The following article appeared in the Spring '97 issue of Akron magazine under the title "Marking a Country Milestone" by Leslie Baus and is used here by permission.
Canada geese glide silently across the ponds' glassy waters. In surrounding woods deer, raccoon, and rabbits embark on another day. It's almost hard to believe that this, too, is The University of Akron.
As tractors plow the nearby fields preparing for another growing season in Wayne County, a vacant 179- year-old farmhouse holds its ground, still watching over the countryside. A reminder of local history, casting its shadow from the past upon the life bursting forth from the college that now dominates the 157 acres.
Wayne College, the brain child of former University of Akron president Norman Auburn, has grown into the land. Now approaching its 25th anniversary, the college has settled comfortably into its rural surroundings.
The Hottest Political Potato to Hit Columbus
Although its doors were officially opened September 24, 1972, the birthing process for this branch campus was long and difficult. A five year battle had been waged between the cities of Orrville and Wadsworth over the location of a permanent branch campus in the area-a battles mirrored between The University of Akron and Kent State University over which institution would operate the branch.
The battles resulted from the Ohio Board of Regents' decision to replace what then were operated as academic centers with permanent branch campuses.Kent State University had two such academic centers - one started in Wadsworth in 1961, and one statred in Orrville in 1963- that held classes in temporary facilities in the area high schools and community centers. The University of Akron also established a presence in Orrville when it offered computer classes at the high school in the late 1960's.
In April 1967, Dr. John Millet, chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, proposed that the centers in Wadsworth and Orrville be combined, but he proposed no plan for operation of the new campus. Because Kent State had very close ties with Wadsworth, many people in Orrville and at The University of Akron felt that it was given that Kent would operate the facility in Wadsworth.
But in July of that year, The University became a state institution, and attitudes about its competitive viability began to change. President Auburn actively began to pursue the idea of Akron obtaining the branch and approached Millet about running the campus. In a recent interview, Dr. Auburn recalled, "Millet was opposed to it, and he and I struggled together, however, I convinced him we ought to have that opportunity."
The opportunity was strengthened when Paul Smucker and Bruce Schantz, leaders of the Orrville Branch University Committee, approached Auburn with the proposal that The University of Akron operate the branch campus in Orrville.
W. Richard Wright, '37, who served as assistant to the president from 1967 to 1985, said in a recent interview that "Auburn welcomed the opportunity because he felt The University needed to gain the experience of running a branch campus."
Furthermore, according to Wright, Kent State already had seven branch campuses, none of which where located to conveniently serve the people of Wayne, Medina, and Holmes counties. Wright, who prepared the proposal for the branch campus to the Board of Regents, said it was only natural for Orrville to be the site because it was located at the geographic center of the three counties, and it was close to Akron.
"It was right in step with Governor [James A.] Rhodes' plan for higher education to have a higher education facility within 35 miles of every boy and girl in Ohio," said Wright, who had also served on Rhodes' gubernatorial campaign. The University of Akron submitted its proposal for the new facility in September 1967, and the battle began.
Both cities launched campaigns for the branch campus to be housed within their limits.
Wadsworth quickly received a 97- acre donation of land in Medina County donated.
Jim Banks, then-director of development at The University of Akron, initiated work with Orrville supporters to raise $150,000 to buy the 157 acre Blatter Field site. By the time the fund-raising campaign ended, more than $300,000 had been raised- the money not spent on buying the property was put into a foundation that still awards scholarships to Orrville students attending Wayne College.
Although the Kent-Wadsworth and Akron-Orrville proposals should have been reviewed by the Board of Regents, and the decision handed down within a few months, that was not the case.
According to then-regents chancellor Millett, the nearly five-year political battle over the branch campus was "one of the hottest political potatoes that had ever hit Columbus ". Representatives from both cities appeared before the Board of Regents in Columbus.
Even as the imbroglio in Columbus raged, William Rogers, dean of Akron's off-campus academic programs, began developing a curriculum for the intended branch campus. Rogers had become a familiar presence in Orrville when he set up the University's computer classes at the high school, and he knew what the people in the tri-county area needed and wanted regarding technical programs and general-studies courses.
The Board of Regents finally selected The University of Akron to develop and build the Orrville campus,- but didn't immediately appoint it to operate the new facility. The Orrville group took a stand, voting for permanent branch affiliation with The University of Akron, and sending representatives to the Board of Regents to voice their opinion.
