Retirees Association

A Short History of Wright State University, by Lois Cook

Public Higher Education dates to 1926

Part 1      

The Background

As early as 1926 Miami University began offering courses to students in Dayton. In the early years extension work led to an itinerant hand-to-mouth existence, first in the old YWCA, then in the old Central School. In the 1950's offerings were expanded, organized into definite programs, and institutionalized into an Academic Center with a minimal administration, faculty and facilities. In 1962 there were over 1500 students enrolled in the 100 courses of the Dayton Academic Center of Miami University, located then in Roth High School in west Dayton.

Immediately after World War II in 1946, The Ohio State University first offered to the personnel at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base graduate courses primarily in science, engineering, and business organization. Classes were held in the Air Force Institute of Technology. After 1960 these courses were opened to the general public and The Ohio State University moved toward a comprehensive center for graduate education in the Dayton area.

During the late 1950's and into the 1960's, it became apparent to community leaders that a serious shortage of higher education capacity was developing in the Dayton metropolitan area. The situation was documented and confirmed in 1961 by the findings of Community Research, Inc., a local nonprofit research organization. The report recommended the development of a new state assisted campus to be operated jointly by Miami University and The Ohio State University as both were currently offering programs in Dayton.

The development of this new campus promised a permanent home for these two university programs (OSU and MU). It would also accommodate high school graduates who want to attend college full time. As a result of these needs, the community conducted a $6million campaign for public subscriptions (a three year campaign with pledges for three years) with $3 million to be provided for the University of Dayton, an existing private school, and $3 million to the new state university project. The Boards of Trustees of OSU and MU agreed to proceed with this venture.

The campaign was quickly completed successfully with thousands of individual donors. A site was acquired and both parent universities proceeded to develop the academic program for the new campus. First classes were held on the Dayton Campus of the Miami and The Ohio State Universities in the fall of 1964. In 1965. The General Assembly of the State of Ohio passed legislation which provided for the Dayton Campus of Miami and The Ohio State Universities to become Wright State Campus on November 5. 1965, with its own Advisory Committee which was appointed by Governor James A. Rhodes. The Advisory Committee and the parent Boards of Trustees worked together to prepare for independent status of the campus as Wright State University.

The Ohio Board of Regents June. 1966 Master Plan for State Policy in Higher Education stated (in part): "The Wright State University... this new state university should absorb the instructional programs, property obligations, and staff of the Miami University branch and the Ohio State University branch on the Wright State Campus. The Wright State University should offer baccalaureate programs in the humanities and social sciences, science and engineering, teacher education, and business administration, and master’s degree programs in these same fields. Other programs should be introduced as needs arise and as resources permitted.

Part 2

The Campus

The original $3million investment by the Miami Valley community provided: 1) a 618 acre campus including 428 acres purchased form private owners; 2) developing a Master Cam pus Plan for orderly growth of the campus; and 3) building and equipping Allyn Hall, named in honor of Mr. Stanley C. Allyn who had been President of the National Cash Register Company, and at that time was Chairman of the Board of the NCR, who along with Mr. Robert S. Oelman, served as co-chairman of the Combined University Building fund Campaign and whose vision and foresight contributed immensely to the success of the new campus. Mr. Oelman succeeded Mr. Allyn as President of the NCR and later became Chairman of the Board of the NCR.

Allyn Hall included classrooms and laboratories as well as many of the administrative, faculty, and student affairs facilities. When originally constructed, the building was a self-contained university, and all of the activities of the new university were centered in this building. As new buildings rose, uses of Allyn Hall were continually altered to meet the needs.

Picture, if you will, the area now known to us as “the wing" - in 1964 there was a hallway running down the center, a continuation of the current hallway in Allyn Hall. To the right as you entered, was the only large classroom, which seated about 100 people. Next on the right was the storeroom and then the education science laboratory that was operated by Dr. Roger Iddings. On the left, across from the large classroom, was the only chemistry laboratory, followed by two physiology laboratories for beginning physiology, commonly known to us as Biological Sciences. Prep rooms for both Chemistry and Biology were adjacent to the laboratories.

