The Center for the Study of Higher Education was created in 1967 as a unit of The University of Toledo to contribute to the development of certain colleges in the vicinity. The center has acted in a consultative role and its work originally funded under the Developing Institutions Title of the Higher Education Act of 1965. Soon thereafter, the center expanded its research and publication activities to a wider audience through sponsored research, publications, seminars, institutes and workshops, and consultation. A strong focus of the center was the improvement of instruction in higher education. Its audience was The University of Toledo, especially its faculty, liberal arts colleges, and junior colleges. Members of the Department of Higher Education served as staff, and additional staff members were included on a project-by-project basis. These came from within the university as well as from other institutions.
The need for a Center for the Study of Higher Education was intimately related to the nature of the field of higher education. Since it deals with the analysis of colleges and universities, various disciplinary techniques need to be brought to bear on the area. In other words, higher education is a field of study, not a discipline, and, consequently, members of the disciplines should be involved in this study. The center permitted an interdisciplinary approach to higher education by involving those individuals in other disciplines who expressed special interest in this field. In addition, the center promoted research activities among groups of interested faculty members from throughout the university, assisted the Department of Higher Education in developing a focus with respect to its doctoral program activities, and provided service to institutions in the area.
The center was renamed the John H. Russel Center for the Study of Higher Education in the 1970s as a mark of recognition to Dr. Russel who once served on the faculty of the Department of Higher Education and on the staff of the center. The center continued its research, publication, and dissemination, and consultative activities throughout this period. An important component of the dissemination role was the development of a substantial collection of literature in higher education.
The Higher Education Program was enhanced considerably by the activity of this center. The center published a newsletter and sponsored several conferences and seminars including national conferences in 1977, 1978, and 1979, in cooperation with the Association for Institutional Research. Other major activities of the center included hosting a conference on Higher Education and the Law, and publication of the monograph, The Organized Organization: The American University, in 1971. Other major activities included a conference in 1979 on Higher Education and Cultural Perspectives. A statewide conference, Proposal Writing for the Humanities, was held in 1982 in cooperation with the Ohio Humanities Council.
Frank Hull IV, from the University of Pennsylvania, replaced John Russel as Director of the Center, serving from 1970 to 1974. He was followed by Vance Peterson, from Stanford University, who held the position from 1974 to 1977. John Reid, from the University of Arizona, was the next director, and served from 1978 to 1985. Richard White, former Associate Dean for Administration and Associate Professor of Higher Education, served as Director of the Center from 1985 through 1987. Elizabeth Hawthorne, from the University of Michigan, held the director’s position from 1987 to 1993. Ron Opp, Interim Chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Associate Professor of Higher Education, is the current Director of the Center.