Father Gabriel Richard, a Catholic priest, founded the University of Michigan in 1817. He served as Vice President of the university for four years, then on its Board of Trustees for 12 years until his death. Father Richard also served a term in the U.S. House of Representatives as a delegate from the Michigan territory. He was the first Catholic priest to serve in Congress. As a delegate Father Richard secured federal funds to build Michigan Avenue, connecting Detroit with Chicago.
CENTERED ON CHRIST
Father Richard, a sincere Christian, entered the seminary in France at age 17. He was ordained as a priest at 23. After emigrating to America in the late 1700s, Father Richard taught math and served indigenous people as a missionary in America’s Northwest Territory. In Detroit, he served as a minister to both Protestant and Catholic congregations.
Father Richard’s faith motivated him to serve others. He once organized food aid for the people of Detroit to help with a food crisis when the city lost its supply of livestock and grain. His unceasing dedication to helping those in need even led to his own death from cholera in 1832 after assisting victims of a cholera epidemic in the city.