Today, the University of Cincinnati is a world-renowned, top-35 public research university enrolling more than 45,000 students. To our friends, fans and faculty, to our students and supporters, to our alumni and many allies, it appears that the university has always been here atop the Clifton Avenue ridge. But as we peer back 200 years, we know that such is not the case.
How this university came to be is the story of more than a few struggles, numerous false starts (and stops), a few meanders and, of course, successful advances from approximately 1805 onward. But like a well-loved tale you know will end well, a very happy ending awaited us all on our hilltop home.
Thanks and acknowledgement
This web project owes much to many; however, we would be remiss if we did not ask several historians to step forward and take a bow. Much of what you will find on this site is based on — and shamelessly stolen from — these University of Cincinnati editors and writers:
- Philip Diller, M.D., professor of family medicine and editor, "Leaving a Legacy: Lessons of Daniel Drake."
- Kevin Grace, UC archivist and co-author, "The University of Cincinnati."
- Greg Hand, editor, "From the Temple of Zeus to the Hyperloop," co-author, "The University of Cincinnati."
- M.B. Reilly, director, public relations and author of the co-op history, "The Ivory Tower and the Smokestack."
- David Stradling, professor of history and author, “In Service to the City: A History of the University of Cincinnati.”
These are our own Cincinnati sequoias — giants when it comes to rooting out and retelling UC’s wonderfully unexpected, intriguing and occasionally overlooked histories, from root to crown.
1788: Founding of Cincinnati
On Dec. 28, Cincinnati was founded by a group of 26 settlers who poled to shore aboard flatboats and rafts at what we today call Yeatman’s Cove (named for the 1790s Cincinnati tavern owner Griffin Yeatman). At any rate, they broke up their vessels to build rude huts and endure an Ohio Valley winter sustained by little but fortitude and bear-grass bread.
Cincinnati, flourishing with mills, tanyards, foundries and trade, was incorporated with nearly 1,000 hardy residents. Only 10 years before, German traveler Johann Heckewelder wrote a dour description of the future Queen City as a virtue-and-vice settlement “overrun with merchants and traders. Idlers are plentiful here, according to the assertion of respectable people a multitude like the Sodomites. This town is chiefly filled with bad people, yet it keeps a minister.”
Charles McMicken, the man whose bequest would lead to the establishment of the university, arrived in the pioneer village of Cincinnati with his sole possessions — a horse, saddle and bridle. An imposing soldierly figure over 6 feet tall with a massive, 250-pound build, he found work as a store clerk but would go on to successfully pursue mercantile and investment trade across multiple cities and states. Born in Bucks County, Penn., of Scots-English ancestry, a story is told of how and why he left: One day, as he plowed his father’s fields, he turned up a bumblebees’ nest. Plowman and horses were badly stung, and the horses bolted. Chastised by his father and his older brother for carelessness, young Charles thought the criticism unwarranted. So, he also bolted. With a saddle horse and $100, he left to seek his fortune in the wider Western territories.
Three years after Ohio gained statehood status, local citizens created a school association, and in 1807, plans were approved for a lottery sweepstakes, the profits from which would fund the Cincinnati University. However, these early efforts to form a college sputtered due to the economic depression of 1807, such that many of the $5 tickets were sold on credit versus hard cash. Then on May 28, 1809, disaster struck in the form of a tremendous tornado that destroyed much of the city. Trees were twisted and torn up by the roots and houses and businesses wrecked — along with the stout brick building originally constructed to house a university. The first effort to found a university in Cincinnati was, literally, gone with the wind.
Daniel Drake, an irascible never-say-die physician and scientist possessed one of the keenest minds of the era, established a medical practice in Cincinnati. Undeterred by the storms of nature and the national economy, he kept alive the notion of a university along with his own plan for founding a medical college as the chief seat for medical science in this western country. It was a result of his efforts that in January 1819 the State of Ohio issued charters for the Cincinnati College (Jan. 22) and the Medical College of Ohio (Jan. 19), forerunners of today’s University of Cincinnati. He also established teaching hospitals so that students could obtain clinical work. As such, Drake was far in advance of his time in foreseeing that a hospital was a necessary part of medical education.
In January 1819, the State of Ohio issued charters for the forerunners of UC — the Cincinnati College on Jan. 22 and the Medical College of Ohio on Jan. 19. It was that autumn that classes began for what was to become the University of Cincinnati, the second oldest municipal university in the United States. Only the University of Louisville has a longer tradition. Some 50 years later, the Medical College of Ohio ranked first in the West and third in the United States in terms of enrollment among medical education institutions.
On Nov. 9, 1819, the first classes of the Cincinnati College met at Fourth and Walnut streets (in today’s downtown Cincinnati) in what was then the heart of a river town of about 10,000 people. About 70 students — at the freshman, sophomore and junior levels — led by a faculty of three, began their studies, which leaned heavily toward Greek and Latin. Tuition was $20 per term, in addition to a $5 entrance fee.
1820: Medical College opens
The Medical College of Ohio opened for classes on Nov. 1, with its driving force Daniel Drake serving as its first president. Incapable of compromise and known for his blunt delivery and signature lack of tact, Drake managed to get himself fired two years later. This became commonplace as his on-again, off-again lifelong and intense fixation with the college routinely resulted in his dismissal or resignation on multiple occasions.
On Sept. 26, 1821, Cincinnati College held its first commencement with three graduates: Frederick A. Kemper, scion of a pioneering family that settled north of the city; William Henry Harrison, Jr., namesake son of the future U.S. president; and valedictorian John Hough James received the first diploma issued by the institution.
The young college housed a library of 2,000 books for students’ use, and one of those, an 1805 text on febrile diseases, was checked out by student John P. Harrison, who went on to practice medicine in Louisville, Kentucky. The book he borrowed was returned to UC 145 years after his student days. The calculated late fee of $2,646 was waived and, for a time, the overdue book held the world record as the most overdue library book ever taken out by a borrower.
After enjoying some success and even holding four commencement ceremonies, instruction was suspended for a time due to the combined assault of a fire in the building, unfilled subscriptions to the college and competition from nearby Miami University. For a time, the college building was variously used as cheap rental property, a stable, a pig sty (with pigs wallowing in the cellar) and even a cholera hospital.
The Ohio Mechanics Institute was chartered on Nov. 20 to provide education in mechanics, manufacturing and the arts. A young Thomas Edison, who once lived in Cincinnati working as a telegraph operator, often visited the OMI library with its 10,000 books. Later in life, he sent an autographed photo to the school and credited the library as being important in the formation of his education. In 1883, Edison returned to Cincinnati to demonstrate electric lighting during an 1883 exhibition, and in 1969, the OMI became a UC college.
1833: Nation's fourth law school
The Cincinnati Law School was established on Oct. 7, 1833, above a downtown office in a city that was still a frontier outpost. It was the fourth law school in the country and the oldest west of the Alleghenies, preceded by Harvard Law School (1817), University of Virginia law department (1824) and Yale Law School (1826). The school initially housed 17 students, one of whom was Charles Drake, son of Dr. Daniel Drake. Co-founder and first dean was Timothy Walker, who went on to author “Introduction to American Law,” which served as the standard text for U.S. law students for decades. On May 18, 1896, the school merged with the University of Cincinnati, under the direction of alumnus and dean William Howard Taft. He would go on to serve as 27th president of the United States and as the 10th chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, the only person in history to have filled both offices.
