Provost's Office

History of The University of Toledo

The University of Toledo began in 1872 as a private arts and trades school offering painting and architectural drawing as its only subjects. In the 125 years since, the university has grown into a comprehensive institution offering more than 250 undergraduate and graduate programs to over than 20,000 students from around the world. The history of its development is a remarkable story.

Ina pamphlet published in 1868 entitled "Toledo: Future Great City of the World," Jesup Wakeman Scott articulated a dream that led him to endow what would become The University of Toledo. Scott, a newspaper editor, expressed his belief that the center of world commerce was moving westward, and by 1900 would be located in Toledo. To help realize this dream, in 1872 Scott donated 160 acres of land as an endowment for a university to train the city's young people.

The Toledo University of Arts and Trades was incorporated on October 12, 1872, to "furnish artists and artizans with the best facilities for a high culture in their professions...." Scott died in 1874, however, a year before the university actually opened in an old church building downtown. The school was forced to close in 1878 due to a lack of funds. On January 8, 1884, the assets of the university were turned over to the city of Toledo and the school reopened that year as the Manual Training School. It offered a three-year program for students at least 13 years old who received both academic and manual instruction.

Dr. Jerome Raymond was appointed the first president of the university in 1908. He expanded its offerings by affiliating with the Toledo Conservatory of Music, the YMCA College of Law, and the Toledo Medical College, and by creating the College of Arts and Sciences. These changes moved the university toward becoming an institution of higher education. But the school struggled through years of inadequate finances and legal battles over control.

In1914, Dr. A. Monroe Stowe became president, and led the university on its first organized path of development. He founded the College of Commerce and Industry (later the College of Business Administration) in 1914, and the College of Education in 1916. Enrollment grew from 200 students to 1400.

Asevidence that the university was maturing, student participation in extracurricular activities increased. Student Council was created in 1919, and that year two students started a newspaper called The Universi-Teaser. In 1915, the students petitioned for an intercollegiate athletic program. Football began in 1917, although the first game was a 145 to 0 loss to the University of Detroit. The sports teams received their nickname, the "Rockets," in 1923 from a newspaper writer who thought the name reflected the teams' playing style.

Bythe 1920s, Toledo University was a growing institution, limited only by the buildings that housed it. Classes were held in two downtown buildings, but both were too small. In 1922, the university moved into an automobile mechanics training facility that had been constructed for World War I on the original Scott land. While twice the size of the old buildings, this location was less than ideal. Its limitations became evident when an enrollment increase of 32 percent in one year produced a critical shortage of classroom and office space.

The prospects for a new, permanent home for the institution improved in 1928 when Dr. Henry J. Doermann became president. His first activity was to initiate plans for a new campus. To pay for the proposed buildings, the city placed a bond levy before Toledo's voters. An all-out campaign led to the levy's passage by 10,000 votes and just 11 months before the start of the Great Depression.

A local architectural firm planned the new campus. Dr. Doermann wanted the buildings to reflect the best design elements of the universities of Europe because he felt such architecture would inspire students. It took 400 men less than one year to complete University Hall and the Field House in the Collegiate Gothic design.

While enrollments remained stable at UT during most years of the Depression, the university's finances were strapped. Dr. Philip C. Nash, who became president following Dr. Doermann's sudden death, instituted drastic measures to cut costs. Funds from the federal government's New Deal programs helped by paying for new buildings and student scholarships.

While the Depression decade determined in many ways if the university would survive, it was World War II and its aftermath that transformed UT into the modern university it is today. The impact of the war was felt almost immediately. The military contracted with UT to offer war training programs for both military and civilian persons. For civilians, it offered Engineering, Science and Management War Training program classes and Civilian Pilot Training classes. For the military, UT contracted in 1943 to house, feed and train a detachment of the 27th Army Air Crew. Also, the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps trained nurses for Army field hospitals.

Student social life changed with the war. UT was the first university in the country to have a Red Cross chapter, and the group sponsored knitting bees to make sweaters for soldiers. Weekly air raid drills were held. With a dwindling number of male students, women assumed leadership roles on campus, and intercollegiate basketball and football were suspended. And, tragically, over 100 UT students were killed in the war.

After the war, the GI Bill of Rights provided a way to reward veterans for their service by paying their college tuition, and over 3000 veterans took advantage of the program at UT. Because many veterans were older and had families, arrangements were required to house them. In 1945, the university purchased surplus military housing for the veterans and moved it to campus. "Nashville," as the complex was called, served as married student housing until 1974.

