After doing a feature on Case Hall (and James Madison College), it seems only natural to follow up with a feature on its counterpart - Holmes Hall, home to the Lyman Briggs College.
While Case was named for a football player who had very little direct impact on the university, Holmes is quite the opposite. John Clough Holmes is a man who’s history with MSU dates back to before the school was even in existance.
In fact, we have John Clough Holmes to thank for our existance.
A member of both the State Board of Education, he helped found the Michigan State Agricultural Society, a group passionate about establishing a state-funded agricultural college. As previously mentioned, there was quite a bit of opposition from the University of Michigan higher-ups about establishing a separate school in the first place, but John Holmes wouldn’t give up. Paying out of his own pocket, he traveled all over the state to get the signatures needed on his petition and after doing so, took it straight to the capitol steps as a lobbyist. He urged both the Michigan Senate and House of Representatives to support his cause and on February 12, 1855, the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan was officially established.
But Holmes didn’t stop there. He and a team of surveyors scoped out potential sites for the new college, looking at plots of land in Haslett, DeWitt, and Holt but decided instead to purchase a 677 acre farm from a man named Burr and establish their college just three miles from the capitol in Lansing, which at the time was pretty much in the middle of nowhere.
After picking out the land, Holmes determined the buildings that would needed, where would they go on the plot of land, and some say even went so far as to do the interior decorating (which at the time really just meant picking where the chairs and tables should go in each room). He was the first treasurer of the university and served on and off as the head of the Horticulture Department until 1861, when a somewhat unexplained change seems to have occurred and Holmes left the faculty for good. However, he would still visit from time to time. In fact, President Theophilus Capen Abbot (yes, that was in fact Abbot’s name) remarked that Holmes was “a not infrequent and always welcome visitor at the college, and one of its warmest friends,” and that “”to no one man is the College so much indebted as John Clough Holmes.”
In 1965 Holmes Hall was built and named in his honor. Today it stands as the residence hall with the single greatest amount of students on our campus and the home to the Lyman Briggs College, which was founded in 1967. A residential college for those interested in careers in science, often pre-professional, Briggs offers the unique opportunity to take classes right where you live and have all the resources needed right at your fingertips.
Now, who was Briggs?
Lyman James Briggs grew up on a farm in Michigan and entered the Michigan Agricultural College at the age of 15. Originally he intended to study agriculture, but became more interested in mechanical engineering and physics. He graduated in 1893 and joined the US Department of Agriculture in 1896 at just 22 with a Masters already under his belt as well.
Briggs married fellow MAC graduate Katherine Cook that same year and they had a daughter named Isabel. Isabel would go on to marry a man named Clarence Myers. Together, Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs developed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (that personality test that gives you coded results like INFJ or ESTP).
Lyman Briggs himself assisted in many aspects of federal development, becoming actively involved in research and development for both World Wars. He led FDR’s secret “Uranium Committee” but also kept time on the side for research projects that sparked his own interests - such as examining the make-up of baseballs and how they affected pitching. Briggs was one of the most well-known scientists of his day.
Certainly, much can be said about both Holmes and Briggs, both men who exemplified the Spartan spirit of hard work and dedication.