H.H. Holmes, one of America's First Serial Killers - image updated by JD Crighton, all rights reserved

H. H. Holmes, the Clodhopper Who Almost Didn’t Graduate

Herman Webster Mudgett, M. D., known as H. H. Holmes, barely squeaked by as a medical graduate of University of Michigan in 1884. Mudgett held a horrific record among University graduates–he was the first ‘arch villain’ executed for murder. Mudgett, a serial killer from the late 1800’s, came close to not graduating because some faculty members voted against it. Ann Arbor Argus reported Mudgett did not distinguish himself as a student and “showed no marks of brilliance or even acuteness.” Along with his lack of acuteness, perhaps faculty remembered an earlier incident where Mudgett got himself into trouble with a hair dresser who insisted he marry her. Medical faculty knew Mudgett was already a married man and as a result, he narrowly escaped expulsion from the school.

Herman Webster Mudgett, aka H. H. Holmes, 1884 graduate of University of Michigan Medical School

A fellow graduate went on to sum Mudgett up into one sentence: “He looked and acted like a clodhopper,” said Dr. J. L. Rose of Michigan.

Ann Arbor Argus declared, “It is not a matter of pride to have graduated such a villain, but it is a matter of pride that this is the first arch villain to be found among the many thousand graduates of the university.” They believed Mudgett’s criminal traits were developed after he graduated and concluded, “…The world is better because he has finally left it.”

Sixty-eight years later, in 1952, another infamous doctor graduated from University of Michigan Medical School, Dr. Jacob ‘Jack” Kervorkian, M. D., (nicknamed Dr. Death). Kervorkian was said to be obsessed with death and dying and was a staunch advocate of doctor-assisted suicide. Like Mudgett, he, too, served time in prison but had a much better outcome than Mudgett. Kervorkian was sentenced in 1999 to twenty-five years in prison for second-degree murder and was released in 2007 for good behavior. He promised not to assist in suicides again.


1. “The First One Hung,” The Ann Arbor Argus, Vol. LXII, No. 19, 1.
2. “Jack Kervorkian,” Bio., retrieved on October 7, 2016, http://www.biography.com/people/jack-kevorkian-9364141#strict-upbringing.
3. University of Michigan Medical School, 1884 graduate photo