What will life be like in 100 years? It’s a question that preoccupies the minds of humans from time to time – particularly during anniversary celebrations. This was the case when Michigan State University was celebrating its centennial in 1955. Professor William Henry Roe, Sr. wrote a piece for the Centennial edition of the Wolverine yearbook imagining what life would be like for MSU students in 2055.
Roe was an associate professor of administration and education at MSU from 1952 to 1965. He taught school administration to graduate students. Roe’s literary pursuits centered on this topic as well; authoring books such as State School Administration and Financing Michigan’s Schools. No evidence could be found that he was a creative writer or typically engaged in fanciful imaginings of the future. This appears to be his only foray into future fiction.
So what did Roe see in our future?
By 2055, all young people who are capable of learning will be required to attend college. A person’s learning potential will be determined with tests, including an EEG. Despite college being mandatory, MSU will cap the number of students on campus at 30,000. Other adults will be educated by MSU faculty at satellite branches state-wide, which is reminiscent of the extension service. This will allow the University to better meet the needs of local communities.
Transportation will be revolutionized. Rather than driving cars, we will use motor-scooter helicopters. And yes, we will still have to pay for parking.
Roe believed swans will replace ducks on the Red Cedar by 2055. No word on the future of our beloved squirrels.
Some things will remain the same in 2055. Beaumont Tower will continue to stand as a memorial to the college’s agricultural roots. And the Sacred Space will remain sacred.
The year 2015 gets a mention as well. This is the year that a universal language is adopted internationally, and “a new world understanding of groups, races, and nations had developed.” It could be argued that Roe was not too far off on these points. Thanks to advances in technology, we do have the capability of learning about and, perhaps, understanding other cultures and nations more easily than we did in 1955. Further, English is often regarded as the universal language of science, technology, business, and diplomacy.
We’ll just have to wait another 40 years to find out if Roe was correct about biotic pills, a nuclear reactor in the Stadium, and the end of the MSU-UM rivalry.
For those interested in learning more about Roe’s vision of 2055, his essay can be viewed in its entirety here: “2055 A.D.: Michigan State Observes its Bi-Centennial” [opens as a pdf].
Written by Megan Badgley Malone, collections & outreach archivist.