1836: McGuffey Readers: 125 million sold
The Rev. William Holmes McGuffey was appointed Cincinnati College president, coming from Miami University. Best known for producing the McGuffey Readers, which sold 125 million copies throughout the 19th century and exerted great influence on literary tastes, McGuffey was noted for his vibrant lectures on the scriptures and moral philosophy. So compelling were his talks that those who could not shoehorn into the crowded lecture room cut holes in the floor above and pressed their ears to the openings.
1843: First national observatory
On Nov. 9, the Cincinnati Observatory was founded after Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel, a West Point-trained civil engineer, began giving lectures in astronomy in 1842. The enthusiastic response he received led him to establish the nation’s oldest professional observatory on what was then called Mt. Ida (what we call Mt. Adams today). Given that the city’s new observatory was the pride of the nation, former U.S. President John Quincy Adams journeyed to Cincinnati at age 77 to give what was his last public speech to lay the cornerstone. And so, the neighborhood was renamed in his honor. Later, in the 1860s, the observatory served as a forerunner of the U.S. Weather Service. In 1871, the observatory came under the control of UC.
The Cincinnati College of Pharmacy was the first college of pharmacy established west of the Alleghenies. It was granted a charter by the Ohio Legislature in 1850 and operated as a private college until July 1954 when it became an integral part of the University of Cincinnati.
As the youngest of six children, Alexander Latta attended school until the age of 13 when he was forced to drop out in order to support his widowed mother and brothers. He began work in a cotton factory, but eventually made his way to a brass foundry where he worked on machinery and became a skilled mechanic. After managing large-scale locomotive construction projects and patenting his own locomotives, Latta debuted his first steam-powered fire engine in 1852 when he was a faculty member at the Ohio Mechanics Institute. The OMI later merged with UC. The City of Cincinnati put his 1852 fire engine into use, and Latta went on to patent several improvements to this and other steam locomotives and fire engines.
After living simply and unpretentiously never having touched intoxicating liquors or tobacco, Charles McMicken, that grim, reserved, self-reliant Scotsman, died of pneumonia on March 30. Until his last illness at age 76, his square jaw never relaxed, his vigor of body never diminished and his penetrating eyes never dimmed. He was a riddle of a man in life and remained a paradox and unsolved puzzle in death. Nominally a Methodist, he owned a pew in the Ninth Street Baptist Church and was a friend to the Roman Catholic diocese. Though providing land to freed African Americans, he was a long-time slave owner. Known for fair mindedness in Cincinnati business dealings, he was constantly in litigation in Louisiana for shady business practices. And despite having little formal schooling, he bequeathed properties valued at $1 million to Cincinnati to found a university in his adopted city, in accordance with what he termed the “wish of my heart” in his last testament.
1861: Supreme Court intervenes
Lawsuits by Charles McMicken’s nieces and nephews delayed the implementation of his will. Their case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which finally ruled in the city’s favor in 1861, clearing the way for McMicken’s last will and testament to give birth to our university. And thus, what the name John Harvard is to Harvard University and Elihu Yale is to Yale University, the name Charles McMicken is to the University of Cincinnati. Indeed, the original name posited for the institution in 1859 was The McMicken University.
1867: One-room music studio
In October 1867, German-born Clara Baur established the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in a one-room studio in a Walnut Hills finishing school — a room the 32-year-old piano and voice teacher rented in Miss Nourse’s School for Young Ladies. Baur came to Cincinnati in 1849 at the age of 13, arriving in a city that boasted several elocution academies and a profound love of all things music. At the time of the conservatory’s founding, it was one of only four in the United States and the only one to be established by a woman. As appropriate for a musician, Baur’s timing was impeccable — Cincinnati was poised to enter a golden age of musical culture. Her school, with its strict dedication to excellence would grow to eventually comprise half of the university’s world-renowned College-Conservatory of Music. The other half, the College of Music of Cincinnati, was founded in 1878, the same year Music Hall was completed. The college, initially located in Dexter Hall (next door to Music Hall), became one of the first American schools of music to have its own concert hall when it relocated to the Odeon Building in 1884.
1869: UC's unknown, unsung midwife
If Charles McMicken was the father of the institution we know as UC, Cornelius Comegys was our midwife. A prominent Cincinnati physician, Comegys ran for City Council in 1869 for the sole purpose of introducing a motion that city council accept the McMicken bequest to found a university. Up until that time, the city had failed to do so amidst legal battles with the McMicken heirs and the disruption of the Civil War. After first fighting city hall in an effort to spur action, Comegys changed course and shrewdly decided to join it instead. Within a month or so of his election, he made his motion and a university was soon started. Comegys then went on to serve on UC’s board for its first quarter century. He died while serving as chairman of that board in 1896.
1870: University of Cincinnati
UC officially adopted the name University of Cincinnati as a city charter in 1870 and absorbed its two predecessor institutions as well as a number of other pre-existing schools, which is why UC can trace its founding date to 1819.
1874: First African-American grad
William H. Parham, recognized as the first African-American graduate of UC, earned his degree from the law school associated with Cincinnati College. (That law school merged with UC in 1896.) Parham began teaching in Cincinnati in 1860, served as superintendent of the Colored Schools from 1866-1876 and a principal of the Colored District schools. He was one of the first African-American notary publics in Ohio and one of the first as well to be nominated for the state legislature.
1875: Original University Building
Top left: Christian Moerlein brewery, near the university. Center: The original University Building. Bottom right: Woodward High School.
UC’s classes were initially held in Woodward High School in 1873. It was not until 1875 that the original University Building was constructed just north of Over-the-Rhine. One newspaper described the university location as “an almost inaccessible bluff, reachable with fatigue by nothing except Rocky Mountain goats.” The university’s first location was further characterized by a polluting smog from the city’s nearby manufacturing basin that so darkened the vicinity that instructors remarked it was “frequently necessary to light the gas in the morning to carry on our work…..”
1878: Commencement firsts
On June 20, 1878, the University of Cincinnati held its first commencement, an evening ceremony that packed Pike’s Opera House in the city’s basin on Fourth Street. Grand opera stepped aside as seven graduates took a bow, including Winona Lee Hawthorne of Newport, Kentucky, the first woman to matriculate and earn a degree from UC. Hawthorne immediately re-enrolled in UC for graduate work. She went on to a well-traveled life as the wife of U.S. Army officer with dozens of postings from coast to coast, including a period when she taught Latin and Greek at what is today Mississippi State University. Each of her three daughters also went on to achieve college degrees (though not from UC). And every generation of her family with daughters has named one of them Winona in honor of her place in history.
A student team made baseball the first organized sport at UC. Though from all accounts, the players were a bit unsure of the particulars of the game. In one early match, the game was called off after the third inning with the score tied at 5 to 5 because “both teams lost interest.” Just about any apparel passed for a uniform and games were played wherever a flat lot could be found. Not always easy given the steepness of the road from the downtown basin to UC.
