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Ohio University Timeline

1786: Ohio University co-founders Rufus Putnam and Manasseh Cutler as well as nine others meet at the Bunch of Grapes Tavern in Boston to establish the Ohio Company of Associates. Their goal is to purchase land and promote settlement in the Northwest Territory (which later becomes the states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and part of Minnesota).


July 13, 1787: Congress passes the Northwest Ordinance, which includes a bill of rights suggested by Manasseh Cutler. Among the articles is this policy statement, which appears on Ohio University’s College Gate: “Religion, morality and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”


July 27, 1787: Congress approves the Ohio Company’s purchase of 750,000 acres in the Northwest Territory for $500,000 and the stipulation that two townships, comprising 46,080 acres at the center of the tract, will be set aside for a university.


Dec. 5, 1800: Athens is founded by an act of the territorial legislature. The town plat contains a square for a college and house lots for a president and professors.


March 1, 1803: Ohio becomes the 17th state.


Feb. 18, 1804: The Ohio General Assembly approves Ohio University’s charter.


Oct. 3, 1808: The Athens Academy, a preparatory school, opens on university grounds to train students for college-level courses. Three students are enrolled, and Jacob Lindley is hired as preceptor (a title similar to president) and instructor.


1815: Out of nine students tested, two — Thomas Ewing of Lancaster and John Hunter of Circleville — become candidates for collegiate degrees.


1818: The University completes construction of the College Edifice, renamed Cutler Hall in 1914. The building served as a dormitory, classroom, library, laboratory and museum.


1819: College-level courses are first offered and students are divided into freshman, sophomore, junior and senior classes. Tuition, charged for the first time, is $6 per semester for college and $4 for the academy.


1822: Courses are added in anatomy, mineralogy, botany and chemistry, offering a more practical curriculum and sparking a movement away from the classical courses of the early years.


1824-39: Robert G. Wilson serves as president.


1828: John Newton Templeton becomes Ohio University’s first — and the nation’s fourth — African-American graduate.


1839-43: William Holmes McGuffey serves as president.


1840: The University is reorganized, and academy students become more integrated into college classes.


1843: The Echo and University Record becomes the first student newspaper.


1845-48: The University suspends operations because of financial hardships.


1848-52: Alfred Ryors serves as president.


Aug. 2, 1848: The University reopens with tuition payments set at $30 per year.


1852-72: Solomon Howard serves as president.


1872-83: William Henry Scott serves as president.


1883-96 and 1899-1901: Charles William Super serves as president.


1873: Margaret Boyd becomes the University’s first female graduate.


1881: A state appropriation of $20,000 for building expansion and repair marks the state’s first substantive financial contribution to Ohio University.


1892: The first yearbook, “The Athena,” is produced by the 17-member senior class. Ohio University joins with Miami, Otterbein, Wittenberg and Marietta to form the Ohio Athletic Association, and baseball becomes the University’s first official athletic team.


1894: The University’s football team is organized.


1895: Saki Taro Murayama of Japan becomes the first international graduate.


1896-1898: Isaac Crook serves as president.


1896: Green and white are adopted as the University’s colors by a vote of the student body.


1901-20: Alston Ellis serves as president.


1909: An extension department is established to deliver instruction to students throughout southeastern Ohio, marking the start of regional higher education offerings that today are delivered via Ohio University campuses in Lancaster, Ironton, Chillicothe, Zanesville and St. Clairsville.


1914: “Alma Mater, Ohio” by Kenneth Clark wins the English Club’s contest to choose an official school song. Enrollment tops 1,000 for the first time, as 374 men and 639 women comprise the student body.


1920-21 and 1934-35: Edwin Watts Chubb serves as acting president.


1921-34: Elmer Burritt Bryan serves as president.


1923: The “Old Beech,” a historic tree where students congregated for study and recreation and hundreds carved their initials, is cut down. Newspapers around the country write obituaries for the tree, said to be “in its youth” when Rufus Putnam arrived in 1795 to lay out the campus. Student Homer Baird organizes a marching band.


1925: The Bobcat becomes the official athletic mascot after student Hal Rowland wins a contest sponsored by the athletic association. Rowland’s haul for the win: $10.


1935-43: Herman Gerlach James serves as president.


