Meeting and Creating Change in Higher Education
Establishing Post-War Educational Efforts
From a distance of more than half a century, it's difficult to imagine a time in which academia in the United States was out of reach for most families outside the upper classes. Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944, the GI Bill created one of higher education's most revolutionary changes. The bill brought more than two million World War II veterans-many of them first-generation students who otherwise could not have attended college-onto the country's campuses, whose capacities had eroded during the difficulties of the war.
Bringing it Home to Ohio University
At Ohio University, John C. Baker faced this formidable challenge while still in his first year as president. Baker established university "branches" in high school buildings in Portsmouth, Chillicothe, and Zanesville, building upon the university's existing Evening Division offerings in Zanesville and Portsmouth.
Although the branches were considered a temporary emergency measure, Baker anticipated the issues of access across geographic and personal boundaries-issues tracing their roots to the GI Bill-that kept the University's regional programs alive once the crisis had passed.
Realizing the Ohio University Vision
Baker's belief that the branches could be self-supporting, together with the passionate commitment of the communities in which they were located, created the structure of Ohio University that has since come to pass: a central campus in Athens and five university campuses throughout the region.
With additional sites established in Belmont County and Lancaster in the 1950s, Ohio University's regional campuses have brought educational opportunity to a wide variety of students-full-time and part-time, traditional and non-traditional, at levels from associate's degrees to graduate studies.
Beyond typical educational efforts, however, the regional campuses extend cultural offerings to the communities, with programs in art, music, theater, and by hosting speakers of national and international reputation.