The Trevarthens: Justin Morrill Couple Reflects on JMC, RCAH, and Giving

By Bill and Linda Trevarthen

An older white couple, the woman with brunette hair and a blue blouse looking at the gentleman who is wearing a plaid shirt and a tan blazer.Linda and I met as freshmen at Justin Morrill College (JMC) in 1968. JMC was the first of three residential colleges created by then-president John Hannah at Michigan State University. The other two were Lyman Briggs and James Madison. 

Housed in the Snyder-Phillips dormitories, Justin Morrill emphasized the arts and humanities, international study, and foreign language. The college had its own series of core classes (such as the writing class Inquiry and Expression) that we took instead of the MSU University College requirements.  For the most part, these were small and intimate classes led by both the college’s own faculty and by professors and instructors visiting from the university at large.

Because we lived, ate, and studied together in Snyder-Phillips, and because the core faculty and administration had their offices there as well, we developed strong bonds with one another. There was an intensity to the college and our experiences there.

The late 1960s were troubled times in the United States. The Vietnam War was at its peak and demonstrations against that war and the draft were widespread across the country, including at MSU. Because our coursework encouraged us to see the war and its attendant politics in the broadest context, and to develop a sense of the interconnectedness of all things, we began to understand our education not just in the personal terms of career and employment, but also in terms of the requirements of (really, the necessity of) good citizenship, political involvement, and social justice.

An image of a classic brick and white stone facade on the front of Phillips Hall. The arch above the door has carved scroll text, and lanterns on either side of the door are old-fashioned metal. Tree leaves hang above the image.

Our education at JMC and MSU was excellent, and our experiences there have had deep and lasting meaning for all of us who were fortunate to be JMC students. We all mourned the dissolution of Justin Morrill College in the late 1970s.

But then something wonderful happened. During the administration of President LouAnna K. Simon, Justin Morrill College was born again as the Residential College for the Arts and Humanities, which, happily, is housed in Snyder-Phillips just as JMC was before it.

Like many other JMC alumni, Linda and I were thrilled at this development. We became involved immediately, and have felt privileged to have participated in so many ways. We helped to facilitate several events that brought Justin Morrill students and faculty together with RCAH students and faculty. We have contributed financially to the College, and have created a legacy gift that will endow scholarships for RCAH students in the future.

We are happy to help others benefit from the sort of extraordinary education and experience that we had at Justin Morrill College.