January 14, 1857 – Attorney Joseph Rickelson Williams becomes the first president of the newly established Agricultural College of the State of Michigan. Created in two years earlier, the East Lansing-located college was the first land-grand institution in the United States. The sixty-three students arrived shortly after Williams did. A Harvard grad, Williams established a curriculum that blended liberal arts, science, and vocational studies. He did not include classical languages in the early curriculum, and required three hours of daily manual labor to help offset the expenses of the education and help develop the campus.
Williams ran into opposition from State Board of Education, who considered him elitist and the college extravagant, and he was forced to resign after just two years at the helm. Williams became Lieutenant Governor under Michigan’s War Governor Austin Blair (also an attorney) and lobbied for the security of the college, which would eventually be known as Michigan State University.