1885: First football game
In October 1885, UC played its first football game against a local neighborhood team. Only two spectators bothered to attend, the sister and an uncle of UC team captain Arch Carson. And since Cincinnati sporting goods stores did not carry football equipment at that time, the team had to send to New York for the university team’s first football.
Interior of the University Building after the 1885 fire
At 4 a.m. on Saturday morning, Nov. 7, the ten-year-old University Building was partially destroyed by a fire begun in a chemistry lab. The damage done amounted to more than a quarter million in today’s dollars. It was at this time that the university found what a good friend it had in one of its board members, Rabbi Isaac M. Wise. He immediately offered class space at Hebrew Union College so that the university could complete the academic year. His generosity was striking considering the apparent anti-Semitism affecting the university and community in the late 1800s. In fact, it was a few years after the fire that Rabbi Wise felt compelled to bring suit against the university, claiming discriminatory practices against HUC students taking classes here over a nearly 20-year span. At the time, Cincinnati residents paid no tuition at the tax-supported institution. According to New York Times coverage of later legal proceedings, a notable exception was made of HUC students because they were Jewish, and as such, they were asked to pay tuition. The case and its complexities went to court, with a posthumous victory for Rabbi Wise.
1886: First African-American undergrad
The university granted the first undergraduate diploma to an African American, Henry Malachi Griffin on June 15. By all accounts, Griffin was a popular student. He was elected class orator and served as speaker of the Mock Congress (a sort of debating society). He was even listed among the members of the Pie Biters, a joking name for students who ate lunch from street vendors near the University Building.
1888: UC-Miami rivalry kicks off
UC and Miami battled in their first football game, which was also the first college football game played in Ohio. The contest was played in a drenching rain. Neither team scored. There were no officials, not even uniforms. The students played in tracksuits and gym shoes and that Dec. 8 game ended in a scoreless tie. Perhaps the lack of a satisfactory resolution for either team is the reason this rivalry has continued annually for 130 years now and is the oldest non-conference football rivalry in the United States.
One of the most notable graduates of the 19th century was biologist Charles Henry Turner, born two years after the end of the Civil War. He first earned a bachelor’s degree on June 3, 1891, followed by a master’s degree on June 8, 1892. Born the son of a practical nurse and a janitor at a local black Baptist church, he went on to become a renowned zoologist and teacher, known for his research on the social organization of insect life, including the discovery that insects can hear and alter behavior based on previous experience. The Turner family would continue to make history at UC. Charles’ great nephew, Darwin T. Turner, would enter UC at age 13 and earn a bachelor’s degree in English within three years. At the age of 16 on June 6, 1947, Darwin became the youngest person to ever earn a baccalaureate degree at the university, a record that still stands to this day.
After a movement of sorts that stretched back to 1881, a Student Government committee established UC’s official colors as black and red. It’s a lucky break because other considerations in the years leading up to that included a near-miss to adopting blue and brown. Just the year before, in 1891, it looked like UC’s colors would actually be red and white, as formally proposed by one-time engineering student Joseph Strauss, the man who went on to create that ‘engineering impossibility’ that we today know as the Golden Gate Bridge.
1894: Clifton Avenue campus
At top is the first McMicken Hall built on the Clifton Avenue academic ridge. At bottom, its architect Samuel Hannaford is standing at far left.
Renowned local architect Samuel Hannaford bested five architects in a competition to design a campus along Clifton Avenue. The designer of City Hall, Music Hall and numerous grand homes in the area created an unusually linear plan compared to more-traditional quadrangle and courtyard campuses of the day. His designs for McMicken, Hanna and Cunningham Halls were at once graceful and imposing and served the university for more than 50 years. These original Clifton Avenue structures were razed after World War II for construction of the current McMicken Hall complex.
At top is the first McMicken Hall, built in 1895 where the current hall now stands. At bottom is the original University Building, which became home to the College of Medicine at that time.
UC moves from the old McMicken estate (just north of Over the Rhine) to its present location along Clifton Avenue. UC’s medical college subsequently took over the erstwhile University Building on the one-time McMicken land holding. The UC medical students studying at the old university location were known to wave detached arms and legs out the windows at passengers on the adjacent incline railway. Recalled one medical alum in a later letter, “Yes, we had our fun. See the Incline? Remember how a finger or an ear tip, somehow as if by magic and of its own accord, would fly out of a window of the dissecting room, right into the lap of some female riding in an open trolley within the Incline.”
1895: Jailing of Janitor Joe
UC janitor Joseph Frey animatedly makes his case in Cincinnati Police Court in this sketch from the 1895 UC yearbook.
In a story that’s no snow job, Joe Frey, a.k.a. Janitor Joe, also known as the “German Disturbance,” was actually arrested in 1895 for failing to clean the sidewalks on the “old” university location located north of Over-the-Rhine at the same time he was required to clean the sidewalks at the new Clifton Avenue locale. On the February day of his arrest, a great many students trooped down to city hall in support of Joe. While he might have been considered slow to sweep the sidewalks of snow, Joe was quick to sweep aside the charges against him. He returned triumphantly to the furnace room and dirt-floored basement of new McMicken to continue as an indulgent mentor to generations of students he dubbed “mine poys” in his thick Teutonic accent.
1896: Medical College merger
The original University Building became the home of the Medical College in 1896. The college building is just to the left of the Moerlein smoke stack in this image.
The Medical College of Ohio, founded in 1819, merges with the University of Cincinnati and becomes the Medical Department of the university. This merger is one of the reasons UC can trace its origins back two centuries. The UC Medical College was housed until 1916 in the very first University Building located on the old McMicken Estate north of Over-the-Rhine. Local beer barons and breweries, all neighbors to the College of Medicine building, were generous in supporting it. Practically a next-door neighbor, the Christian Moerlein Brewery, one of the nation’s largest in the 19th century, furnished the college with free electricity for many years. As an added gift, Moerlein provided refrigeration to the Anatomy Department, a gesture no doubt appreciated by the rest of the neighborhood, especially during the summer months.
1896: First basketball game
The first game of basketball was played on campus. Most importantly, basketball provided an activity for women athletes, as — originally — basketball was not very popular with the men of the university.
1897: First African-American woman grad
Alice May Easton was the first African-American woman to graduate UC, on June 15, 1897. Easton was known as “a math whiz” and later taught at the Harriet Beecher Stowe School.
1898: Library collection established
To stock UC’s new library, board member William A. Procter, second-generation scion of one of the founders of Procter & Gamble, purchased part of a private library of a local publisher and the resulting 6,792 books acquired — covering American travel, history and philosophy — served as the foundation for UC’s modern library system. The next year, Procter purchased and donated to UC collections on Shakespeare and chemistry.
1901: Football finds a home
The playing field in what is today Nippert Stadium hosted its first football game when UC — which then had no standard nickname but was known by a variety including “the Varsity,” the “Cincinnati Eleven” and the “Red and Black” — played Ohio University on Nov. 2, 1901, as about 1,400 fans watched. Called University Field or Varsity Field at that time, the original playing site was later dedicated as Carson Field after the football team’s first captain, Arch Carson. Nippert Stadium was subsequently built around the site, which is the fourth-oldest playing field and fifth-oldest stadium in college football.
