Building Buchtel: The Founding and Flourishing of The University of Akron

Introduction | The Founding | The Founders | The Universalists | The Building | The President and the Faculty | The Students and the Curriculum | The Flourishing

The University of Akron had its humble beginnings 150 years ago. On May 31, 1870, the Ohio Universalist Convention met in Akron, Ohio and signed the Articles of Incorporation of Buchtel College, a small, religious institution of higher learning. In the next century and a half, the institution would grow to become the region’s most influential public research university. Many people made lasting contributions and selfless sacrifices to ensure the survival and growth of the institution, including John R. Buchtel and his wife, Elizabeth. Every day, thousands of students, alumni, and visitors to campus walk past a statue of his likeness in front of the administration building that bears his name, but few know about the man and the significant role he, his wife, and members of his faith played in University and local history.

Many others also labored to provide educational opportunities to improve the quality of life for people in the city and the region, but even fewer recognize their names or remember the impact they made on the institution.  These people provided great investments of time and resources to establish the University and ensure its survival, especially during times of financial crisis, war, disease, and tragedy. This includes names like Knight, Kolbe, Simmons, Auburn, and Guzzetta, to name but a few. These names grace the facades of buildings across the campus, but few on campus today know the significance of these names and the contributions these individuals, and others, made to the growth and prosperity of the institution.

In recognition of The University of Akron’s Sesquicentennial or 150th anniversary, this exhibition tells the fascinating story of the founding and flourishing of this great institution, from its beginnings as Buchtel College a century and a half ago until today. It recounts the founding of the College in 1870 and pays tribute to the institution’s founders and early students, faculty, and administrators. It also provides a brief historical account of the Universalist Church and the important role it and its members played in the establishment and growth of the institution. The exhibit also presents the demanding curriculum and the strict rules and regulations that governed student life in the first years of the college. Finally, it recounts the major milestones and summarizes the incredible growth and expansion of the institution, sometimes in the face of great adversity, that stands today, a century and a half after its founding, as a testament to the incredible vision and determination of the college founders. Without the important groundwork laid by these individuals and those who followed in their footsteps, the University would not be what it is today. 

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