The Faculty History Project documents faculty members who have been associated with the University of Michigan since 1837, and the history of the University's schools and colleges. This project is part of a larger effort to prepare resources for the University's bicentennial in 2017. Find out more.

The Bentley Historical Library serves as the official archives for the University.

Memorial

Charles B. Vibbert
LSA Minutes

Memorial to
Charles Bruce Vibbert
1877-1950

Charles Bruce Vibbert died unexpectedly of a heart attack while working in his garden on Saturday, November 18, 1950, at the age of seventy-three. His life, a very active one, had gravitated around two centers. Each of these centers contributed to his education and then reaped the reward in his subsequent labors, and he moved frequently from one to the other in body, and still more often in spirit.

One of these centers was Michigan, in particular Ann Arbor. Charles Vibbert was born in 1877 at Armada, Michigan, and, after attending Oberlin Preparatory School, entered the University in 1900 to be associated with it either as student or as teacher for the rest of his life. He was made an assistant in philosophy in his senior year, and, on graduating in 1904, an instructor. He also did graduate work here while he was an instructor. In 1912 he became an assistant professor, in 1918 an associate professor, and in 1924 a full professor.

The other focus of his life was France, especially Paris. There also he did graduate work, mainly under the famous philosopher Henri Bergson, in 1908-09 and again in 1919-20; and on other occasions in less formal ways, the last in 1947-48, he sought to refresh himself at the fount of French philosophy. But one part of Vibbert's life work was also in France. On the occasion of the first World War, from 1917-19, he was director of the University of Michigan Bureau of the American University Union in Europe, located in Paris. In 1919-20 and later in 1927-28 he was director of the entire Union, an office which he took up again in the first year of his retirement, when he went to Paris to re-establish the Union after World War II. In 1919 he lectured at the University of Paris, and in 1928 he was the James Hazen Hyde lecturer in the French Provincial Universities. In all these ways Vibbert served both his own country and France and contributed to international understanding. As a token of appreciation he was made a member of the French Legion of Honor in 1919.

Vibbert did not think of himself as a constructive or even as a critical philosopher, but rather as an historian and interpreter of philosophy. Most of his relatively few papers, published or unpublished are of this historical, or interpretative type, dealing almost exclusively with Bergson and French philosophy on which he was an authority. His main contribution as a teacher was also along these lines, in the area of modern and contemporary philosophy, supplying his students with historical perspective, factual knowledge, and bibliographical lore.

Vibbert was active in philosophical societies - our local Acolytes Club, the Michigan Academy of Science & Arts, and Letters, and the American Philosophical Society. In 1934-35 he was honored with the presidency of the Western Division of the American Philosophical Society. He was also a member of the French Philosophical Society.

Vibbert had a wide range of interests outside of philosophy and a corresponding wealth of knowledge which he could bring to bear in conversation. These together with his gift of friendship gave him a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, academic and non-academic, both here and abroad, who will remember him with respect and affection.

William Frankena
Roy W. Sellars
Everett S. Brown