You might have thought it was your active imagination, but, no indeed, a full-size stuffed elephant was actually transported by horse-drawn cart to UC in 1902, where it stayed till 1998. During his life, Old Chief, a five-ton Asian elephant who had quite the reputation as an unruly rogue, performed with the Cincinnati-based Robinson Circus until his demise in 1890. Then, his remains were stuffed and displayed at the Cincinnati Zoo for a decade or so until making the trip to UC. The skin and stuffing somehow disappeared, but the skeleton stayed on campus in Old Tech (a one-time campus structure that was so decrepit it was once scouted as a backdrop for a movie about communist Bulgaria). Ultimately, a National Science Foundation grant allowed UC to transfer its collection of paleontological specimens — including the behemoth’s bones — to the Cincinnati Museum Center.
1903: Butter and eggs build first library
The dedication ceremony for the only 19th-century building still in use on campus, Van Wormer Hall, took place on June 20, 1903. Constructed in 1899 as campus’ original library, the dedication was an “A-list” event for the city. Taking center stage at the formal ceremonies was the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. And trailing at the very back of the crowd was butter-and-egg merchant Asa Van Wormer, 85-year-old “Uncle Asa,” as he was called. Though it was his generosity that paid for the new building, Van Wormer had to be prodded to the lectern and his rightful place of rank. The thunderous applause and cheering crowd that greeted him led the modest man to remark, “This is the best time I have ever had.”
Mick and Mack were painted to resemble green-striped zebras in 1919. The students guilty of this "artistic license" were subsequently ordered to give the lions a bath, thus removing the stripes.
In 1894, local businessman Jacob Hoffner died at the age of 96. His will stipulated that stone figures that were part of his statuary garden on his Cumminsville estate would go to the City of Cincinnati after his wife’s death. Maria Hoffner died in 1904, and that’s how the university became the new home of “Mick and Mack,” the stone lions that have stood guard in front of McMicken Hall for more than a century now. These emblematic Bearcats are modeled after a famous pair of marble lions in the Loggia del Lanzi in Florence, Italy. Since their installation in front of McMicken Hall in 1904, the lions have been alternately placed facing each other or turned away from one another, but steadfastly serving a sentinels looking out over Clifton Avenue — and perhaps occasionally sighing over the unexpected indignities. In 1919, UC first-year students dared paint the lions to resemble zebras, though albeit with green stripes.
The official seal of the university first appeared on invitations to the inauguration of UC President Charles William Dabney in 1904. UC was then a municipal institution, and so, the seal mirrors the city’s crest. Both carry scales of justice, the sword of authority and power entwined by serpents of wisdom, along with the winged rod of commerce. The university also retained the city’s motto of “Juncta Juvant” (“strength in unity”) and added to it another motto, “Alta Petit” (“she seeks the heights”). The words “University of Cincinnati” and a wreath of oak leaves for learning were added. This official crest was adopted on Sept. 24, 1906.
1905: Pomp and circumstance
Though Yale University would have you believe that Sir Edward Elgar’s ubiquitous “Pomp and Circumstance” made its college commencement debut there, the UC College of Law beat Yale to the punch by a month. On May 27 that year, UC was the first school in the nation to play “Pomp and Circumstance” at its commencement ceremonies. While the tune is commonly used as a processional at high school and college ceremonies throughout the country today, UC and Yale initially used the song to mark their respective recessionals to close their 1905 commencement ceremonies.
1906: Oh Cincinnati, magic name
The song we Bearcats call our ‘Alma Mater’ was first heard at UC’s Commencement on June 1. It was composed by local physician Otto Juettner, a German immigrant who was (gasp!) a Xavier University graduate who also penned XU’s “Alma Mater” — just another tie between the two schools and something to keep in mind amidst the soaring emotions of our annual roundball rivalry. No less a critic than William Howard Taft, UC alumnus, U.S. president and Supreme Court chief justice, opined that Juettner’s varsity song for UC was the “finest, most inspiring college song of any I have ever heard.” We agree, and so do the countless students and alumni who have since sung, “Oh Cincinnati, magic name.”
The unlikely “trial” experiment stubbornly pressed forward by educational pitchman Herman Schneider began on Sept. 24, 1906, as 27 engineering students launched their cooperative education careers, alternating a week in the classroom with a week in Cincinnati’s mills and factories. It may seem inevitable that UC and co-op would prosper and grow in tandem, but truth be told, the co-op proposition was so revolutionary at the time that its approval squeaked by the UC board with a single vote to spare. The wording of that doubt-laden consent is telling: “We hereby grant the right to Dean Schneider to try, for one year, this cooperative idea of education… [for] the failure of which, we will not assume responsibility.” It was an unringing endorsement if ever there was one, but Schneider quietly delighted in it for the rest of his life — hanging the board’s painfully reluctant permission on his office wall.
1909: U.S. president and chief justice
On March 4, 1909, UC alumnus William Howard Taft, who had once led the merger of the original Cincinnati Law School with the university and then served as its dean, was sworn in as the 27th president of the United States. Taft would later go on to serve as the 10th chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He is the only person in history to have filled both offices, and some historians have rated him among the greatest chief justices as well as "one of the most interesting, intellectual and versatile presidents ... a reformer, a peace activist,” who had once banished segregated official events when he was governor of the Philippines. Unfortunately and unfairly, he is often remembered more for his girth and size. One story has made history’s rounds that he was the only president who was so large that he got stuck in the White House bathtub. Despite Taft’s fondness for a good soak, the story is not true and has been soundly debunked.
1911: Natural trailblazers
Front row (at far right) sit Sisters Lucy (to the left of Annette) and Annette Braun at Beechwood Camp in Hueston Woods, Ohio, in 1910.
Annette Braun becomes the first woman to earn a doctorate at UC, nine years before women in the U.S. obtained the right to vote. Her sister, Lucy, followed in her footsteps, earning a doctorate in botany in 1914. While Annette earned her UC degree first and both enjoyed rich research reputations, Lucy was the dominant personality — probably stemming from a childhood wherein Lucy was the favored child. Their parents always dressed Lucy in pink and Annette in blue. Lucy served on UC’s faculty her entire career and is best known today for a 1950 masterwork text on ecology that is still an authoritative source to this day. The personal herbarium she assembled is now a collection at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Annette, assembled the country’s second largest collection of moths and regularly assisted experts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and researchers throughout Europe, Canada and Africa. And she had the last word in the sisters’ supportive but, perhaps, not always easy relationship. Lucy passed away in 1971. When Annette Braun died seven years later in 1978, she chose to be buried in a pink dress.
Ralph Belsinger joins the varsity track team and becomes the university’s first African-American athlete. Belsinger earned the nickname “Eight Stride” during his time on the team, a recognition of his speed and versatility in anchoring the relay teams and running the mile. After graduating in 1915 with a degree in education, Belsinger went on to become a teacher at Cincinnati Public Schools for four decades.
1912: First co-op Commencement
In June, the first class of co-op students graduate, having made history by risking their youthful years on the cooperative education experiment. At first, their week-on/week-off academic and work schedule put them in a class by themselves, in the university but not quite of it — and excluded from extracurricular activities. That being the case, one 1912 co-op grad later recalled, “We flocked together like sworn brothers.” Indeed, they formed their own Co-op Athletics Club, organized their own football team and promptly beat the university’s varsity team. By 1911, 20 members of UC’s football squad were co-op students. And later co-op students formed an amateur orchestra that marked the start of UC’s Marching Band in 1920.
