Baits Houses

During the 1960s (the same time that Bursley Hall was under construction), the Baits Housing Complex, originally called the Cedar Bend Project, was being prepared to expand housing opportunities for U-M graduate students. These houses were completed in two phases: in 1966 and 1967. The naming of the houses occurred at the very close of the project, after they were ready for occupancy. At that point, the project was renamed by the Board of Regents in honor of Vera Burridge Baits, a recently deceased member of the Board of Regents. In 1967, on recommendation of Richard Cutler, then Vice President of Student Affairs, the Baits Houses were named.[1]

The recommendation from Cutler to the Board of Regents was only the final step in a more involved process. Cutler had received the names and biographies for the proposed houses in a letter from Housing Office Director John Feldkamp, who noted that the names were arrived at following “the traditional procedure . . whereby a committee composed of members of the Inter House Assembly met with University staff to discuss potential names.”[2]  As the Inter House Assembly was made up of representatives from campus dormitories, who “worked on common residence hall problems,” this was a means by which the university sought input from the campus community.[3] The committee “reviewed the files of the Office of University Relations concerning recent faculty deaths,” reviewed historical files on these people, and asked for name ideas from the Alumnae Council and from a consultant from the University Counseling Office.

A list of potentials and alternates was determined using this process. The list was considered by the faculty members of the Residence Halls Board of Governors. The primary list included: Lucille Bailey Conger, Arthur Lyon Cross, Elizabeth Crosby, Alice Hamilton, and Alexander Ziwet. The alternates included Katherine Ellis Coman, Ida Margaret Theon, Mabel Ross Rheed, Joseph Baker David, and Charles Mills Gayley. Of these, Elizabeth Crosby represented a break from tradition. While an extremely accomplished neuroanatomist, she was alive at the time of the naming of the Baits Houses. However, naming tradition was quickly reestablished and Crosby’s name was dropped by the Board in favor of a woman alternate, Katharine Ellis Coman.[4]

Read more about the names chosen for the Baits Houses:

Sarah Spencer Brown Smith

Sara Spencer Brown Smith
Katharine Coman

Katharine Coman
Students at Henderson House

 Lucille Bailey Conger
  1. Proceedings of the Board of Regents (1966-1969) June 1966 meeting, Box 85, Board of Regents Records.
  2. John Feldkamp to Richard Cutler, June 11, 1966, Box 17, Baits Housing Records.
  3. The President’s Report of the University of Michigan 1971-72, (Ann Arbor : University of Michigan, 1972), vol. 3.
  4. John Feldkamp to Richard Cutler, June 11, 1966, Box 17, Baits Housing Records.
Image Credit:

“Vera Baits II,” University of Michigan Photographs Vertical File.