1935: President Herman James reorganizes the University to include a University College, where all freshmen must enroll for one year as they acclimate to university life. The two existing colleges are regrouped into five degree-granting colleges: Arts and Sciences; Education; Applied Science, known by 1963 as the College of Engineering and Technology; Commerce, which became the College of Business in 1950; and Fine Arts.


1939: The Post, an independent, student-produced newspaper, is established.


1941: The Men’s Union and Women’s League combine to form Student Senate.


1943-45: Walter Sylvester Gamertsfelder serves as president.


1943: Enrollment drops to 1,306 (from a record high three years earlier of 3,501) as hundreds of male students and 17 percent of the faculty enlist in World War II. Women outnumber men five to one.


1945-61: John Calhoun Baker serves as president.


October 1945: President Baker establishes the Ohio University Fund (now The Ohio University Foundation) to provide private financial support for the university.


May 1946: Regional campuses, established in 1937 and phased out in 1941, reopen in Portsmouth, Chillicothe and Zanesville to serve veterans. Ohio University joins the Mid-American Conference.


1956: Faculty members in the chemistry department organize the University’s first doctoral program.


1962-69: Vernon Alden serves as president.


1964: The Honors College is created. It becomes, with modifications, the Honors Tutorial College in 1972.


1966: Enrollment tops 15,000 for the first time.


1967: Costly Hocking River floods — especially bad during the 1960s — convince the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers to reroute the waterway, a project completed in 1971.


1968: The College of Communication is created with the merger of the School of Journalism and certain areas within the College of Fine Arts.


1969-74: Claude R. Sowle serves as president.


May 1970: Student demonstrations focus on the presence of ROTC on campus. On May 4, the National Guard kills four students at Kent State, resulting in sit-ins, protests and an escalation of Athens campus incidents. On May 15, the National Guard arrives to help close the university for the remainder of the term. Commencement is canceled.


1974-75: Harry Crewson serves as president.


1975: President Harry Crewson facilitates plans for an osteopathic medical school, which admits its first students in 1976.


1975-94: Charles Ping serves as president.


1978: President Charles Ping emphasizes the University’s educational mission and calls for development of new general education requirements, called tiers, which are phased in through the early 1980s.


1979: The College of Health and Human Services opens under the leadership of Hilda Richards, the University’s first female academic dean. The 1804 Campaign ends, raising close to $22 million for academic programs, scholarship and research.


1981: Professors Thomas Wagner and Joseph Jollick transfer hemoglobin genes from rabbits to mice — a scientific breakthrough that leads to increased funding for the biotechnology program and significant publicity for the University. The Edison Biotechnology Center is established three years later.


1983: The Innovation Center, a small business incubator developed to commercialize technology based on university research, opens. Forty one companies and 650 jobs have resulted.


1990: The Third Century Campaign ends, having raised more than $132 million for student scholarships, computer equipment and endowed academic chairs and professorships.


1994: Robert Glidden is named president.


1995: President Robert Glidden announces plans to prepare students for the 21st century by encouraging the use of technology on campus. Cable television is installed in the dorms, the university gets an interactive home page and students receive computerized ID cards.


April 5, 1997: The College of Business creates MBA Without Boundaries, the university’s first online degree program.


2000: Gateway computers are installed in first-year students’ residence hall rooms. By 2001, all residence hall rooms are equipped with computers. The university’s Bicentennial Campaign is announced, setting a goal to raise $200 million to support students, faculty, innovative programs, technological enhancements and selected capital improvements. To date, $172 million has been pledged.


2002: The university received $31.3 million in external funding from government agencies, foundations and corporations, including $31.3 million for research.


2003: University buildings number more than 200, and some 4,000 undergraduates receive diplomas each year. The university offers 269 majors at the bachelor’s degree level, 153 at the master’s level and 45 at the doctoral level.


2003-04: Ohio University marks its bicentennial with a yearlong celebration that includes a specially commissioned play and musical composition, renowned speakers and entertainers, reunions and the creation of a CD of Ohio University songs and a commemorative book.


This timeline was compiled by Sara Schonhardt, BSJ ’03, and Betty Hollow, author of “Ohio University 1804-2004: Spirit of a Singular Place.”

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