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July 2, 2002
Ohio, its first university commemorate proud histories
By Joseph Hughes

On March 1, 1803, Ohio Gov. Edward Tiffin convened members of the first Ohio Assembly in Chillicothe. There, they completed the transfer of power from territorial leaders to elected state officials. With the historical exchange, the state of Ohio was born.

Almost one year later, on Feb. 18, 1804, the state legislature granted Ohio University - conceived by Manasseh Cutler, Rufus Putnam, Winthrop Sargeant and Benjamin Tupper of the Ohio Company - its charter. The University became the first institution of higher learning in the Northwest Territory, and only the second west of the Allegheny Mountains.

Video - Click to PlayNearly 200 years later, both the state and its first university are in the midst of celebrating their proud histories. As part of the festivities, members of the Ohio Bicentennial Commission recently dedicated an historical marker at the University's Alumni Gate on the College Green.

The marker, cast in aluminum by Sewah Studios in Marietta, details the University's founding fathers, its charter and how it became the first in the United States to be endowed with land by the government with proceeds used to pay for its operations. Revenue from two townships, it says, was set aside to support the University.

"As Ohio's history has grown, Ohio University has been a part of it," says Ohio Bicentennial Southeast Coordinator Nichola Moretti. "The University has played an integral part in educating the leaders of this state and beyond."

On the marker's reverse reads a segment of the Ordinance of 1787 made famous by its inscription on the University's Class Gateway, "Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."

Also included on the back of the marker is a portion of Ohio's land laws from 1804. "Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Ohio," it reads, "that there shall be an University instituted and established in the town of Athens... by the name and style of the Ohio University."

The marker also references Thomas Ewing and John Hunter, the University's first graduates, and Cutler Hall, the oldest building dedicated to higher education in the Northwest Territory.

Ohio University President Robert Glidden sees an important link between the state's and University's commemoration.

"We're pleased to be a part of the state's bicentennial as we prepare for the University's 200th birthday," Glidden says. "We hope to carry the momentum of Ohio's bicentennial activities into the University's bicentennial celebration."

Glidden spoke at the May 12 dedication ceremony, as did Moretti, state Rep. Jimmy Stewart and Andrew Verhoff, an historical consultant to the Ohio Bicentennial Commission. "So much of this area of the state's history is linked to Ohio University," Stewart said at the dedication.

The Commission has spearheaded two programs responsible for more than 500 new historical markers around the state. The markers recognize such topics as business and industry, Ohio women, the state's multicultural heritage and higher education.

From May 12 through May 25, the Commission dedicated 15 markers distinguishing higher education. Institutions such as Antioch, Hiram and Hebrew Union colleges also received markers, which were sponsored by International Paper.

"History is important to us," Glidden remarked. "It is important to know and appreciate the intentions and efforts of our forefathers, and the marker that now stands on the Ohio University campus at the corner of Court and Union streets will remind students and local citizens for years to come of the inextricable link between university and community."

Joseph Hughes is a writer for University Communications and Marketing

 

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