Ohio University presidents: Their legacy and namesakes

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Seemingly, every building on campus is named after some man you’ve never heard of.  It turns out a good chunk of these men are former Ohio University presidents.   In the college’s 210 years, 20 men have been able to call themselves president of Ohio University and each contributed to the school that we enjoy today.  The following is a little bit of information about OU’s former presidents and the buildings that are their namesakes.

 

Jacob LindleyJacob Lindley (1809-1822)
Tenure: 1809-1822

Lindley was the first president of Ohio University and was the sole professor until 1814. The university at this time went by American Western University. Lindley Hall was built in 1917 for female residency and is currently closed for renovation.

 

 

 

Robert G WilsonRobert G. Wilson (1768-1851)
Tenure: 1824-1839

Wilson’s presidency saw the first African-American graduate for the university which was only the sixth instance of that happening in the country. He also had to deal with the schools first riot in 1835, which was over a pledge that required students to report on their disorderly peers. Wilson Hall was completed in 1837 and now houses the College of Arts and Sciences.

 

 

William Holmes McGuffeyWilliam Holmes McGuffey (1800-1873)
Tenure: 1839-1843

McGuffey is probably Ohio University’s most famous and internationally known school president. His primary school textbooks known as the “McGuffey Readers” were used throughout the United States and a minimum of 120 million copies were sold. He resigned after continued disagreements between him and the university’s community caused a considerable drop in staff and attendance. McGuffey Hall, a small building created in 1839 has had many purposes throughout the years including the housing of residents, student organizations and administrative offices.

 

 

Alfred RyorsAlfred Ryors (1812-1858)
Tenure: 1848-1852

During Ryors’ time at Ohio University, a student tried to set Cutler Hall on fire and he wasn’t expelled until the following year. Also, the university’s first scholarships were given out in order to recover from a temporary closure of the school that ended in 1845. Ryors Hall was finished in 1966 and is a residence hall on West Green.

 

 

Alston EllisAlston Ellis (1847-1920)
Tenure: 1901-1920

In addition to several academic advancements like the school’s first female African American student graduate, Ellis had squirrels introduced to the campus in 1908 – their posterity still thrives today. The Ellis Hall building was built in it’s entirety in 1908 and is one the university’s oldest and largest classroom buildings.

 

 

Elmer Burritt BryanElmer Burritt Bryan (1865-1934)
Tenure: 1921-1934

Bryan was tasked with increasing male attendance because women dominated the university’s biggest program – teacher preparation. A men’s gymnasium, a stadium, and Memorial Auditorium were built and Ohio University joined its first athletic conference. Bryan Hall, a residence hall on College Green was completed in 1948 and is a quiet study facility with a GPA requirement.

 

 

Herman Gerlach JamesHerman Gerlach James (1887-1959)
Tenure: 1935-1943

During James’ presidency, the graduate school was instituted, the ROTC program was established, and the newspaper’s name was changed to the Post. He also saw the mass exodus of men during WWII, a war in which he desired to participate in directly. This paired with illness caused him to resign. James Hall is a residence hall on West Green and was built in 1963.

 

 

Walter Sylvester GamertsfelderWalter Sylvester Gamertsfelder (1885-1967)
Tenure: 1943-1945

As interim president, Gamertsfelder led the University through the end of WWII and an average enrollment of just 200 men. After the war, a memorial service honored 221 alumni who had died overseas. Finished in 1956, Gamertsfelder Hall is the largest residence hall on East Green.

 

 

 

John Calhoun BakerJohn Calhoun Baker (1859-1999)
Tenure: 1945-1961)

Baker put extensive effort in strengthening and broadening international programs including the Nigerian educational program. He retired at age 65 due to a provision the he, himself initiated. More than one Baker Center has existed but the new one has meeting and dining rooms, theaters, as well as offices for several university organizations. It was built in 2006 and opened in the following winter.

 

 

 

Vernon Roger AldenVernon R. Alden (1923-)
Tenure: 1962-1969)

Under Alden’s presidency, student enrollment and the number of faculty doubled. There was also an increased commitment to research and volunteerism and expansion of international programs. Alden Library is among the 100 largest libraries in the U.S. and opened in 1969.

 

 

Claude R. Sowle,Claude R. Sowle (1928-1997)
Tenure: 1969-1974

Sowle’s administration was during the height and aftermath of the Vietnam War. Riots caused the closure of the university for extended periods of time. Enrollment and income declines did not stop the construction and renovation of several buildings and long-term leases for commercial development were authorized. Sowle Hall, called Southwest during its development, is a residence hall and was completed in 2015 along with three other halls near it.

 

 

Charles J. PingCharles J. Ping (1930-)
Tenure: 1975-1994

Ping entered as president during a time at the school where enrollment was down and a financial crisis loomed. Under his tenure, enrollment hit an all-time peak of 25,000 and the financial problems dissipated. The main campus more than doubled in size and the “Ridges” mental hospital was transferred to the university. The Ping Student Center is a recreational center and opened in 1996.

 

 

 

Robert GliddenRobert Glidden (1936-)
Tenure: 1994-2004

Glidden continued the work of his predecessor, Charles Ping.  An increase in scholarship funding and overall budget contributed to every corner of the school. Major renovations to Gordy Hall, Grover Center, and Memorial Auditorium were completed and he set the framework for the new Baker Student Center. The Music Building was renamed to the Robert Glidden Hall when he retired in 2004.

 

 

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