On September 21, 1844, the Ohio Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church took steps to found Union Seminary, which opened in 1847 twelve miles west of Columbus.
The Cincinnati Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church recommended the "establishment of a literary institution of higher order for the education of Negro people generally."
"Tawawa Springs," a popular summer resort of that day with usable buildings, was purchased as the site for the proposed institution. The school was named Wilberforce University after the 18th century English statesman and reformer, William Wilberforce. By concurrent action the M. E. and A.M.E. Conferences of Ohio entered into cooperation for the success of Wilberforce University. (Source: Wilberforce Bulletin 1933-1934)
Wilberforce University was incorporated. Richard S. Rust chaired the board of 24 trustees, which included AME Bishop Daniel A. Payne, Ohio Governor Salmon P. Chase, and Ashland Keith of the Negro Baptist denomination. The broad principle that there should never be any discrimination among trustees, faculties, or students, on account of race or creed, was established. (Source: Wilberforce Bulletin 1933-1934)
Richard Rust was appointed the first president.
Because of the Civil War, declining enrollment and increasing debts forced the Wilberforce University board of trustees to close the school and seek a new owner.
Daniel Payne purchased the property of the college under the auspices of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The sale price was $10,000. Succeeding Rust, Payne became the first Black college president in America. Union Seminary was then sold and proceeds, faculty, and students were merged with Wilberforce University.
Pictures of Daniel Alexander Payne:
Daniel and Julia Payne, married in 1853.
Benjamin Arnett, Daniel A. Payne, and Frederic Douglass
1868 A.M.E. General Conference
Fire destroyed the main campus building on the same night Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. The building, a two-story frame structure, had served as a hotel at a resort formerly operated on the site. The building was destroyed just before the final payment on the purchase of the campus was due.
Benjamin F. Lee, President 1876 - 1884
A new brick administration building, named for Bishop James A. Shorter, was erected and dedicated on the site of the building that had burned.
Samuel T. Mitchell, President 1884-1900. Mitchell Hall, which once stood where Central State University's Hallie Q. Brown Library and Education Building stands today, was named for President Mitchell.
The Combined Normal and Industrial department was established by the State of Ohio to provide teacher training and other vocational skills through Wilberforce University. It had a separate nine-member board of trustees.
Payne Technological Seminary was incorporated. The successful theology department of Wilberforce University inspired its founding.
Wilberforce University was the first Black school designated as a center for military training, and in later years had a ROTC program.
Joshua H. Jones, President 1900-1908
During this period, Arnett, Galloway, Mitchell and Emery Halls were completed.
William S. Scarborough, President 1908-1920
The Carnegie Library was dedicated. A gift from the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the traditional brick structure was remodeled in 1938.
Benjamin O. Davis Sr. (later to become the first black American general in the U.S. Army) was "reassigned to Wilberforce as professor of military science and tactics" (p. 260). In earlier years he had been a military science instructor at WU. His wife Elnora Dickerson died in 1906 at Wilberforce after giving birth. In 1919 he married Wilberforce English teacher Sadie Overton (of a prominent Mississippi family). He again served at Wilberforce in 1930. [Smith, J.C., ed. (1999). Notable Black American Men. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Research.].
Wilberforce Academy was founded.
John A. Gregg, President 1920 - 1924
Shorter Hall was destroyed by fire. Rebuilt in 1924, the building included a large auditorium named for Bishop Joshua H. Jones.
Gilbert H. Jones, President 1924 - 1932
Richard R. Wright, Jr., President 1932 - 1936, 1941- 1942
D. Ormonde Walker, President 1936 - 1941
125 acres of farmland east of the old campus was purchased for later development. It was operated by the university as a working farm, producing food for use in the dining hall. Purchase price was $8,500.
PHOTO: Two students stroll across the WU campus. Their photograph was on the cover of an informational brochure designed to recruit new students.
Provisional Accreditation was awarded by the North Central Association.
Wilberforce University football team became the Mid-Western Conference Champions.
Richard R. Wright, Jr., President 1941-1942
Charles H. Wesley, President 1942-1947
Wilberforce University was awarded full accreditation by the North Central Association.
The State of Ohio s College of Education and Industrial Arts withdrew from its affiliation with Wilberforce University and later established Central State University as a separate institution. Both institutions are located in Wilberforce, Ohio along with Payne Theological Seminary and the National Afro-American History and Culture Museum.
Charles Leander Hill, President 1947-1956
Rembert E. Stokes was elected president and served for a period of 20 years. 1956 - 1976
Full accreditation by NCACU restored.
