In November of 1918, a young college instructor-turned-soldier moved to the World War I battle front in France. In the distance he could hear the exploding shells as the Allies pushed Germany toward surrender.
The armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, and Harry Miller hadn’t fired a shot.
Full of unreleased energy, he returned to the small Midwestern college where he had taught English from September 1916 until he was drafted in May 1918.
Central Michigan Normal, he thought, should have a weekly newspaper. With a soldier’s zeal he changed the monthly Normal Bulletin into the weekly Normal Life.
Working with Miller on the Normal Life was Professor Francis Robinson, who taught penmanship, and for whom, Robinson Hall is named. Robinson handled the business end, and Miller, with some of his English students, provided the news.
Now professor emeritus, Miller doesn’t recall the exact date when Normal Life began publication, but the Life issued during the week of Central’s 50th anniversary celebration, November 1, 1942, carries a history of the paper.
Miller, who retired in 1959 after 43 years of teaching English at Central, lives with his wife Rosalie at 304 E. High St. Mrs. Miller retired last year as head of the circulation department of the CMU library.
“We didn’t own even a lead pencil,” says Miller, recalling the early days of Life. To help produce copy he instituted a news writing class in the English department.
Normal Life first appeared on December 2, 1919, with a maxim it was to carry beneath the name plate for many years: All that a man hath will he give for his life.
Life was edited in Miller’s office and printed at the Enterprise Print Shop in downtown Mount Pleasant. The paper subsisted almost entirely on its advertising.
After the paper was established, Miller decided to have a banquet for journalists in this area. The dinner was excellent, and intending to save the diners from the boredom of a speech following the meal, Miller had purposely not asked anyone to speak. But the ensuing silence was appalling. Even journalists were unable to strike up a conversation when they had expected a speech.
“I had new ideas about things, but that wasn’t a very good one,” Miller muses with a laugh.
A growth over time
Life began at Central Normal School as a weekly tabloid-size paper written primarily by faculty. Now it has grown to a broadsheet-size publication and is published three times a week.
The overall quality of the paper evolves throughout the years, as does the quality of the university.
Learning about the history of Central Michigan University is important because it makes us realize the quality of the institution we attend and all of the people who have worked so hard throughout the years to make CMU and Life what they are today.
Each semester a new editorial staff oversees the production of the paper, and the turnover of staff writers and photographers happens even more frequently. With the constant changes remains one consistency – a dedication to our university and our newspaper to improve the quality of writing and photography, as well as to expand on our coverage to reach everyone on campus, as voiced by our former adviser Jim Wojcik and current adviser Neil Hopp, both of whom have a broader view of the paper than any of us.
To many of us on the editorial staff, CM Life is our life, but to us it is worth the time commitment and dedication to put together each issue with the hopes that it is better than the one that preceded it.
CM Life’s relationship with the students, faculty, staff and administration grows with every issue that finds itself on the stands every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. With hope to strengthen that relationship as well as bring everyone close together with a taste of history – a common bond everyone on this university shares no matter who they are.
We, the past and present staff writers, photographers and editors, have put our hearts into creating a newspaper for the campus and community so everyone can share in our legacy, because in another 80 years, everyone will be a part of it.
Continuing our legacy as students and as part of a strong, hard-working staff is important to us, because history makes the future, and we see the future of CMU as a bright one.
CM Life’s Advisers
- Maynard Hicks, 1930-1940
- Lewis L. Fey, 1940-1942
- Ivan D. Cole, 1942-1957
- Guido Stempel, 1957-1961
- Russ Herron, 1962-1972
- James Wojcik, 1972-2001
- Neil C. Hopp, 2001-present
Temporary advisers include:
- Eldon B. Robbins
- Gilbert Maienknecht
- Jerry Fitzhenry