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Ohio Lancaster Campus History

The five campuses that now make up Ohio University Regional Higher Education were created during the national expansion of higher education in the 1950s. The earliest campuses were in high school buildings in Portsmouth, Chillicothe, and Zanesville. All were considered temporary measures responding to the GI Bill.

The Lancaster campus was created, after the regional system became institutionalized. In 1956, citizens of Lancaster and Fairfield County petitioned the Ohio University Board of Trustees to establish a branch in Lancaster. The first classes were offered beginning in the fall quarter, 1956, in what is now Stanbery Administration Building on Mulberry Street in Lancaster. The new institution offered 16 courses and enrolled 295 students. All classes were held in the evening. Additional facilities were soon rented throughout the community, and the main administrative offices were housed in the Lancaster High School.

The need for a permanent, unified location for the Lancaster campus soon became evident. The Board of Trustees promised $1.75 million toward the project if community members could raise the rest of the cost, some four or five hundred thousand dollars. State funds could not be used to buy or improve land, so in 1965 the Fairfield County Commissioners donated forty-five acres as a campus site. This land had been the farm supporting the county home located across Granville Pike in what is now called the Clarence Miller Building. That acreage is now the northern part of the campus. Later in 1965, an Ohio University Lancaster Development Fund was established to raise funds to purchase additional land. A memorial gift of almost $78,000 was used to purchase sixty-five additional acres, now the south end of the campus. By early May 1966, the drive ended with a total of $760,000.

John T. Brasee Hall, named for a prominent nineteenth-century Lancaster attorney and Ohio University Athens graduate, opened for classes in late September, 1968, with an enrollment of 821 students in day and evening classes, 17 full-time faculty, and 40 adjunct instructors. Brasee was one of the most distinguished citizens of nineteenth-century Lancaster. Born in Pennsylvania in 1800, he came to Ohio at the age of 15 and entered Ohio University in 1819. He moved to Lancaster to become principal of Lancaster Academy in 1824. He read law and joined the Lancaster bar, then known as one of the finest in the country. He served in the State Senate in 1856-57 and gradually gave up his law practice to take care of his extensive farming interests. He died in 1880.  Portraits of Brasee and his wife are on display on the third floor of the building.

After 1970, Lancaster’s enrollment, curriculum, and physical needs expanded significantly. In October 1976, Herrold Hall opened. Built at a cost of about $2 million, Herrold Hall now houses industrial labs, computer labs, and art studio. Like Brasee, Herrold Hall was funded by a local community campaign, this time intended to honor the late Gordon Herrold, long-time vice president for engineering and research of Anchor-Hocking Glass Company in Lancaster. Gordon Herrold was the great-great-grandson of Russell Herrold, one of two brothers who furnished the lumber for Cutler Hall on the Athens campus, now a national landmark. An adjoining terrace, behind Herrold Hall, dedicated in 2000 by Herrold’s daughters, honors Gordon’s wife, Lucille Nazor Herrold.

The two covered bridges spanning Fetters Run on the east side of the campus were moved here from their original sites. The red wooden bridge, John Bright No. 2, was constructed by Augustus Borneman in 1881. It originally spanned Poplar Creek. The bridge was moved in 1988 using twin I-beams and two trucks. In 1975 the bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2014, the bridge was recognized with an Ohio Historical Marker.  The John Bright No. 1 Bridge, an example of a rare design known as a rigid suspension bridge, was re-erected across Fetters Run in 1999. Originally built in 1884, it also first carried travelers across Poplar Creek. John Bright No. 1 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Both historic bridges are heavily used each summer during the famous Lancaster Festival, a twelve-day celebration of the arts with venues throughout the City of Lancaster. On the two Saturdays of the Festival, very large concerts are held on the east side of Fetters Run on Festival Hill. The Lancaster Festival Symphony Orchestra accompanies nationally known artists while Festival goers’ picnic in the open air.

A Master Plan was adopted for the Campus in 2003. The plan resulted in renovations for a new front door for Brasee Hall making the north entrance the main entrance, as well as renovation and modernization of the Hannah V. McCauley Library and the gymnasium.  Between 2015 and 2020 extensive capital projects maintained and modernized the campus.  Renovations established the Jane Johnsen Center for Learning and Student Success, revitalized the Wagner Theatre, expanded hot food service capabilities in the Bobcat Bistro, and relocated the Wilkes Gallery to the north lobby.

Directors and Deans of Ohio University-Lancaster*

Howard E. Kirk, Director, 1956-1965

Thomas L. Helms, Director, 1965-1969

Paul Mechling, Interim Director, 1969-1970

Lowell V. LeClair, Dir., later Dean, 1970-1977

Edward Sarno, Interim Dean, 1977-1978

Raymond Wilkes, Dean, 1978-1994

Joseph Tucker, Interim Dean, 1994-1995

Charles P. Bird, Dean, 1995-1999

John Furlow, Interim Dean, 1999-2000

Bari Watkins, Dean, 2000-2003

John Furlow, Interim Dean, 2003-2005

MaryAnn Janosik, Dean, 2005-2008

John Furlow, Dean, 2008-2010

James Smith, Dean, 2010-2020

Jarrod Tudor, Dean, 2020-2023

Lewatis McNeal, Interim Dean, 2023 - present

*The title of the chief operating officer of a regional campus was changed from director to dean in 1976 when James C. Bryant was appointed to the new position of vice provost for regional higher education at Ohio University. Bryant was the former assistant director of the OU-L campus; during 1972-73 he was acting director while the director was on leave.