In 1971, the regents voted unanimously to give the campus to Orrville and The University of Akron on the merits of the case, but the battle was not yet won: The State Controlling Board, which had to authorize the $2.5 million to build the facility, denied release of the money. The University persisted, and the decision was reversed in June 1971, through the diligent efforts of Wright; State Rep. Ralph Fisher, then-chairman of the Ohio legislature's finance committee; Ray Bliss, national as well as state chairman of the Republican Party at the time; and Rep. John Johnson of Orrville.
Sowing the Seeds
Construction began within a month. Blatter Field had been an operational airport, but the rest of the property had been a farm. A large barn was torn down, but the century-old farmhouse was spared, and efforts to turn it into a living history farm began. The airport continued to operate.
The faculty, like the facilities, was also under construction. Professors who had taught at the temporary academic centers were given the option of moving to the new campus or being absorbed back into Kent State.
Bob McElwee, who taught political science at Kent's academic center in Orrville, was one of the numerous people who opted for Wayne. He began at the new campus as professor of political science and was promoted to interim dean in 1979 and assistant dean in 1982. In a recent interview, he recalled the spirit that infused the people who took a chance on the new facility.
"The summer before the doors officially opened faculty and staff worked together unloading furniture and equipment," McElwee said. " Everyone was pitching in to get the college ready. There was a feeling that we were embarking on a new adventure and we were all in on this together."
As new faces joined The University of Akron, a dearly loved member of the campus family left: President Auburn stepped down after 20 years in office.. His last official act as president of The University was to dig the first spade-full of dirt at Wayne's ground breaking in July 1971.
It was Auburn's successor, President Dominic Guzzetta who cut the ribbon at Wayne General and Technical College's official opening in September 1972, fulfilling the vision started by Auburn in 1967.
Heading the new college as director was Marvin Phillips. Thirty-seven full- and part- time faculty taught that first quarter. Courses for seven different technical programs, as well as general study courses were offered, and the residents of Wayne, Holmes and Medina counties got the chance to earn associate degrees or to earn credits for their first two years towards a bachelor's degree.
First quarter enrollment was 432- far from the 1,000 students that the Board of Regents stipulated in its policy on branch campuses. At the same time, more than 10,000 students enrolled at the main campus.
Rick Yoder, '75, currently an assistant to the dean at Wayne, who enrolled at the new campus recently recalled that most of the students and faculty at Wayne knew each other from the temporary facilities at Wadsworth and Orrville. "It was like a family we had added to," he said. "All that we did was just move to a bigger house."
The familiarity between students and faculty gave Wayne an intimate air. "Professors and students would hang out together all the time," said Yoder. "Scott Hagen, who taught biology and was there from day one, would make turkey the day before Thanksgiving and we'd have a carry-in dinner in the bio lab with students and faculty alike bringing in food."
Forrest Smith, professor of biology who came to Wayne in 1975, recalled that many of the faculty would invite students to their homes for cookouts or dinner. Smith also was one of the first faculty members to take students on trips to such places as England, Scotland, Chincoteague Island, and New York City.
Additionally, the faculty encouraged the students to form campus organizations.
Soon, a student senate; Waynessence, the literary magazine; The Wayne Mirror, the college newspaper, a biology club, and even an acting troupe that included people community members soon appeared. Men's and women's Warrior basketball teams began in 1973 and 1988, respectively.
John Lorson, who attended Wayne from 1982-84, remembers the faculty's entusiasm about the students' ideas. "They pretty much embraced any idea we had, and they supported it," he said. When Student Senate decided to sell donuts and coffee in the morning since vending machines provided the only food services then, " They gave us the ball and told us to run with it, and we kept that up for a long time," he said.
Lorson also spoke of the family atmosphere at Wayne. His first year at the branch Scott Hagen submitted his name for Student Senate. " He recognized something in me that I hadn't seen myself," said Lorson, who became vice president of the senate his freshman year, and president the next.
Seasons of Change
When Phillips left as director in 1974 to take an administrative post at the main campus, John Hedrick, formerly the dean of the evening college and summer sessions at the main campus, was appointed Wayne's first dean. He remained there until 1979, when he returned to the University.
