The Bentley Historical Library will close at 12:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 26.

Magazine

Beyond the Bicentennial

by Lara Zielin 

In 2017, the University of Michigan bicentennial commemorated 200 years of achievement at the University of Michigan. It looked at U-M’s past, including its impact on society and the people who helped shape the University, as well as its role in defining the future.

Now, Gary D. Krenz, formerly the Executive Director of the University of Michigan Bicentennial Office, has been appointed Director for Post-Bicentennial Planning at the Bentley Historical Library. In this new role, Krenz will manage the transition of relevant projects and practices from the Bicentennial Office to the Bentley, and will launch new projects and programs pertinent to U-M history, working in conjunction with the Bentley’s University History Group. He will also participate in planning the new addition to the University’s historic Detroit Observatory, which was approved by the Board of Regents in February.

A goal of the new effort is to make the Observatory a locus for exploration and presentation of University history. “The Bicentennial raised awareness of U-M history, engaged a lot of people, and demonstrated that people are interested in our past,” Krenz says. “In a way, my appointment at Bentley signals an institutional commitment to keep this going.”

The Bicentennial activities also produced a wealth of new material about U-M, including the Uncommon Education documentaries, proceedings from theme semesters and grants projects, exhibits, a new edition of the U-M Encyclopedic Survey, and more. “A first task is to gather this material with others into an accessible format, encourage its continued use, and build on it,” Krenz says.

Krenz joined the university as an administrator in 1988, and has spent most of his career working in the Office of the President. He earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a B.A. in philosophy from
Northwestern University.

His passion for philosophy and ethics helped him find and fall in love with the Bentley when he first came to campus. “My dissertation had a lot to do with John Dewey (the American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer). I had known that Dewey had started his career at Michigan, and I couldn’t wait to get up to the Bentley to see what the Library had. It was my first experience with primary sources and the archives. To hold Dewey’s syllabus for the ethics course he taught here in the 1880s, to see the real thing, was fantastic.”

Krenz’s appointment was effective May 1 of this year.

“The way that the University community responded to the bicentennial shows that appreciation of our history has value in building institutional identity and pride, and that critical examination of our history has value in correcting historical oversights and fostering a more inclusive community,” says Krenz. “U-M’s past is rich with episodes that can provide context, precedent, and analogy for thinking about current challenges.”