Ohio University

History & Traditions

A Brief History of the University

In 1786, 11 men gathered at the Bunch of Grapes Tavern in Boston to propose development of the area north of the Ohio River and west of the Allegheny Mountains known then as the Ohio Country. Led by Manasseh Cutler and Rufus Putnam, the Ohio Company petitioned Congress to take action on the proposed settlement. The eventual outcome was the enactment of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which provided for settlement and government of the territory and stated that "…schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."

In 1803, Ohio became a state and on February 18, 1804, the Ohio General Assembly passed an act establishing "The Ohio University." The University opened in 1808 with one building, three students, and one professor, Jacob Lindley. One of the first two graduates of the University, Thomas Ewing, later became a United States senator and distinguished himself as cabinet member or advisor to four presidents.

Twenty-four years after its founding, in 1828, Ohio University conferred an A.B. degree on John Newton Templeton, its first black graduate and only the third black man to graduate from a college in the United States. In 1873, Margaret Boyd received her B.A. degree and became the first woman to graduate from the University. Soon after, the institution graduated its first international alumnus, Saki Taro Murayama of Japan, in 1895.

The College Green

The College Green is the center of Ohio University's Athens campus. With its brick walkways and shade trees, it has provided a quiet respite to Ohio University students for over 200 years. Three of the oldest buildings on campus are located on the College Green. Cutler, McGuffey, and Wilson halls date from the 19th century and are fine examples of Georgian architecture. Cutler Hall, which currently houses the administrative offices of the president and others, was built in 1816 and has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

Also on the College Green is Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium. The west portico of the auditorium faces the center of the Green and is the site of a series of plaques honoring famous individuals who have spoken on campus, including Teddy Roosevelt, Warren Harding, Eleanor Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and John Kennedy.

The Alumni Class Gateway is located at the northwest corner of the Green at the corner of Court and Union Streets where Ohio University and the City of Athens meet. The gate greets all who enter with an inscription that reads:


For those departing, another inscription reads: 


Facing Cutler Hall, on the north side of the Green, is a second gate, the Class Gateway. The Class Gateway is inscribed with a passage from the Ordinance of 1787 that reads: "Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." The gate was an alumni gift and commemorates the graduation of 1815, the first in the Old Northwest Territory.

Located between the two College Green gates is the Athens County Soldiers and Sailors Monument. It was erected in 1893 to honor the 2,610 citizens of Athens County who served during the Civil War. The brick and stone plaza was added to the monument in modern years.

The Colors

The green and white colors of Ohio University date back to 1896. Before that time, the University's unofficial colors were blue and white. However, it soon became apparent that these colors would be unacceptable for the new football team to wear. OHIO's newly hired football coach, Samuel McMillen, suggested that OHIO adopt as its colors olive green and white, which were worn at McMillen's alma mater, Dartmouth College. The proposal was put before the student body for a vote, and green and white became the colors of the school's uniforms in the fall of 1896. Down through the years, the olive green has evolved into a lighter "hunter" green color. As a side note, McMillen never coached a game for Ohio University, as personal problems kept him from arriving in Athens in the fall of 1896.

The Ceremonial Mace

For centuries the mace has been used as a symbol of authority. Early maces were actually weapons of war similar to a club, and were often used by ecclesiastics who were forbidden to use other kinds of weapons. In the early days of Cambridge and Oxford, religious and/or educational officials use maces to shepherd unruly students. Today, the use of the mace is a representation of authority for royalty, legislatures, and universities around the world.

The late David R. Klahn, professor of art, designed the Ohio University Ceremonial Mace. It is modeled after one of the balustrades of an original stairway of Cutler Hall, the University's main administration building. Cast in bronze, the mace is 46" long and weighs 16 pounds, and features the University seal and a stylized representation of the Cutler Hall cupola.

The mace is carried and displayed at official University ceremonies, including Commencement.

The University Seal

The Ohio University seal was adopted from the seal of the State of Ohio. The circle of the Ohio seal represents a shield. A sheaf of wheat represents Ohio's agricultural heritage, and a bundle of seventeen arrows represents Ohio as the seventeenth state to join the Union. Behind these are mountains, symbolizing strength and grandeur, and the rising sun, symbolizing eternal life and the dawn of a new day.

There are three inscriptions on the Ohio University seal which are translated as follows:

Sigillum Universitatis Ohiensis: The Seal of Ohio University

Prae Omnibus Virtus: Virtue Before All Things

Religio Doctrina Civilitas: Religion, Learning, Civility


The University Ring

The University ring features the Seal of the University in oval form. Students who have earned junior status are eligible to purchase and wear the ring. Prior to graduation, the ring is worn with the rising sun pointing away from the wearer, representing a guiding light on the path to graduation. After graduation, the ring is worn with the rising sun pointing toward the wearer, warming the heart and illuminating the accomplishment of graduating from Ohio University. 