Dr. Tyrone Turning joined the Wayne family in 1980, when he became the first dean selected through a search committee from the college (prior administrators had been appointed by main campus officials).
In the fall of 1984, Wayne enrollment finally hit the 1,000 mark stipulated by the Board of Regents 14 years earlier. That same year, Guzzetta retired, and William Muse became the new University president.
Over the years, Wayne adapted to meet the students' changing needs. Computers were added and upgraded. Technical programs for jobs and careers now in demand have replaced outdated programs such as the industrial technology, which taught students to operate heavy equipment. More one- and two-year programs, such as retail and sales technology, medical terminology, and accounting, have been added as well.
The classrooms also changed to suit the new curriculum. Extensive remodeling has made room for computer labs. A photography studio and darkroom, trailers providing more classrooms, an arboretum, two tennis courts, a soccer field and a softball field were new additions to the grounds.
From 1986 to 1989, $1.5 million was spent to build the John Boyer Physical Facilities, housing a gym, weight room, and racquetball court, as well as the bookstore and the administrative offices.
A 125-seat auditorium, art room, more offices, replaced the multi-purpose room that had formerlyserved as the auditorium and gymnasium.. The Learning Center, where students can get free tutoring, was expanded, and a writing lab was added to it.
Students and faculty alike welcomed the changes that made room for a cafeteria and hot food in 1990. The country cousin to main campus' Chuckery was called The Filling Station, and it remains a gathering place for students and faculty.
A half-mile nature trail through the woods was developed in 1994, as well as an outdoor amphitheater and two observation decks. The three ponds behind the college were officially designated the Scott Hagen Aquatic Area in memory of the well-loved professor who died in 1984.
But perhaps the biggest change at Wayne occurred in 1990, when the General and Technical designation was dropped from its name. According to McElwee, "The original name was a mouthful, and by having 'Technical' in the name people were assuming it was just a trade school where you went if you wanted to learn how to turn table legs and run a lathe."
Thus, Wayne College had arrived, and there was no doubt that the branch campus could hold its own against the other colleges on the main campus.
Reaping the Harvest
In these 25 years of tremendous changes, Wayne College has managed to retain its country charm. Former President Dr. Peggy Gordon Elliott called it a "storybook campus" during her inauguration celebration held at Wayne in 1992, and W. Richard Wright recently called it a "fairytale come true."
The flower gardens, woods, ponds ,and century-old farmhouse have kept the magic of the coutry setting alive..
In the main two-story building, with its large central hall, students and faculty become familiar with one another as they go to their small classes. Non-traditional adult students comment about how easy making the transition to higher education was because of the attention they received in the small Wayne classes. Perhaps that is why students feel like they're part of an institution that truly lives up to its motto "Where the student comes first."
According to current University of Akron President Marion A. Ruebel, "Wayne is also living up to the University's mission of school to work, which will be its major thrust during the next five years." He stated that Wayne has played a vital role in Orrville and with industry, and that it will continue to.
Wayne has worked closely with The J.M.Smucker Company, Smith Dairy, Rubbermaid Incorporated, and Volvo GM Heavy Truck Corporation in retraining their employees. Recently Amy Mast, coordinator of training and special programs, spearheaded a career awareness and training program for the workers at Volvo in finding jobs when that plant closes April 18.
And so, 25 years later, the branch campus that caused such a stir in Columbus is stirring up, in a positive way, the lives of the students who attend it.
1966 - Orrville Bracn University Committee forms.
1967 - Board of Regents suggests combining academic centers into branch campus.
- September - The University of Akron proposes to open a branch campus in Orrville.
1970 - 160 acres bought by the Orrville University Branch Foundation and given to The University of Akron. The Orrville Campus Foundation is established to award scholarships to the students at the new College
1971 - Board of Regents vote to give branch to The University of Akron.
- Norman Auburn retires as The University of Akron president. Dominic Guzzetta becomes new president.
1972 - September 24 - Wayne General and Technical College officially opens.
- Fall enrollment - 472, 105 course sections offered. Tuition - $190.00 per quarter for full-time.
1973 - January - The Continuing Education program begins.
- First associate degree graduate - Karl Stroh
1974 - John Hedrick made director in March and in November made the first dean.
1976 - $80,000 spent on tennis courts, softball field, photo darkroom and lab.
