 1841.  His father was a teacher, editor, and pamphleteer, as well as a minister of the Universalist Church. The son inherited from him his intellectual gifts; also his musical talents, which early became his means of support and enabled him to secure a college education. His inheritance from his mother was a delicate, refined, and sweet nature. Professor Frieze came to the Latin chair in the University of Michigan in the fall of 1854. Since graduating from college thirteen years before, he had spent three years as a tutor in Brown University, and ten years as one of the proprietors and principals of the University Grammar School in Providence. He had already revealed in a rare degree the possession of those qualities that inspire pupils and students. Soon after coming to Ann Arbor he obtained a year's leave of absence from his new position, which period he spent mainly in attending lectures at the University of Berlin. He thus returned to his professorship with clearer and broader ideas of what the higher institutions of learning in the United States ought to be. He became a close observer of the workings of such institutions, and was thus prepared to take part in directing the steps by which a comparatively small college developed into a great university. On three different occasions he served as Acting President of the institution, - during the period 1869-1871. Between the retirement of President Haven, and the accession of President Angell; during the absence of President Angell in China, from June, 1880, to February, 1882; and again from October, 1887, to January, 1888. It was he who called to the attention of the University Regents, when they were in search of a president, Dr. James B. Angell, who was one of his former pupils. A detailed account of Dr. Frieze's services to the University would approach more nearly to a history of the institution than would a similar account of the services of any other man who has been connected with it simply as a professor. His name is identified with important features of University policy. During his first visit to Europe he purchased, with funds appropriated at his own suggestion, the pictures and casts which were the beginning of the University Art Museum. It was his influence that led Randolph Rogers, the sculptor, to present his entire collection of casts to the University. To the close of his life he was the curator of the Art Museum which he had thus established. As a linguistic scholar he leaned to the literary and artistic rather than to the philological side, and his department under his direction developed in those lines. In securing musical advantages to the community he also rendered a noble service. He brought about the establishment of a professorship of Music in the University and was the leader of the movement to establish the Ann Arbor School of Music in the town. His aesthetic sense gave beauty to his daily life. The two homes which he built in Ann Arbor, where the turf, trees, and rose hedges were the objects of his personal care, showed his love of nature and of art. To this generation, when broad and refined attainments are disappearing before specialization, Dr. Frieze stands as a charming figure, a man of the broadest literary culture in rare combination with musical talent and a taste for the fine arts. He received the degree of Doctor of Laws from Chicago University in 1870; from Kalamazoo College in 1870, from Brown University in 1882, and from the University of Michigan in 1885. He was also honored with membership in the American Philosophical Society. In 1860 he published an edition of Virgil's Aeneid, which was revised in 1882 and again in 1887. In 1883 he brought out a complete edition of the works of his favorite Virgil. He also edited, for university students, two books of Quintilian's Institutes, published in 1867. In 1886 he published a monograph on Giovanni Dupre, the Florentine sculptor. The memorials of his life are rather institutions than books. The visitor to Ann Arbor meets his name and his face in music halls, art rooms, and library. The tender love which his pure and affectionate nature won from pupils and colleagues was expressed by the action of the Alumni of the University in erecting to his memory, in Forest Hill Cemetery, a beautiful monument copied after the sarcophagus of one of the Scipios. This monument was dedicated with impressive ceremonies on Alumni Day, June 21, 1899. Fuller information concerning his work at Ann Arbor will be found in the chapter devoted to his administration of the University. (See pages 58-61.)

Burke A. Hinsdale and Isaac Newton Demmon, History of the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1906) pp. 230-31.


The Michigan Alumnus, January 1906, Page 164


By James B. Angell

Henry Simmons Frieze was Professor of the Latin Language and Literature in this University from 1854 to 1889. He was born in Boston, Mass., Sept. 15, 1817, and died at his home in this city Dec. 7, 1889. He was graduated at Brown University in 1841 at the head of his class. For the three years subsequent to his graduation he was a Tutor in that university. Then for ten years he was one of the two proprietors and principals of the University Grammar School in Providence, which was a noted preparatory school for students going to college. Under the persuasions of his friend, Professor Boise, who had resigned the chair of Greek in Brown University to accept a similar position in this institution in 185~, he accepted the chair of Latin in this University in 1854 and held it until his death. After the resignation of President Haven in 1869 he held the office of Acting President here until 1871 and again he acted in that capacity during the absence of President Angell in China from 1880 to February 1882.

All his pupils bear loving testimony to the inspiration and charm of his teaching. They caught from him the appreciation of what is finest and best in literature. The purity and beauty of his character left their impress upon all who came under his influence. Many important changes in university methods were due to his suggestion or fostered by his wise support. We owe to him the introduction of the so-called diploma relation of the schools to the university and the provision for musical study. He was a warm advocate of the extension of the elective system. He actively encouraged the development of graduate work. He was ever seeking to elevate the range and to enrich the character of university teaching. No man except President Tappan has done so much to give to the University its present form and spirit.

          He has long been widely known by his scholarly work in editing Vergil and Quintilian. Among his writings of conspicuous importance may be mentioned his life of the Italian sculptor, Giovanni Dupre, his Memorial Address on Dr. Tappan, his Address on Religion and the State University delivered at our semi-centennial celebration in 1887, and the Annual Reports which he made while Acting President.

But valuable as were his public services, and justly as they are appreciated by the readers of this magazine, what will be uppermost in the minds of his pupils who may read this sketch or merely glance at his likeness, is his winsome personality. They will recall his unwearying kindness, the cultivation of their taste for art, for music, for the choicest things in literature by their association with him, the strengthening of manliness and nobility of character by the lessons he drew from the examples he studied with them in Roman Literature and History. Few of us have had the good fortune to know men whose aesthetic nature was so finely attuned and developed as his. He was born with a marked natural gift for music, and, this faculty was sedulously cultivated from his boyhood. His skill as an organist is well remembered, and his talent as a musical composer was conspicuous. No other person has done more to cultivate in the University and in the town a love for the best music. He was also a most appreciative lover of painting and sculpture, was largely instrumental in securing the collections of the works of art, which we possess, and gave to his classes most instructive and inspiring lectures on art. His life was also enriched by the simplest and most genuine Christian spirit.

Hundreds of our graduates are ever testifying how great a debt they owe to him for all the best ideals, which have shaped and brightened their lives. For them and for this University he delighted to live and to toil. No one was ever more devoted to the interests of this institution or cherished a more abiding hope for its permanent prosperity and usefulness. During the latter years of his life he used to say that he should like to live to see two thousand students on our grounds. Not that he admired bigness. But he believed that we could do work good enough to give a worthy training to so many students. He was spared to see his wish granted. And his last days were made happy by the manifest signs that his aspirations for the university, to which he gave thirty-five years of his life, were to be fully met in the days that were about to come. For this good man what words more fitting can be found than those of his beloved poet, which are carved upon his tomb:  "Animam candidiorem terra non tulit.”