1914: Birth of the Bearcat
UC can trace its nickname as the Bearcats to Oct. 31, 1914. The occasion was a football game against the University of Kentucky Wildcats. At one point in the game, Cincinnati cheerleader and editor of the student newspaper Norman “Pat” Lyon shouted out: “They may be Wildcats, but we have a ‘Baehr-Cat’ on our side,” referring to formidable UC fullback Leonard “Teddy” Baehr. The crowd took up the cheer: “Come on, Baehr-cat!” Three days later, the new nickname was emblazoned on the front page of the University News, a forerunner of today’s News Record, in a cartoon by student John “Paddy” Reece. And the Bearcats have been making front-page news ever since!
On Jan. 12, the debut of the silent film, “A Fool There Was,” starring Theda Bara, is met with controversy because of its dark sexuality and risque lines such as, “Kiss me, my fool.” Bara, a Cincinnati native and former UC student from 1903-1905 who participated in the Girls Glee Club while a student, went on to become the first media-created movie star. Fans flocked to her films, and she earned the nickname “the Vamp” for her many femme-fatale roles. She reinforced her aura by telling reporters, “The vampire I play is the vengeance of my sex upon its exploiters. I have the face of a vampire but the heart of a feminist.” Despite her image, Bara — who was born Theodosia Goodman — was a homebody who lived with her parents throughout her career. After her contract with Fox Film (later 20th Century Fox) expired, Bara did a brief stint as a stage actress, but she only appeared in two more films before retiring to a quiet life in Hollywood in 1919.
1915: Hospital modeled on Johns Hopkins
Construction of a new Cincinnati General Hospital is completed, replacing the dangerously neglected Cincinnati Hospital that had opened nearly a half-century prior. Dr. Christian R. Holmes and fellow Dr. A.B. Isam were first appointed to explore and recommend locations for the hospital in 1902. As the hospital neared completion, Holmes became dean of the Medical College (in 1914), allowing him to pursue his vision for collaboration of hospitals, particularly municipal hospitals, with medical colleges and other educational institutions in order to incorporate working experience with medical education. When it opened, the hospital was a group of 24 buildings oriented and designed in a manner resembling Johns Hopkins Hospital. In 1960, UC was given executive control of Cincinnati General Hospital, later known — in 1982 — as University of Cincinnati Hospital and later still, University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
1916: First bachelor's of nursing
The College of Nursing becomes the first to offer the baccalaureate degree in nursing. The educational program was reorganized to include collegiate courses in addition to the three-year hospital-based program. The result was a five-year combined baccalaureate program which granted the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. Two years later, the college was the first school to grant academic credit to students for clinical work.
On April 6, the United States declares war on Germany and officially enters the First World War, five days after a German U-boat sank a cargo ship, the U.S.S. Aztec and killed 28 Americans — part of unrestricted warfare on neutral shipping. UC plunged into war efforts on a wave of patriotic fervor, as about 400 students from the colleges of liberal arts and engineering began military drills, marching on Clifton Avenue throughout that spring and summer. At first, training was with real bayonets, a practice that was discontinued as soldier students were prone to engage in some horse play. One student later recalled how he earned a scar on his leg from throwing his bayonet to stick in the ground. It unfortunately struck a stone, ricocheted and hit his leg. In this photo, UC President Charles Dabney addressed troops assembled on the football field — though they were probably carrying wooden rifles.
By fall, unpainted wooden barracks sprouted on campus, some standing where Swift Hall, Steger Student Life Center and TUC are now. All told, the 13 barracks were christened Camp Cincinnati and housed nearly 1,000 UC students who voluntarily enlisted in the Students’ Army Training Corps as privates in the U.S. Army. Among the additions to the curriculum were map making; the design of elements for guns and shrapnel; how to construct a pontoon bridge; military medicine and the making bandages for wounded soldiers. These enlisted students attended classes under strict supervision — no skipping allowed. For those students, a healthy gargle was the routine start to each morning, and student soldiers’ bedding was hung out of barracks' windows (to air) every Tuesday. Today, the most-visible campus legacy from the Great War is Memorial Hall — built in 1924 as the university first residence hall and named to recall the war’s dead.
1918: Changing 1,000 bandages a day
In late July, doctors, nurses and staff from then Cincinnati General Hospital (now UC Medical Center) began caring for World War I’s wounded in Base Hospital No. 25 in the French village of Allerey, about 180 miles southeast of Paris. Shifts were long, 12 to 14 hours a day. This was before the widespread use of antibiotics, and it wasn’t unusual to make 1,000 dressing changes to wounds in a single day. A virulent outbreak of deadly influenza was made worse by the close quarters. Nurse Ann Huheey wrote in an Oct. 21 letter: “I’ve had an attack of the Spanish influenza… Stayed on duty all week with a temp that was 102 and 103. Then, when my temp dropped below normal and took some codea to stop the coughing, but it nauseated me, and after vomiting, I looked as green as grass. Just then, the chief nurse saw me and sent me to bed.”
1918: World War I's first UC casualty
UC’s first Rhodes Scholar, Elmer Hoover Van Fleet, was also campus’ first World War I fatality. He willingly gave up that prestigious scholarship and promising future to enlist, shipping out to serve with the U.S. Army in France. There, the UC liberal arts graduate died of scarlet fever on Jan. 17 before ever marching into battle. His death due to illness presaged the influenza (or Spanish flu) pandemic of 1918-19 that killed millions and arrived at UC that October, just before the end of the war in November 1918. Those infected were quarantined in barracks, and campus shut down. No wonder as an unusual feature of the devastating pandemic was that it mostly killed young adults.
In 1920, UC admitted women into the co-op program — the first college in the world to do so. That fall, seven pioneering women entered the co-op course in the College of Engineering, each with shoulders broad enough to bear the condescending sobriquet of “co-eps” and the even more painful “co-opettes.” One early co-ep, a chemical engineering student, wrote: “We like the feeling of being pioneers. It would be somewhat nicer if there were more of us, but then, it seems that the enthusiasm makes up for the present lack of numbers.” Indeed, the women did not skirt the rough labors typical of co-op at that time. They packed Crisco during early morning hours at a Procter & Gamble factory. They hauled lumber and became handy with crowbars. Upon their graduation in 1925, one male classmate wrote: “Courage is the chief virtue of the…co-ep. They certainly have earned it [their degrees] after their long struggle against many handicaps, not the least of which was public opinion.”
On June 16, 1923, Libby Holman became the youngest woman to ever graduate from UC, earning her bachelor’s degree in liberal arts at the age of 19. Holman predicted to a friend that she would go on to become a star and marry a rich man, and she was right. She appeared in 10 Broadway plays, performed four Top 20 songs and twice performed in concerts for the United Nations. As famous as she was for her talent, she was infamous for her sexual escapades and the misfortune of those with whom she was close. Her first marriage to Zachary Smith Reynolds, heir to the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco fortune, became the stuff of tabloids. She was acquitted of his murder after he was found shot to death. Her second husband committed suicide, and a son by Reynolds died in 1950 after a tragic mountain-climbing mishap. Holman, who clearly lived life in the fast lane, ended that life in 1971 — found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in the front seat of her Rolls Royce.
