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Angells in the Third Century

James B. Angell, the University of Michigan’s longest serving president, was renowned as a staunch advocate for equal access to higher education.

In his 1879 commencement address, he implored his audience to consider the foundations of their university. “The wise men who shaped the organization of this state steadily cherished the idea which was inherited from the fathers, of building a university in which their children, whether poor or rich, could obtain the higher culture of their minds.”

Almost 150 years after Angell’s inauguration, his descendants are helping students at U-M do just that. Sarah (Sally) Angell Parsons (BS Des ’54, MS Des ’56), Angell’s great-granddaughter, recently established the Sarah Angell Parsons Scholarship Fund at the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design. “It has long been my hope that I could establish a scholarship fund at Michigan that would continue my great-grandfather’s vision of supporting all creative minds no matter what their background or ability to pay,” Parsons said. “As I read through many of his writings and thoughts, it is obvious that President Angell was greatly excited, rather like a kid himself, happy to be here in the great Midwest... He seemed truly content with the diversity he found here at this university.”

Parsons’ gift is a testament to her family’s dedication to U-M—and to her great‑grandfather’s role as a champion for equal access to higher education. In U-M’s third century, Angell’s legacy remains true blue.


“Is it not the most natural thing for every one of us to believe that, after our children and our children’s children shall have passed away, this university shall still be pouring out her streams of blessings, wider and deeper over the state, the nation, and the world? We may indeed be thankful that we have been allowed to toil for her in these her early years. Happy are you who have the honor of calling yourselves her sons and daughters; a long and noble line will follow you. The imagination fails to conceive what shall be the glory, the power, and influence of the University of Michigan one hundred years hence.”

- President James Burrill Angell, speaking at the quarter-centennial celebration of his presidency, June 24, 1896.

For more on the life and legacy of James B. Angell, visit

This article is reprinted from the Fall 2017 issue of “Leaders and Best”, a publication by the University of Michigan.