In1947, Wilbur W. White replaced Dr. Nash, who had died the previous year. White proposed a progressive ten-year development plan, but he died in 1950 before any new buildings were completed. He was succeeded by Asa S. Knowles. Dr. Knowles oversaw the completion of a new men's dormitory in 1952 and the new library in 1953. He expanded educational programming for adult students and created the Greater Toledo Television Foundation to utilize television for educational purposes.

Dr. Asa Knowles resigned the presidency in 1958. His last official act was to meet with Toledo City Council to discuss the future financing of the university. Over 12 percent of the city's budget was allocated to the university and this could not continue. Council suggested that consideration be given to acquiring financial assistance from the state, which would relieve the city of the burden of supporting the university while providing the funding needed for it to grow.

Itwas left to President William S. Carlson to pursue the issue. Three bills introduced into the state legislature in 1959 proposed a student subsidy for the state's three largest municipal universities, but all stalled, and the university's financial situation worsened. Fortunately, a 2-mill levy in 1959 passed by just 144 votes, raising $1.7 million a year for the university. The three municipal universities of Akron, Cincinnati and Toledo continued to press for state financial assistance, and finally, on July 1, 1967, The University of Toledo became a state university. In addition to subsidy for students, state support provided capital improvement money for a campus building boom.

College students became more politically active in the 1960s. The decade produced frequent student protests, including many at The University of Toledo. Most of the UT protests were peaceful, like a "food riot" by dormitory students in 1968 over the quality of food. More serious protests by students opposed to the war in Vietnam did lead to several arrests. In 1970, the campus remained peaceful following the deaths of four student protesters at Kent State University. A protest by black students following the killing of students at Jackson State University in Mississippi temporarily closed University Hall in May of that year, but this ended when President Carlson met with the students and reached a peaceful accord.

UTmarked its centennial in 1972 with a year of celebrations. Also that year, President Carlson retired, and Dr. Glen R. Driscoll was selected as his successor. Dr. Driscoll oversaw further expansion of the university's physical plant with the addition of the Center for Performing Arts (1976), Savage Hall (1976), the Center for Continuing Education (1978), and Stranahan Hall (1984). Centennial Mall, a nine-acre landscaped mall in the center of campus, replaced parking lots and Army barracks in 1980. Construction began in 1985 on SeaGate Center, a downtown complex of classrooms and meeting rooms that was part of downtown Toledo's revitalization efforts.

In1985, Dr. Driscoll retired, and was replaced by Dr. James D. McComas. Dr. McComas continued the expansion of the university's facilities. McMaster Hall (1987) was completed, and plans were made for the Student Recreation Center (1990), the Larimer Athletic Complex (1990), the Greek Village (1990) and renovations to the Glass Bowl Stadium (1990). Dr. McComas's tenure at UT was brief, however, as he resigned in 1988.

Dr. Frank E. Horton, president of the University of Oklahoma, was selected The University of Toledo's thirteenth president in October 1988. To meet the challenges of the 1990s, Dr. Horton began a lengthy strategic planning effort to chart a course of targeted, purposeful growth. To help achieve the plan's many goals, in 1993 the university launched a $40 million fund-raising campaign called UT40.

The university continued to expand its physical environs in the 1990s. A major expansion of the campus took place when UT renovated commercial buildings at Dorr Street and Secor Road for classrooms. A new Academic Center and Residence Hall (1992) was built to house the Honors Program. Other new buildings included the Student Medical Center (1992), the Center for the Visual Arts at the Toledo Museum of Art (1992), the International House Residence Hall (1995) and Nitschke Hall (1995). And construction began in 1995 on a Pharmacy, Chemistry and Life Sciences complex on the main campus and a Lake Erie Research Center at Maumee Bay State Park.

Significant growth in the 1990s was not only in buildings, but in technology. The university joined OhioLINK, a statewide library network, in 1994. Computer labs and hook-ups in dormitories and offices provided Internet access to most. Technological improvements allowed students to register for classes and check their grades by phone, and the university established a homepage on the World Wide Web.

Despite the challenges facing higher education in the 1990s, The University of Toledo marked its 125th year as an amazing success story. The institution has grown from a small, private arts and trades school to become a large state-assisted university. Many of its faculty and academic programs have world-wide reputations, and its campus is an architectural gem. If the past is any indication, the challenges of the 1990s and beyond will be met, and the institution will continue its path of growth and success for another 125 years.

Last Updated: 6/9/16