Charles Leander Hill Gymnasium was built. Named for the 13th president, it was used for sports, social events, and graduation ceremonies and later, replaced by the Alumni Multiplex, it continued to be used for social events.
Wilberforce University was again accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (30 North LaSalle Street, Suite 2400, Chicago, IL 60602-2504). NCA institutional accreditation has been continuous since that time and was most recently renewed in 1999. President Stokes joined students and faculty in celebration.
Margaret Ireland Hall, a dormitory for women, was completed.
The mandatory Cooperative Education program began.
Wright Hall, the first building on the new campus, was erected.
Construction and opening of a number of buildings on the New Campus.
Faculty and staff moved into Walker Center and the King Classroom Science Building on the new campus.
A tornado which destroyed a large portion of nearby Xenia, Ohio, destroyed Ireland Hall and several other buildings used for administrative purposes.
Through an alumni fund raising effort, the Wilberforce Fountain was relocated to the new campus.
Construction of the Rembert E. Stokes Learning Resources Center adjacent to the King Classroom Science building. The building originally housed reading, writing, and mathematics tutoring labs as well as the library and audio-visual departments.
After twenty years, the leadership of the University changed hands. Dr. Charles E. Taylor was elected the 16th president, serving until 1984. He was the youngest president and the first layperson to be elected president.
Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda, Life President of the African Republic of Malawi, Central Africa, and graduate of the Wilberforce Academy, visited campus and presented the university with the largest individual gift in history.
The faculty voted to establish the Wilberforce University Faculty Association as a collective bargaining unit for the faculty.
Completion of Phase 1 of Timken Court, apartment style student housing in an attractive wooded area, with principal funding from the Timken Foundation.
Sale of the Old Campus to the State of Ohio, $600,000. The old campus was sold to the State of Ohio and was designated by the Ohio General Assembly and the United States Congress as the location for the National Museum of Afro-American History and Culture Center.
Yvonne Walker-Taylor was elected the first woman president by the board of trustees and served until 1988.
The Cooperative Education Wing of Walker Center was dedicated.
Tennis courts completed, soccer field donated.
Dr. John L. Henderson was elected 17th president.
The Institute for African/Israeli Exchange Program established.
The Alumni Multiplex building (a sports education and convocation center) was dedicated during the National Conference of the Wilberforce University Alumni Association. The Multiplex included the Gaston F. Lewis Arena named for the 1926 alumnus, well-known WU athlete, and nationally-recognized coach.
The Bulldogs returned to intercollegiate basketball.
An evening program for adults enrolled its first students. It was called CLIMB (Credentials for Leadership in Management and Business). Adult and Continuing Education was established as a new administrative unit.
The Frederic and Mary Wolfe Administration Building was dedicated and occupied and Shorter Hall was closed.
Year-long celebration of the 140th anniversary of the founding of Wilberforce University. Events included Wilberforce University Day on the Dayton Court House Square (October 4) and the Gala in the Multiplex (October 19).
Computer-based library services began in August as Wilberforce University Stokes Library (and a number of other private colleges) activated the Ohio Private Academic Library (OPAL) cooperative project. Participating institutions use commonly-owned computer hardware and software to provide state-of-the-art access to local collections, state-wide academic resources, and reference databases in OhioLINK.
Two new buildings were completed on campus -- the Communications Building (housing Humanities Division television studio, equipment, and classroom) and the Health Services Building (housing student health and counseling facilities).
Shorter Hall (owned by the State of Ohio) was demolished. Citing its poor condition, officials had not included restoration of the building in long-range State plans. See Shorter Hall as it looked shortly after its remodeling following the 1922 fire.
Construction of a new state-of-the-art dormitory between the Stokes and main dormitory complex.
Wilberforce University Stokes Library and the Payne Theological Seminary Reverdy C. Ransom Library combined online access to their collections using the OPAL library system. Their mutual agreement to share resources greatly enhanced library services to both institutions.
Construction was completed on the new Louis Stokes Health and Wellness Center, sited next to the Alumni Multiplex. The new complex will open in Fall 2002 as a new location for the health clinic and physical exercise and training activities for students, faculty, and staff. Community activities also will be scheduled.
Dr. John L. Henderson was appointed by President George W. Bush to the President's Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He also serves on the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities Council of Presidents, which helps set the direction of higher education.
June, 2002: The Rev. Dr. Floyd H. Flake was appointed the 18th President of Wilberforce University, upon the retirement of Dr. John L. Henderson. The Rev. Flake had served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. While agreeing to serve as WU president, Dr. Flake maintained his position as senior pastor of the A.M.E. Church in Jamaica Plains, New York.