The Fight Song

Ohio University's fight song, entitled "Stand Up and Cheer," has been sung as an "athletic song" since the early 1900s. The song's words and theme were adapted from a previous melody, written by Paul P. McNeely in 1909.


Stand up and cheer 
Cheer loud and long for old OHIO 
For today we raise 
The Green and White above the rest 

Our team is fighting, 
And we are bound to win the fray 
We've got the team, 
We've got the steam, 
For this is old OHIO's day! 
Rah! Rah! Rah!

The Alma Mater

Ohio University's alma mater, entitled, "Alma Mater, Ohio," was also created by a special contest. In 1915, Kenneth S. Clark, a graduate of Princeton University, entered the contest to create an "alma mater song" for Ohio University and won the $150 first prize. Entries for this contest were received from all parts of the United States.


When e'er we take our book of mem'ries 
And scan its pages through and through 
We'll find no days that glow so brightly 
As those we spent at old O.U. 
Within our Alma Mater's portals 
We meet her children hand to hand 
And when there comes the day of parting, 
Still firm and loyal we will stand 


Alma Mater, Ohio, 
Alma Mater, brave and fair! 
Alma Mater, we hail thee, 
For we own thy kindly care.

  Alma Mater, Ohio,
When we read thy story o'er, 
We revere thee and cheer thee 
As we sing thy praise once more.

Our Alma Mater calls us ever, 
And love of country has its claim, 
The one but makes us prize the other, 
And thus we cherish both the same. 
When Alma Mater sends us forward, 
And in her name we stand in line, 
Then we will serve the nation better, 
For having gathered at her shrine.


The Mascot

Until 1925, or 29 years after the school colors changed from blue and white, the Ohio University athletic teams were called the "Green and White." At that time, however, the school's athletic board decided the teams needed a nickname and a campus-wide contest was initiated. Many animal nicknames were proposed, but after great debate, the Bobcat won for its reputation as a sly, wily, scrappy animal.

Former student Hal H. Rowland of Athens earned the $10 first prize for proposing the winning entry. The new nickname was passed by the board on Dec. 7, 1925, and was officially adopted by President E.B. Bryan.

The Bobcat mascot first appeared at OHIO's Homecoming game against Miami on Oct. 22, 1960. Smartly clad in a bright green sweater and a baseball cap on top of its paper mache head, the Bobcat was a gift to all of Ohio University from the men of Lincoln Hall.

That day, the OHIO football squad smashed archrival Miami 21-0 and went on to arguably the university's greatest football season ever. The Bobcats finished 10-0 that year and were voted the NCAA National College Division Champion.

Dan Nichols, class of '63, was the first Bobcat mascot and set a precedent for several decades that the person donning the costume must live in Lincoln Hall. The Campus Affairs Committee decided that the Bobcat mascot would be a permanent member of the cheerleading squad and would cheer at all football and basketball games.

The Bobcat mascot has changed its appearance many times since 1960, but remains a beloved representative of Ohio Athletics. Nowadays, the Bobcat can be seen at numerous varsity athletic events and visits countless special events in the community.

The Marching 110

One of the finest marching bands in the country, the Marching 110 represents Ohio University at athletic events, parades and festivals around the nation.

In 1923, an Ohio University student by the name of Homer Baird decided that Ohio needed a marching band. He organized the first meeting about such a group at Ewing Hall where over 40 musicians were in attendance. At this meeting, Baird was elected president and made arrangements with a local instrumental teacher named Raymond Connett to direct the band for free.

Gene Thrailkill took control of the marching band in 1966 and made drastic changes. These changes included the adoption of the athletic marching style, playing the popular music of the day and originating the "Diamond Ohio" formation to give the band its own trademark.

The name "Marching 110" originally referred to the number of band members in 1967, but the band has since expanded. The 110 now stands for the 110% effort expected of all members at all times.

In 1968, sophomore drum major David Fowler began the tradition of dancing to the new and popular rock tunes of the time. The first dance piece used by the entire band was called "Ain't Been Good" - a song the 110 still performs today.

The band's history also includes being the first marching band ever to perform in New York's Carnegie Hall (October 28, 1976) and playing at the Presidential Inaugural Parade and Ball in 1993.

Under the current direction of Dr. Richard Suk, the 110 opened for First Lady Hillary Clinton's speech at Baker Center in October 1996. "The Most Exciting Band in the Land!" marched in the 2000 and the 2005 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parades and has performed in numerous college and professional football stadiums.   More info here.

Bobcat Athletics Traditions

As Ohio's first and finest institution of higher learning, Ohio University's athletic tradition is rich and storied. Ohio University currently fields 20 teams, the most recent additions being women's lacrosse (1999), women's soccer (1997) and women's golf (1996). Ohio University was a charter member of the Mid-American Conference, which began in 1946. Other first-year members included Butler, Cincinnati, Wayne State and Western Reserve. Ohio's primary rival, the Miami RedHawks, joined the following year. The MAC is the sixth oldest NCAA Division I conference.  More about the Bobcats here.