Ohio University's Southern Campus at Ironton is conveniently located in the center of the Ironton-Portsmouth-Ashland-Huntington metropolitan area involving three states: Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia. Situated in the commercially active Ohio Valley, this metro area has traditionally kept stride with national progress in education, industry, and culture while maintaining its identity as part of the Appalachian region.
The unique role of Ohio University—Southern has been to assure quality higher education opportunities to those whose commitments to job sand families require them to remain in their communities while attending school. This was Ohio University's purpose when it began offering two-year evening courses for cadet teachers in 1956 at Ironton High School. That purpose was further fulfilled as the Ironton curriculum grew, eventually offering bachelor's degrees for elementary education and business administration majors.
Educational needs grew in the late 1970s and continued through the 1980s as cutbacks and closings of the area's heavy industry produced increased unemployment and demands for training by those wishing to re-enter the job market. As these trends emerged and created a large non-traditional student market, Ohio University moved toward establishing a regional campus in Ironton rather than continuing as an academic center, thus making available $4 million appropriated for campus development.
The first phase of development came in 1982with the purchase of an eight-acre site near the high school just off the U.S.52.-Ohio 141 interchange. By December 1985 the second phase was realized with completion of the first campus building
a two-story, 26,000-square-foot structure to house administrative offices, a 350-seat auditorium, a library, a computer laboratory, and several classrooms including a high-tech room with direct microwave audio-visual communications with Athens for two-way classroom interaction.
The $2.8-million building was designed to meet anticipated growth in demand for either regular student enrollment or business and professional development. Growth came in both sectors. By fall 1989 regular student enrollment was twice that in 1979
with students not only filling the traditionally offered evening classes but also requesting and filling day classes instituted after the building's completion. At the same time, demands increased for use of business and professional development classrooms and for auditorium time to accommodate large seminar groups and forums.
With Ohio University-Southern emerging as the community's leader in postsecondary education, professional/ business development, and cultural enrichment, growth has continued with the completion of four more buildings. Completed in summer 1990
the Academic Center, a federal-style, two-story brick structure houses 13 classrooms including physical science, biological science, and art laboratories as well as the second computer science lab on campus. A student activity center and faculty offices are also included. In 1995 the $6-million Riffe Center opened, providing additional classroom space and featuring a large rotunda. The third floor houses a nationally recognized technical center for electronic media. In 2000 the $6-million Dingus Technology Center opened, providing a state of the art nursing lab, two distance learning classrooms, computer labs, an art lab, faculty offices, classrooms and a 120-seat auditorium. Southern's Proctorville Center, located in Proctorville, Ohio, was dedicated in April 2007. The $3.5 million facility includes a reception area, administrative offices, classrooms, work rooms, an art room, a kitchen, a student lounge and a large common area.
About the Tri-State Area
The five-city tri-state metropolitan area offers the services and conveniences of a city of 350,000 without the inner-city problems which plague many major cities. Eight Ohio River bridges and two Big Sandy River bridges connect three states within
area, providing easy access to the professional, commercial, cultural, and entertainment services of the area's cities and villages.
Seven major hospitals, several smaller hospitals and health care units, and numerous emergency medical service stations are throughout the area. Doctors, dentists, medical and surgical specialists, and other health professionals are readily available. Large and small communities take pride in their public schools and in the academic and athletic competitiveness existing among then Parochial and other private schools, located in each of the area's cities, add momentum to the drive for excellence in education.
Competing for shoppers' dollars are downtown businesses in each of the four major cities, three ultra-modern malls, and numerous shopping centers and independent businesses located throughout the area. Visitors are pleasantly impressed by the natural Appalachian friendliness of the people with whom they deal.
Culturally, this Appalachian heritage is expressed in such arts and crafts as painting, woodcraft, sculpture (including coal ore), quilting and sewing, other fiber crafts, music, and drama. Cultural presentations are staged at Ashland's Paramount Arts Center and Kentucky Highland Museum Society, Huntington's 8,400-seat Civic Center and Art Galleries, Ironton's OU-Southern Campus Bowman Auditorium, and Portsmouth's Southern Ohio Museum and Cultural Center. The Civic Center is in constant use, billing top national and international performing arts from a broad spectrum of the entertainment world. Each year outdoor events reflect local culture and traditions.
The Ohio River provides a variety of summer recreation. Excursions for diners and dancers are daily summer events. Launch ramps, marinas and private docks line both sides of the 50-miles tretch of river between Huntington and Portsmouth. Swimming, water skiing
fishing, and parasailing are available.
Four-lane highways connect tri-state communities to major cities in all directions:
Columbus and Cleveland to the north; Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Lexington, and Louisville to the west; Charleston, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.,to the east; and Knoxville, Atlanta and Charlotte to the south. The area is served daily by flights in and out of the Huntington Tri-State Airport, with national airline passenger flights and regional shuttle connections. Small airports are available for use by private and company- owned aircraft.
In the tri-state area, encompassing a radius of 30 miles from Ohio University Southern Campus, the broad Ohio River valley of cities and farms rolls back into rugged, forested hills and lush stream valleys where produce and cattle farms co-exist with suburban developments. Wayne National Forest's Vesuvius Lake Recreation Area in Ohio and Kentucky's Greenbo Lake and Carter Caves Recreation Area are nearby, while Ohio's "Little Smokies" and Shawnee Lake are just 40 miles from Ironton. Newcomers to the area become fascinated by what native tri-state residents often take for granted: the tri-state is a beautiful environment in which to live and work.