A University is Born by Elizabeth Harden

Dr. Elizabeth Harden, Professor Emerita of English

The year was 1961. In that year the United States tried unsuccessfully to overthrow Castro in Cuba. Alan Shepherd became the first American to go into space. And the Communists built a wall between East and West Berlin. On a Tuesday afternoon in December, at a regular meeting with the Council of Deans, Miami University President John D. Millett advised the Deans to “be ready to keep up with a fast developing proposal for the Dayton State University branch to be operated jointly by Miami and Ohio State.” The night before, approximately 100 civic leaders had met at the Moraine Country Club to discuss the project. At that meeting, Miami’s President Millett, Ohio State’s President, Novice Fawcett, and Stanley C. Allyn (Board Chairman of the National Cash Register Company) proposed a $6 million campaign – half of which would go to the University of Dayton for a student activities center and a business administration building. The other half would be used as “seed money” – to “establish a jointly operated state university branch which eventually could become a separate university in its own right.”

The civic group’s confidence was apparent, its enthusiasm, infectious. As Millett described it to his Deans, “Mr. Allyn seems to believe that the $6 million dollars can be raised by June of 1962…This means that in six months we may be getting this proposal put into action.” Miami University’s press release had been issued on December 20, 1961, and it is possible that Millett and Fawcett spent much of their holiday thinking about the various details that must be worked out, the careful decisions, the involved planning.

1962 would be remembered as the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the year when Ohio’s native son, John Glenn, became the first American to orbit the earth. At 6:30 p.m. on April 26, Dayton civic and business leaders launched the $6 million campaign at a dinner in the University of Dayton field house. Co-chairmen of the campaign, the largest fund drive in Dayton history, were Stanley C. Allyn and Robert S. Oleman – both of whom had been widely identified with civic leadership and efforts on behalf of higher education.

A campaign brochure stressed both the needs and scope of the projected facilities: (1) the new state branch would ease enrollment burdens for the University of Dayton, Ohio State, and Miami which then drew most of our local young people; (2) it would help meet the educational needs of nine counties; (3) and most important, it would help preserve educational opportunity throughout the state.

In August 1962, architects and engineers were appointed for the planning of Allyn Hall, and Charles W. Ingler (acting manager of the business office for the joint state university campus) opened an office in Room 1520 of the Hulman Building in downtown Dayton. It was about this time that a man named Frederick A. White arranged a meeting to ask President Fawcett how “nine good years of public school administration and twenty good years at General Motors” might best be put to use. And on October 1, 1962, White became the first employee of the Dayton Center of Miami and the Ohio State Universities; and as Business Manager and Treasurer, he would serve as the fledgling university’s chief fiscal officer for the next four years.

In November, the Trustees of Miami and Ohio State were discussing land acquisition and purchase: 190 acres of federal land would come from the Wright Patterson reservation, and the remaining 428 acres would be purchased from 13 different private owners. Later, White would recall with nostalgia that a choice segment in the center of the campus was purchased from a farmer and the deal “completed on the back of his old truck.” “It was the best parcel of all,” White said, “the woodland.” It was also in November that Millett and Fawcett approved a memorandum of agreement, accepting joint responsibility for the academic program and for terms and conditions pertaining to the disposal of the lands.

In 1963, two events would strike at the depths of the American national consciousness: In August, Martin Luther King, Jr. led the Freedom March on Washington D.C. and delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. King’s dream was that we would “be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.” With this faith, King said, “We will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.” Three months later, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas by a rifle that cost $19.95. As one newspaper described it, “Shock, horror, profound disarray in the American Republic, the agony of looking inward, deep into our national soul. ‘My God,’ we cry…what are we coming to?’”

Closer to home, a child was being born. A Miami press release read, “Currently under construction on the 635-acre Dayton campus is Allyn Hall, first academic building for the new institution. It is scheduled for completion by the opening of classes in autumn 1964.” Miami’s General College would offer courses in the humanities, social sciences, teacher education and business administration – from the freshman through the Master’s level; and Ohio State’s College of Science and Engineering would offer courses in mathematics and in the biological, physical, and engineering sciences.