1923: Amazing alumni inventor
George Sperti (the prominent face on the right) sits in a UC lab. At the left of Sperti is engineering dean Herman Schneider, the founder of co-op.
Graduating from UC in 1923, George Sperti joined the university ranks as a researcher. He invented many things, including a sunlamp, and also patented medicines, including the hemorrhoid treatment Preparation H and the arthritis balm Aspercreme. He also devised methods to enhance Vitamin D in milk and freeze-dry orange juice concentrate.
An ordinary injury became the extraordinary reason why the University of Cincinnati’s James Gamble Nippert Stadium was dedicated on Nov. 8. The stadium’s construction was funded by James Gamble, of P&G, in memory of his grandson, Jimmy Nippert. Young Nippert was a UC lineman who received a gash on his leg from an opponent’s cleat during a 1923 Thanksgiving Day game against rival Miami. That game, a 23-0 victory for UC, took place in a “sea of mud” due to a driving rain. In fact, the players’ jerseys and leather helmets were so completely mud covered that fans in the stands were not sure which players were Bearcats and which were opponents. And so, the gash was quickly coated with mud and went unnoticed. Since sulfa drugs and penicillin were more than a decade away from common use, the wound became infected — leading to Nippert’s death on Christmas Day. His last words were of football, the sport he loved: “Five more yards to gain and drop.”
1925: Top 10 pop hit to Nobel Peace Prize
On March 4, UC alumnus Charles G. Dawes becomes the 30th vice president of the United States. The year he stepped into serve as U.S. vice president, Dawes, an 1886 Cincinnati Law School graduate, was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the Allied Reparation Plan (also known as the Dawes Plan) in the wake of World War I. Interestingly, Dawes, who served as a brigadier general in that war and was later U.S. ambassador to England, was also a self-taught pianist and composer. In 1912, he composed a tune initially titled "Melody in A Major." Years later, lyrics were added and it was retitled “It’s All in the Game,” became a pop hit in 1958 and spent six weeks as No. 1 on the Billboard chart. In 2012 coverage of U.S. vice presidents, National Public Radio singled out Dawes as a stand-out — the only vice president (or president for that matter!) to have both a Top 10 hit and a Nobel Peace Prize.
Jennie Davis Porter becomes the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate at UC, becoming the third black woman in the entire country to hold a Ph.D. Her controversial dissertation, “The Problem of Negro Education in Northern and Border Cities,” asserted that segregated education could be beneficial for African-American children. Porter’s argument stemmed from her years of experience as principal of the Harriet Beecher Stowe School in Cincinnati’s West End. Her methods and motto — “Take what you have and make what you want” — drew such distinguished visitors as celebrated singer Marian Anderson and botanist and investor George Washington Carver.
1932: First electronic organ
Winston Kock graduates from UC with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering — and after having built the first electronic organ as part of his degree requirements. Kock’s invention of the electronic organ stemmed from his combined passions for engineering and music. He not only took classes in UC’s College of Engineering and the then Cincinnati College of Music, having begun to play the piano at age 4, giving full recitals in high school and composing music during college. Kock earned over 200 patents in electrical engineering and acoustic engineering in his lifetime, and it all began with his innovations at UC to build an electronic organ using neon glow tubes, eschewing the more commonly used but less economical radio vacuum tubes. Kock would ultimately serve as the first director of the NASA Electronic Research Center in 1964.
Video link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/imLd6H-aGIo?rel=0
Student Vigilance Councils were a staple of campus life in former decades, with the stated mandate “to direct and properly introduce first-year students in their new phase of life.” In practical terms, the Vigilance Councils were responsible for devising hazing rituals for the university’s newcomers. Even though their methods were appalling by today’s standards, even the most modern minds must give the Vigilance Councils certain credit for creativity. For instance, as part of the tradition of “shoe rush,” first-year students were forced to remove their shoes and place them in a pile on Schneider Quad — and then were made to stampede back toward the pile to retrieve their footwear. One account of the time reads: “At a given signal, the mob was allowed to pursue its desire, and with a mighty cry they swooped down upon the shoes, gathering momentum as they surged forward. As the thundering herd was about to reclaim its own, it was suddenly checked by a rope raised knee high, which had been provided beforehand by the thoughtful sophomores.”
1934: Quadres' drive for equality
Quadres presented the comedy, "Three-Cornered Moon," and earned praise in the 1936 yearbook for the successful comedy's "insane humor and vivacity."
The student organization Quadres was formed in order to combat segregation and promote equality and inclusion. This was at a time when African-American students could not enroll to earn engineering or business degrees, could not live on campus nor participate in many extracurricular activities and were often required by faculty to sit in the back of classrooms. The founding students — Donald Spencer, his sister Valerie, Bill Jones, Harold Rhodes and Roberta Henderson — discovered allies in UC librarian Melba Phillips and classics professor Malcolm McGregor, who helped Quadres become an official student organization. The group was highly visible via theater and musical performances along with other activities. Its impact was felt in the subsequent integration of the student newspaper, the band and the University YMCA Council. Quadres attempted to integrate the all-white student council by putting Willard Stargel, a popular basketball and football player, on the ballot in 1942. Although he lost, Quadres President Marian Spencer recalled that his campaign was a sign of progress.
On Jan. 5, 1937, the waters of the Ohio River began to rise… and rise… and rise, cresting at an unimaginable 80 feet on Jan. 26. Although UC’s perch atop the hills of Burnet Woods spared it from the floodwaters, the university still felt its effects. UC closed Jan. 21, right in the middle of an exam day. Kentucky-based students fled to make it home before the entrances to the Roebling Suspension Bridge were swallowed by the river. The flood left hundreds dead and thousands more homeless. UC co-op students were mobilized to provide guard and fire protection at Music Hall, build sandbag bridges and levees, help aid agencies and distribute provisions throughout the city. Additionally, electrical engineering students transformed the university into a city communications hub. The university’s amateur radio club worked around the clock atop Swift Hall, eating and sleeping in shifts and serving as the city’s only means to broadcast information during the flood’s worst stages. When exams resumed, geology professor Nevin Fenneman marched into the classroom, went to the blackboard and scrawled the single word, "Mud." He then turned to his students and said, "Write down everything you know about it."
1937: Golden engineering impossibility
On April 19, engineering alumnus Joseph Strauss did the UC class of 1892 proud by completing the construction of that “engineering impossibility” we call the Golden Gate Bridge, which connects San Francisco with Marin County. Strauss stayed true to his roots, incorporating a brick from the original University Building on the one-time McMicken Estate into one of the supports for the bridge, which was ultimately completed only after surmounting daunting obstacles of geography, earthquakes, dangerous riptides and high winds. In completing the bridge, Strauss lived out his own admonition: “Our world of today revolves completely around things which at one time couldn’t be done because they were supposedly beyond the limits of human endeavor. Don't be afraid to dream.”
