Stamps Auditorium Dedication
March 27, 2008
Today is dedicated to celebrating this new space and the continued growth of North Campus as a proving ground for connecting ideas and people.
As we do this and look forward to all that is possible with the schools and colleges that call North Campus home, it’s important to reflect upon our creative roots.
The University established itself nationally as a locus for arts and creativity in the early 1920s, when the president and Board of Regents courted the poet Robert Frost to join the University faculty as the first-ever holder of a fellowship in creative arts.
To quote University President Marion Burton, “It has been my thought that a real university should be a patron of art, literature and creative activity. We ought to have upon the campus persons of the rarest type of personality … who see visions and dream dreams.”
Robert Frost was impressed with the University’s offer and his one-year fellowship turned into two, followed by his plans to join the faculty permanently. Frost made a good many friends at Michigan and while here wrote portions of his collection, New Hampshire, which received the Pulitzer Prize.
There are two critical footnotes to this chapter of University history.
First, the fellowship that attracted Robert Frost would not have occurred without donors—in this case, Chase Osborn, a former regent and governor, and Horace Rackham, whose greatest gifts to the University were yet to come.
And second, one of the strongest supporters of having this literary giant on our campus was Mortimer Cooley—the dean of the College of Engineering.
Philanthropy and interdisciplinary collaboration have deep roots in the creative enterprise at Michigan.
That continues very much today with Penny and Roe Stamps, and their extraordinary support not only of the School of Art and Design—Penny’s academic home—but of the University overall. Penny and Roe have been remarkably creative with their giving, which has done so much to transform our students, our faculty, and the broader community.
Their generosity has touched the lives of those students who now call themselves Stamps Scholars. These students come from six diverse schools and colleges, and many are with us for today’s celebration.
U-M students also benefit from the ideas and enthusiasm of scholars who join our community as the Roman J. Witt Visiting Professor, a position that honors Penny’s father.
The entire community enjoys the insight and knowledge of renowned artists who come to Ann Arbor as part of the Penny W. Stamps Distinguished Visitors Series. In fact, there is a Stamps lecture later this afternoon, which is our motivation for keeping today’s program on time.
And Work, the art gallery on State Street that Penny and Roe did so much to make reality, is an everyday reminder of the infinite talent of our students.
The artist Judy Chicago has observed that creativity requires having the appropriate tools at hand. For example, if you don’t have a hammer in your toolbox, you’ll probably never consider projects that require you to use one. But if you do have a hammer, you’ll use it to build all kinds of things. The tools we have make a difference in what we think about and what we do.
The Stamps Auditorium is an essential tool for the cross-disciplinary activities that make North Campus a destination for students, faculty, and the larger community. It is used in many ways—for classes, rehearsals, performances, and exhibits. These activities mix together artists, engineers, performers, information scientists, architects, and many others and the result is new synergies and new understandings.
Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.”
When you combine the energy and support that Penny and Roe bring to our campus with the synergy we are seeing with our North Campus schools and colleges and the Arts on Earth initiative, imagination is truly the end product.
Our imagination—that ability to think in new ways—is related to the quality and variety of stimulation our brains receive. The arts provide new experiences for us, helping us to make connections among ideas and develop the new ideas that enhance our understanding of the world and enrich our lives. The mission of a research university is inseparable from the arts—both are about the advancement of knowledge.
To recognize the support and vision of Penny and Roe in fueling this creative spirit at Michigan, we are honored to dedicate this space as the Stamps Auditorium.
Penny and Roe, please step forward so that you can hear and see this entire auditorium thank you for advancing and enhancing the University of Michigan.