Erastus Otis Haven


Latin 1852-1854, History & English 1854-1856,

President, Rhetoric, English, Logic, Political Economy, Mental & Moral Philosophy 1863-1871

ERASTUS OTIS HAVEN was born in Boston, Massachusetts, November 1,1820, son of the Reverend Jonathan and Betsy (Spear) Haven. He was the sixth in line of descent from Joseph Haven, who came from Holland and settled at Lynn, Massachusetts, in I644. He was graduated from Wesleyan University in 1842, and soon assumed the principalship of a private academy at Sudbury, Massachusetts. The next year he became teacher of Natural Science in Amenia Seminary, Dutchess County, New York. After three years he was made principal of the seminary; but two years later he resigned this position and joined the New York Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He was designated by his bishop as a missionary to Oregon; but the plan was changed, and he held one or two charges in New York City. In 1852 he was appointed Professor of the Latin Language and Literature in the University of Michigan; but after two years he was transferred to the chair of History and English Literature; and in 1856 he resigned his connection with the institution. He now removed to Boston and became editor of "Zion's Herald," an important denominational newspaper. Meanwhile he had pastoral charge of a church in Malden for two years. From 1858 to 1863 he was a member of the State Board of Education and of the Board of Overseers of Harvard College; and he was twice elected to the Massachusetts Senate, where he served as chairman of the Joint Committee on Education. In I863 he was called to the presidency of the University of Michigan, to which were added the duties of the professorship of Rhetoric and English Literature. During the last two years of his presidency he lectured also on Logic, Political Economy, and Mental and Moral Philosophy. During his administration the admission of women and the establishment of a College of Homoeopathy were urged upon the Board of Regents from certain centres of influence, and were as strongly opposed from other centres. President Haven was well suited by his conciliatory temper to guide the University during this stormy period. The University went on in the way that had been marked out for it, and in proper time the proposed innovations were accomplished without the injurious results that had been feared. On June 30, 1869, he resigned the presidency at Ann Arbor to accept the presidency of Northwestern University, at Evanston. After three years he resigned that position in turn to become Corresponding Secretary of the Board of Education of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He spent two years in this work and then became Chancellor of Syracuse University. From 1868 onward Dr. Haven was a conspicuous figure in the General Conferences of the Church. In 1876 he was appointed delegate to a Wesleyan convention held in England the following year, and in 1880 he was elected bishop. He was now assigned for one year to the supervision of the Methodist Episcopal Church of the entire Pacific coast. In the summer of 1881 he delivered several Baccalaureate sermons and Commencement addresses, and was on official duty when death overtook him at Salem, Oregon, August 2 of that year. He was a ready writer, and made numerous contributions to the church papers throughout his career. He published a large number of occasional addresses, in which kind he was specially happy. Two volumes appeared during his presidency at Ann Arbor: Pillars of Truth (1866), and a textbook on Rhetoric (1869). He received the degree of Master of Arts from Wesleyan University in 1845. In 1854 he was honored with the degree of Doctor of Divinity from Union College, and in 1863 with the degree of Doctor of Laws from the Ohio Wesleyan University. He was married July 28, 1847, to Mary Frances Coles, of New York City, daughter of the Reverend George Coles, editor of " The Christian Advocate." By her he had sons and daughters. The eldest son, Otis Erastus, was graduated Bachelor of Arts from the University in 1870, and had an honorable career as teacher, and later as physician, till his death at Evanston, Illinois, in 1888. The eldest daughter, Alida Electa, is also deceased. Still living are: Frances Elizabeth (Mrs. Moss), Urbana, Illinois; Alfred Coles, a physician at Lake Forest, Illinois; Mira Electa (Mrs. Draper), Yokohama, Japan; and the Reverend Theodore Woodruff Haven, New York. The youngest son, Theodore, was with his father at Salem during the last hours. (See pages 51-58.) 

Burke A. Hinsdale and Isaac Newton Demmon, History of the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1906) pp. 218-219.



The Michigan Alumnus, February 1906, Page 214

By Francis M. Hamilton, ‘69

Erastus Otis Haven was Professor of the Latin Language and Literature in the University of Michigan from 1852 to 1854, of History and English Literature from 1854 to 1856, and was President of the University from 1863 to 1869. In addition to his duties as President he taught, at different times during those years rhetoric and English literature, logic, political economy and mental and moral philosophy.

He was born in Boston, Mass., Nov. 1st, 1820, and died at Salem, Oregon, Aug. 2nd, 1881. From his graduation at Wesleyan University in 1842 to the time of his death Dr. Haven was ever active and prominent in educational and religious work.

In the summer of 1865, while the writer was trying to decide, by means of catalogues, where he should attend college, a friend who had recently received his bachelor's degree from the University at Ann Arbor, returned to Fort Wayne, Indiana, my home at that time, and handed me a pamphlet, which proved to be the inaugural address of President Haven, delivered two years before, when he entered upon his duties as President of the University of Michigan.

The address made such a favorable impression upon me that I decided at once to go to Ann Arbor, a step, which I have had no cause to regret.

On calling at the President's office a few days before college was to open the following autumn, I there met two gentleman whose kindness, encouragement and helpfulness for the next four years can never be forgotten while life shall last They were President Haven and Professor Frieze. I stated to the President that as my means were quite limited and I was dependent wholly upon my own efforts, I had thought of taking an elective course of two years to prepare myself better for my chosen calling, that of teaching.

I was at once assured that the poor boy was the rule at Ann Arbor rather than the exception, that most of those who entered there were helping themselves through either wholly or in part, and that I would make a mistake if I did not decide to take a full course if possible. The advice was given with such absolute sincerity that it was irresistible, and although it involved double the time and expense I had thought I could afford, yet I was made to feel that it was the advice of a true friend, and I accepted it without question.

Many others had similar experiences. Perfect candor was a predominant characteristic of Dr. Haven, as all who knew him could abundantly testify. His whole soul was in his work, and he felt he could serve the University best by doing what he could for every member in it, even the humblest.

He appealed to the teachers of the public schools to keep in mind that all the public schools in the state formed one system, and that the sound prosperity of any part was only to be secured by the prosperity of every other part. He especially urged the principals and teachers in the high schools, as part of their duty, to keep before the minds of their pupils the opportunity freely furnished to them by the state, and constantly to organize and preserve classes of pupils in preparation for the University, that the hopes of its founders stated to the President that as may be a perpetual fountain of sound scholarship, of genuine morality and true Christianity, the glory and bulwark of the state whose honored name it bears.

Dr. Haven was a charming public speaker, unassuming, scholarly, sympathetic, and his Sunday afternoon addresses were most helpful to many, a young man, at that critical period, when there is so much danger of going the wrong way.

Entering upon his duties as President in those stormy days of the great Civil war, he directed the affairs of the University in a most successful manner through six eventful years of her glorious history.