Looking at the plaque closer, one sees this inscription:
IN MEMORY OF
HEAD OF FORESTRY SCHOOL
BY HIS FORESTRY BOYS
The "Forestry School" is what the Univeristy of Michigan's current School of Natural Resources and Environment started as, and Filibert Roth was the first head of the school, when it was founded in 1902. The story of Filibert Roth is a little harder to uncover, unless you happen to have JSTOR access, because in 1926 Baxter Dow wrote an obituary of the man in Science magazine (volume 63, issue 1631, pages 348-349). Although I cannot reproduce the whole of the article here - due to copyright concerns - I will summarize some salient points about the man's life (along with references with from other people):
Filibert Roth was born in Württemberg, Germany on April 20, 1858, and moved to the United States in 1871 to Wisconsin (where a lot of German immigrants were settling at the time). He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1890, and got a job with the Division of Forestry (now known as the USFS) as a timber expert in 1892, only eight years after the division's formation, and was a major influence on the formation of national forest policies. As one example, Dow provides the following insight:
In 1895, Roth published "Timber", a forestry bulletin #10 from the USDA, which would go on to have a major impact on the dissemination of scientific knowledge of American wood species. He wrote the first publication of the woods of Wisconsin in 1898 ("On the Foresty Conditions of Wisconsin").It was generally assumed [at the time] that at the source of every creek there was enough pine to last for all time; [Roth and his colleague Fernow] were heralded as "denudiatics." But many of their early predictions have now become demonstrated realities that their teachings are known and accepted to-day as general truths by all. (Dow 1926, 348)
Roth and Fernow taught at Cornell from 1898 to 1901. (Fernow went on to become the Dean and Director of Cornell University's College of Forestry.) On November 15, 1901, Roth was picked by Gifford Pinchot to be the administrator of the national forest reserves, chief of Division R, and Roth served in this position until 1902. According to Steen (2004) in his book The US Forest Service, Roth struggled in his position under the direct-management style of Pinchot:
In his view, Roth struggled vainly against "land office routine, political stupidity, and wrong-headed points of view." (page 61)Roth then returned to the University of Michigan to become the head of the nascent Department of Forestry in February 6, 1903; the first university forestry program in the Midwest.
Dow's remembrance of Professor Roth continues with discussions of the man's character as a teacher, lecturer, and department head. His mention of Roth as "Daddy", in addition to Roth's down-to-earth and friendly teaching style indicates the level of affection the man had for and by his students.
Looking on the SNRE history webpage, one discovers that Roth was the head of the Department of Forestry from 1903-1923, overseeing several academic and department social firsts:
- 1904: First master's of forestry
- 1906: First campfire celebration in Saginaw Forest
- 1908: First teaching of landscape design at the University of Michigan
- 1915: Acquisition of Eberwhite Woods
UPDATE (2012-05-22): The University of Michigan is making historical profiles of all professors in the University's history, including Filibert Roth.