1939: Finding a lost legend
UC research made international headlines when university archaeologist Carl Blegen — a giant in the field of classical archaeology — uncovered the Bronze Age Palace of Nestor, the center of the oldest kingdom in Europe (the Mycenaean Kingdom) at Pylos, Greece. Pylos is known as a destination in the Homeric epic, "The Odyssey," where sacrifices were said to be offered on its sandy beaches. Until Blegen’s excavation there and the stunning rediscovery of the palace, it had been considered the stuff of legend for some 3,000 years. In recognition of Blegen’s achievements at both Pylos as well as finds at Troy, UC’s Blegen Library is named in his honor.
The Shure Unidyne microphone can be seen aboard the U.S.S. Missouri as Japan surrenders at the end of World War II.
Recent UC engineering grad Benjamin Bauer invents the Shure Unidyne microphone and earned his very first patent after having begun his career as a UC co-op student in 1935. If you haven’t heard of the Shure Unidyne mic, you have most certainly heard it. It was used by General Douglas MacArthur on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri during the ceremonies that ended the war with Japan in 1945. The affordable, unidirectional mic reduced issues like background noise, feedback and excessive reverberation. As such, it was front and center during Martin Luther King, Jr's “I Have a Dream” speech. It came within inches of Elvis Presley’s pouty lips as he muttered, “Thank you, thank you very much.” Not to mention the many other celebrities and leaders favored the invention — John F. Kennedy, Gandhi, Frank Sinatra and Doris Day, just to name a few.
1942: Commencement to combat
Students graduated early in that wartime spring, on April 10, 1942. Recalled one co-ed: “We graduated right after Pearl Harbor. The boys wore their ROTC uniforms under their caps and gowns and left immediately for the service from the commencement ceremonies.” Students who continued their studies on campus deployed as well: Organizers of one UC-Xavier scrap drive in the fall of 1942 asked each student to contribute one pound of rubber and metal scrap each day to benefit the war effort. UC’s haul of 150,000 pounds, pictured here, was auctioned to the highest bidder, and the proceeds went to war charities and a memorial to UC students and faculty serving in the armed forces.
1943: Accelerated academics
World War II’s advance on campus brought enlistments, accelerated academics and expanded federal research in disease control, machinery and production and other war needs. It also brought upended hierarchies where life was anything but uniform. McMicken Hall was emptied to provide dormitory space for soldier-students where steel cots replaced desks. Eight fraternity houses were leased for Army use, while barracks went up too. The 1943-44 football season was cancelled, and one male G.I. ran as a candidate for UC freshmen queen in 1943 and won the election. Four disciplines — Law, Medicine, Engineering and Commerce — all graduated early, in February and April. In early 1943, local high schoolers skipped months or even a year of high school to enter UC early. Recalled one, “I enrolled in UC in January 1943 in the accelerated engineering program before completing the last half-year of high school. By September, after attending classes all summer, our freshman year was complete.”
1943: Women storm the workforce
Women students graduated to storm the workforce, while their male counterparts filled the military ranks. To fill demand, the university opened all of its engineering courses to women, and co-op employers began hiring women in greater and greater numbers. For instance, in 1943, the Frigidaire Co., of Dayton, employed its first UC woman co-op as a test case. By October 1944, a total of eight women co-op students were with the company, then producing aircraft propellers and machine guns in lieu of refrigerators. Recalled one co-ed: “The war absolutely helped women students…corporations came to recruit us girls. We’d previously been prepared to be secretaries, but…I was tracking the company’s financial operations, keeping stats, making financial forecasts, projecting sales and measuring cash flow.”
In the summer of 1944, the staff of “The News Record” created a four-page mimeographed version of the student newspaper to send to students serving in the war. Dubbed the “News Record Jr.,” the masthead included a whimsical image of a soldier baby spilling ink. Letters from soldiers who received the publication attest to their appreciation of this connection with the home front.
1944: Band of brothers (and sisters)
The UC Marching Band began accepting women members on a temporary basis, and for the remainder of World War II, women dominated the ranks. In 1945, football games resumed, and a co-ed UC band returned to perform on the field. The following year, women students were officially welcome to join as full-fledged members.
1945: Annual Crosstown Shootout begins
Shot from a 1945 basketball game
Although UC and Xavier University had competed in basketball during the 1927-28 season and again in 1942-43, it was in 1945 that they began annual play and the Crosstown Shootout rivalry was born.
Immediately after World War II, campus experienced an invasion — of veterans taking advantage of the 1944 Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, better known as the GI Bill, in order to attend college. By the time of the June 1949 commencement, a full contingent of the graduating class (two thirds of the grads) were veterans. And to house these students — and often their spouses and children — UC built “Vetsville” barracks, some of which remained until 1957. Living quarters measuring 36 feet long and 8 feet wide accommodated families as large as five people. There was no space for “luxuries” such as playpens, oversized chairs and even ovens. Meals were cooked on hot plates, and work, play and socializing took place outdoors for the most part.
1946: First national title
After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, UC Hall of Fame member and the first UC athlete to win a national championship, Charles Keating Jr., won the 1946 200-meter butterfly national title for UC as a member of the men's swimming team. Keating won that exciting race before more than 2,500 fans at Yale's gymnasium with a time of 2:26.2. Not only was it the first national title in any sport by a Bearcat, but Keating and teammate Roy Lagaly became the first UC swimmers to earn All-America honors.
The first commercially available antihistamine, today known as Benadryl, came to market. The medication for those who suffer from hay fever, colds, allergies, hives and rashes was developed by alumnus and UC College of Medicine and chemical engineering department faculty member George Rieveschl Jr., who was later inducted into the International Science and Engineering Hall of Fame. Ironically, when Rieveschl began as a student at UC in 1929, it was to study commercial art, with the goal of designing the bottle the medicine came in versus developing the medicine itself. However, unable to find work as an artist during the Great Depression, he switched his focus to chemistry. Bless you, George!
1947: Youngest baccalaureate
At the age of 16 in 1947, Darwin T. Turner became the youngest person to ever earn a baccalaureate degree at the university's June 6 commencement, a record that still stands to this day. He went on to earn a master's degree in English from UC in 1949 and a doctorate in English and American Dramatic Literature from the University of Chicago. UC’s Darwin T. Turner Scholars Program, one of the oldest diversity scholarship programs in the country, honors his memory. This scholarship effort on behalf of academically talented students of color has graduated more than 800 alumni who are now filling roles of responsibility worldwide.
1950: I'll be here in September
Henry Thomas Brown of Cincinnati’s West End became the first African American to enroll in UC’s co-op program in 1950, at a time when racial segregation in the U.S. was palpably real. Brown recalls that in those days, all students submitted photos with college applications. After applying to study chemical engineering at UC in 1949, he further recalls receiving a letter asking him to come in for a summertime interview. According to Brown, “I took the letter to the only professional I knew, a lawyer at the YMCA. He read it and looked away. He said, ‘You’ll be interviewed to tell you the hardships of engineering, to be told that no black has ever been there before, and they've never had a black graduate.’ That’s just what happened too. It was done to discourage me from entering, but at the end of that interview, I just said, ‘Thank you. I'll be here in September.’”
1951: Advance for open heart surgery
UC cardiologist Samuel Kaplan, MD, chemist Leland Clark and surgery professor James Helmsworth, MD, developed the world’s first functional heart-lung machine, located at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. This UC advance made open-heart surgery possible for the first time.