1978 - Went to semesters in the fall
1979 - Hedrick leaves. Bob McElwee appointed acting dean
1980 - Tyrone Turning named first dean hired after an official search is conducted.
1982 - Tenth Anniversary Fall Enrollment - 900
1983 - Enrollment hits 1,000 mark
1984 - William Muse named new president of The University of Akron
1987 - Tuition increased to $971.00 for full-time (12 credits).
1989 - John Boyer Physical Education Facility completed.
1990 - Name officially changed to Wayne College.
1992 - Dr. Peggy Gordon Elliot named the first woman president of The University of Akron.
1994 - The Wayne College Nature Trail opens.
1995 - Fred Sturm becomes interim dean of Wayne College.
1996 - Marion Ruebel becomes 14th president of The University of Akron.
1997 - 25th Anniversary.
- Jack Kristofco named dean
1998 - Luis Proenza named president of The University of Akron
2000 - Twenty-year campus plan developed with Sasaki & Associates Architects
2001 - Library Enhancement - Smucker Learning Center addition completed, adding 14,000 square feet of new space to campus
2002 - Thirtieth Anniversary - Fall Enrollment - 1,929
2003 - The Wayne College Holmes County Higher Education Center (HCHEC) opens in Millersburg
2005 - Barnet-Hoover Farmhouse adaptive re-use project completed (wins national "Chrysalis Award")
2008 - Ground breaking for the first new separate building on campus: the Student Life Building
2009 - Student Life Building opens for fall classes. (wins “Outstanding Design: Post-Secondary Award” from American School and - University Magazine and “Citation Award” from the American Institute of Architects, Toledo Chapter) - Enrollment 2,245
2011 - First bachelor’s degree is offered at Wayne College, the Bachelor of Organizational Supervision. - Enrollment 2,509
- Dr. Paulette Popovich named interim dean of Wayne COllege.
- Dedication of Phyllis Wiebe Garden
2011 - The Saturday MBA program begins at Wayne College. Fall Enrollment- 2,509
2012 - Neil Sapienza named interim dean of Wayne College.
2013 - Second entryway to campus opens at Back Massillon Road
- Renovated science labs completed
- Dan Deckler named interim dean of Wayne College
- Bachelor’s of Business Administration program begins
Also of interest:
Little House on the Campus
In 1818, most of the 160 acres where Wayne College campus is now was filled with towering oak trees. William Stibbs purchased the land from President James Monroe that year for $1 an acre, and four months later he sold it to William Barnet who built the two story log house. It was the first log house in Green Township, as the area was named.
The Barnet family live there until 1832, when Peter Lash purchased it. Lash owned the property for a year, then sold it to John Hoover for $1,900. Only 15 acres of the land was cleared for farming. Hoover built a log addition to the farmhouse to accommodate his growing family. According to local lore, in 1833, Hoover hired a carpenter from Dalton, six miles away, to build a springhouse. The man walked to Hoover's farm and built the spring house, which stood until 1990, in one day. His pay was a bushel of wheat and lunch.
The farm stayed in the Hoover family, passing from John, to Henry to his daughter, Mary and her husband, William Fike, in1893. The Fikes raised their four children on the farm. One daughter, Cree, later married Oscar Lorson, and when Wayne College was built their children, John and Sally enrolled.
In 1947, the property was sold to Maynard Blatter, who was responsible for putting in the airstrip and creating Blatter's Field. The airstrip was used by local flying buffs, and eventually the airstrip was made a municipal airport operated by a local flying group. It remained open until1986,when it became too expensive to operate. The University of Akron uses the runway for police training procedures, and an airplane hangar was used in a recent training drill for the Environmental Health and Safety program.
In 1973, the house and springhouse were placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the college launched an effort to restore the farmhouse and turn it into a living history farm.
Fran Sandrock headed the project for the next five years, and she raised more than $54,000 in grants and donations. A blacksmith shop, a 200 year old log hog pen, and an outhouse were among the numerous items donated to the college. The Reagan era, with its cutbacks in historical preservation funding, however, halted the restoration.
Currently, the farmhouse in inhabited by bees, opossums, and an occasional fox or skunk. No definite plans for the building have been made, but some suggestions include: turning it into offices, putting a biology station in it, or turning it into temporary housing for new faculty members who are still looking for housing in the area.