The central area in Allyn Hall (most recently the Bursar's office and the Registrar's Offices) housed all of the administrative offices. All faculty were housed on the fourth floor of Allyn Hall, along with the steno pool and a faculty lounge. By the second year. 1965, my own office was located in the janitor's closet on the fourth floor outside the women’s restroom. I shared this office with JoAnn Rose and Andy Kuntzman. Each of us had a desk, a bookcase, a filing cabinet, a chair, and one telephone. We felt like sardines and if one of us had to move when we were all there, we said "shift"

Before the first student set foot in Allyn Hall, the State Legislature had appropriated capital improvement funds for Phase II - the Science Building, now known as Oelman Hall - and Phase III, known to us as Millett Hall. Each of these $3 million buildings had, respectively, 106,000 square feet and 153,000 square feet in size, and were scheduled for occupancy (and were occupied) by September, 1966. Oelman Hall was named after Robert S. Oelman, the first chairman of the WSU Board of Trustees, and contained classrooms, teaching and research laboratories, and administrative and departmental offices. The building included a 500 seat amphitheater designed for multipurpose use, a 250 seat lecture hall and a number of special scientific facilities. The first president of WSU had his office located where the School of Graduate Studies later was located.

Phase Ill, Millett Hall, was named after John D. Millett who was President of Miami University at the time the Dayton Campus was created. IL was the Largest Building on campus, providing adequate study and reading areas for 800 students and open stacks for some 190,000 volumes. The building also included classrooms, lecture and seminar rooms, as well as 150 faculty offices.

Construction was started in May 1966 on a $3 million Phase IV - The Science, Engineering and classroom building known as Fawcett Hall. This was completed in the summer of 1967. This was named after Novice Fawcett, President of The Ohio State University at the time the Dayton Campus was created. Included in Fawcett Hall were 32 laboratories, 27 storage and preparation rooms, 42 classrooms, 63 faculty and divisional offices, a large lecture hall, and other educational areas, including an observation platform designed for astronomy studies.

These four buildings were located to form what is known as the "Founders' Quadrangle. This physical plant permitted the development of the academic programs to the baccalaureate and master’s degree levels.

There were no dormitories at Wright State and there was no provision for supervised off-campus housing. Lighted parking areas for commuting students were provided. Public transportation was provided from downtown Dayton and Fairborn and students were encouraged to use the public transportation or to share in car pools.

By the fall of 1968, a large, well­ equipped University Center was completed which provided a cafeteria, lounges, offices for student organizations and publications, and indoor recreational facilities as well as locker rooms for adjacent outdoor play areas. The building was designed so that it could be enlarged as demands for such facilities increased.

Part 3

Our Historical Background

First classes were held on the Dayton Campus of Miami and Ohio State Universities in the fall of 1964 with an enrollment of 3779 full and part-time students, and by 1965 the enrollment grew to 5077. There were approximately 55 full-time faculty members during the first year, and by the second year the faculty members numbered over 100 in residence with nearly 50 holding doctorates, plus 78 part-time and commuting faculty from the parent campuses, serving the late afternoon and evening classes.

The academic program was divided vertically between the two parent universities. The Ohio State University assumed responsibility for the sciences, mathematics, psychology and engineering, and Miami University had the responsibility for instruction in the liberal art, education and business administration. The academic programs were organized for lower division students in the General College and for upper division students in Divisions of Liberal Arts, Education, and Business Administration, and the college of Science and Engineering. Late afternoon and evening programs were organized through the WSU Continuing Education Program and the Graduate Center of OSU.

Our first graduation was held on the "quad" in 1968. From 3779 full and part-time students in 1964, we have now (1997) grown to over 17,000 students in more than l00 undergraduate majors, 27 master's programs, and doctorates, (M.D., Psy.D, Ed.S, and Ph.D), as well as certification programs. This is a magnificent monument to those visionaries who in the 1960's knew that Wright State University was possible!

The People

In the September 24, 1984 issue of the University Times, Bill Evans said, "The board of Trustees, faculty and staff all had a real sense of togetherness. We were like a family. In the first trimester, if someone had a potluck supper, everyone came, from NCR Executive Stanley Allyn to the janitor. Today it's hard to understand the commitment and dedication we share. In that first year we were called upon to do a lot of things. We worked so hard; there was no time to think about the future. Wright State was new and willing to accept and work with new ideas. That environment permitted people to develop their talents, and we never lost sight of the university's prime mission: teaching."

In that same article, I said "It was exciting to be part of a new university. I looked forward to each day. The university's faculty of 55 packed into the fourth floor of Allyn Hall, and with a whole curriculum to create, the days were brimful of discussions and decisions."

Those who created Wright State University were certainly men of vision: Fred White; Chancellor John D. Millett; Ohio State University's Dr. Edward Q. Moulton, Acting Director of The Dayton Campus College of Science and Engineering; Warren H. Abraham, Assistant Dean in charge of the Dayton Campus for Miami University; and OSU President Novice G. Fawcett.

I am very proud to have been a part of the university' s founding.

- Lois Cook