Written by Donna Boen, Miamian editor
OXFORD, OH – Heaven help the announcer when Miami University plays the University of Miami in football on September 1st.
“Miami is within sight of Miami’s end zone with two downs to go. Miami calls a timeout.”
In a Feb. 10, 1927, letter to President Hughes, alumnus George Shuman shared a letter of protest that he was sending to the president and trustees of the Florida institution. Shuman went on to propose that President Hughes “have Miami students all over the country send in their protest against the use of the Miami name by any other university.”
In his protest, Shuman stated that he felt the University of Miami was “doing a very great injustice to my alma mater in stealing the name.” He suggested changing to Everglades University or the University of Southern Florida.
Shuman doesn’t explain what motivated his protest. However, a letter sent to President Hughes six days later by another alumnus referenced a protest by Alfred H. Upham, Class of 1897 and 1898, in the February 1927 Bulletin, the alumni magazine of its day. At the time he submitted his letter to the editor, Upham was president of the University of Idaho. He would become president of Miami University a year later.
In his introduction, Upham wrote, “Since the first announcements, more than a year ago, regarding the new University of Miami in Florida, I have looked in vain for even the mildest protest from the alumni and friends of our own Miami University.
“Presumably names of collegiate institutions are not copyrighted and these good citizens of Florida have the legal right to adopt such a name as they choose. But they certainly have not much moral right to usurp the name of a university which has established itself by more than a century of sound scholarship and effective educational service.
“Generations before the now famous winter metropolis of fashion was even heard of, Miami University was established, taking its name from the rivers which in turn had been named for a local Indian tribe.”
Near his conclusion, Upham wrote, “There are so many perfectly good names for a new and aspiring university. What justification or justice is there in appropriating one that has made its place in the academic world through more than a century of achievement?”
Phillip Shriver, president of Miami from 1965-1981, and forever the historian, kept the series of letters in his papers. They eventually ended up with President Shriver’s son, R. Scott ’78 MEd ’95, who located them last month and shared them with Tom Fey ’68 of Oxford, Ohio.
In a Feb. 21, 1927, letter to another frustrated alumnus, President Hughes wrote, “I have voiced the sentiments of the alumni to the president of University of Miami. As I told you, I do not think we have any right in the matter, but undoubtedly large confusion will arise from this joint use of the same name, which will be very embarrassing in the educational field.”
The University of Miami’s leader, Bowman F. Ashe, president from 1926-1952, was both sympathetic and apologetic. In a March 5, 1929, letter to Miami University’s new president, A.H. Upham, he wrote:
“I had some correspondence two years ago with President Hughes about the matter, and the Board seriously considered changing the name to the University of Southern Florida. The difficulty in that is that it would again raise some confusion in connection with our state university, and it might also have some effect upon municipal appropriations which we receive from the city of Miami.
“We are now, so far as possible, in our own publications, using the full name ‘The University of Miami, Florida.’
“May I assure you that I will do everything possible to prevent the confusion of the names, and it is possible that at some future time there may even be a change in the name here which would end the confusion for all time.”
And here we are, nearly 100 years later, and the confusion continues.