Q. Why does campus have a Diag? Was it planned from the start?

A. An 1854 map of campus shows a dozen university buildings placed on the edges of the campus, but no Diag. The pastoral campus interior was without trees, allowing students to roam freely between buildings.

As Jim Tobin relates in a 2008 article on the U-M’s heritage website, professor Andrew Dickson White embarked upon a personal mission to plant trees. He seemed to share U-M President Angell’s belief that the paths worn by students were the best guides to where walkways should be. White was a dynamic man, later cofounding Cornell University and becoming its first president, still later becoming ambassador to Germany and then minister to Russia. The many trees he planted while at U-M helped further define campus pathways, creating today’s quirky lattice of many angled pathways.

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