Shot from a 1950s art class
UC’s then College of Applied Arts — now the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) — held its first fashion show in 1951, an annual event that was clearly custom fit for success. Today, the professionally modeled, choreographed and lighted end-of-year event is in such demand that it routinely sells out. Graduates have gone on to launch their own collections and clothing lines, earn accolades in international competitions, compete on “Project Runway” and work in the corporate world and on Hollywood TV and movie sets. Not to mention that one fashion alumna, Heather French Henry, was crowned Miss America in 2000. At the time of her win, French Henry opined that DAAP’s infamous project critiques or “crits” prepared her well for the rigors of competing for her national title.
1952: Olympics' first African-American marathoner
Known as the "father of long distance running," UC’s Ted Corbitt ran in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics as the first African-American U.S. marathoner in Olympic history at age 33. Corbitt grew up on his family’s cotton farm in rural South Carolina. Like his grandfather, a former slave, young Corbitt ran everywhere — even to school after getting his brother and two sisters dressed and fed. Before graduating from UC in 1942 with a bachelor’s in education, Corbitt ran for the Bearcats but was often left off UC’s track and field squad since meets in the South and Midwest refused to allow a black runner to participate. Following his collegiate career, Corbitt saw service in World War II (where he tried his one and only beer in what was a healthy and long life) and built an international reputation. He became a 100-miler ultramarathoner by 50, ran 134.7 miles in 24 hours by age 54 — an American record — and even completed a 303-mile walk in six days at age 82.
1952: Civil rights victory
On July 4, 1952, the effort to desegregate Cincinnati’s Coney Island Park began, led by UC alumni Marian and Donald Spencer. Known as a diminutive Amazon and “love warrior,” Marian spearheaded the fight to desegregate the park after being turned away at the front gate by a guard brandishing a gun. Son Edward Spencer recalls from that time: "When the decision came down about Coney Island, and the family was standing in the halls of the county courthouse, my mother pointed out Mr. Schott, the owner of the amusement park and her adversary, as he strode towards us. My brother said I shoved my hands in my pockets as he (Mr. Schott) came closer. We’d been taught to firmly shake hands with adults, but I apparently had no plans to shake his hand. I asked, ‘Are you Mr. Schott?’ He was a big, white man, probably could have been six-foot-three, a giant to me. This big white man, who actually seemed sweet if not contrite, bent down to me and said, 'Yes, I'm that bad man.' And that’s when I replied, 'You don't look so bad to me.'"
1953: First woman wears Bearcat suit
Both men and women suit up as the Bearcat mascot. The first woman to do so was Pat Stromberg, an adept tumbler. She incorporated cartwheels, handstands and the splits into the Bearcat’s game-time routine. She took on the role partly to protect her reputation. An active member of the Student Religious Council and having organized a major religious conference on campus, she feared fellow UC students might begin to think of her as only a "goody two-shoes." "So I thought, if I become the Bearcat, then people will know I'm a real person," say said. "It was great fun. I'd run up and down the stands, and if there was a bald man, I'd pat him on the head and sit in his lap. I'd just tease the people a bit. I can remember hearing people say, 'I think the Bearcat is a girl. Boys don't run like that.'"
1953: Sandy Koufax, co-op student
One-time UC architecture student Sandy Koufax arrived on campus — ironically enough on a basketball scholarship with legendary coach Ed Jucker, who also coached the university’s baseball team. Koufax also tried out for the baseball team and studied long enough at UC to pitch one season for the Bearcats before turning pro. He went on to earn the Cy Young Award three times and at age 36, became the youngest player ever elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Koufax partly credited co-op for coaxing him away from his native Brooklyn. “Being out of school half the time sounded good to me,” he once stated.
1954: First woman to throw Opening Day pitch
A 1930 graduate of UC, Dorothy Nichols Dolbey becomes the first woman mayor of Cincinnati. The Charterite was only the third woman on Cincinnati City Council, the first woman to be re-elected to council, and the first woman to be vice mayor. She also served on UC’s Board of Trustees, one of the first women to do so, and received an honorary doctorate from the university in 1968. Dolbey is one of 17 mayors of Cincinnati who have been UC alumni. Dolbey was also the first woman in major league history to throw out the first pitch at Opening Day. To help her practice for that honor, her husband and son paced off the distance in their backyard. What they didn't tell her was that they made the practice length 70 feet rather than the 60-feet standard for the actual playing field. The result? Dolbey later recalled, “[The pitch] sailed between all the cameras and right down the groove…just a little to the right of the plate.”
In the summer of 1954, a new band director took up his baton a UC. Bob Hornyak wanted to set a new tempo. So, the Navy veteran issued orders: The band would now make its performance entrance by charging full tilt from the top lip of Nippert Stadium to the field below, all while dressed in full regalia and toting instruments. After that first September 1954 charge, the crowd went wild, band members beamed, and letters of praise started coming in from appreciative fans. Fans? That was a new concept for the band — and a tradition was born, one with a half-serious rule that “if anyone fell, you had to roll them out of the way so they wouldn't interfere with the next person,” according to 1960s band member Edward Irvin. He added that “war whooping” down the steps “was only scary the first time. The crowd would trash talk us, saying, ‘When you goin’ to fall?' In the whole year, I only saw one person fall, and he fell sideways into the crowd which caught him. So, it didn't start the domino effect.”
1955: Team work on and off the court
Wilt Chamberlain, left, Maurice Stokes, center, and Jack Twyman, right
Bearcats basketball legend Jack Twyman, known as “Smokey” during his college career, graduates in 1955 — going on to become an NBA All-Star in six of his 11 pro seasons. He is one of only three UC men’s basketball players to have their numbers retired, but Twyman’s true legacy was his deep compassion for Cincinnati Royals teammate Maurice Stokes. Also a standout, Stokes was named 1955-56 NBA Rookie of the Year and made the All-Star team each of the three seasons he played in the NBA. Then, a blow to his head on the court in 1958 left Stokes unable to walk, talk or pay medical bills. At 23, Twyman petitioned to become his friend’s legal guardian to help care for him and manage his bills and did so until Stokes died in 1970.
1956: All-time leading scorer
Oscar Robertson began his studies at the university as the fifth African-American basketball player in UC history. At that time, freshmen were ineligible to play varsity ball. However, in the three varsity years he played for the Bearcats, Robertson was National Player of the Year each season, and he is still the university's all-time leading scorer with 2,973 points. Robertson’s prodigious scoring often overshadowed the fact that he was an outstanding rebounder and defender as well. Robertson led the Bearcats to the Final Four two years in a row and then went on to co-captain the U.S. gold-medal winning team in the 1960 Olympics.
1956: First public Homecoming parade
Members of the area community join UC students, alumni, faculty and staff for UC’s first public Homecoming parade. The route started on Clifton Avenue, turned down Ludlow Avenue and through Burnett Woods before ending at Nippert Stadium. This year also marked the first Homecoming dance, where parade float winners were announced, and a queen was crowned. That year’s Homecoming also demonstrated the danger of stuffing tissue paper into chicken wire as three winning floats were set afire outside Nippert Stadium by the careless flick of a cigarette. Flames first engulfed a fraternity’s dove of peace float and spread along the bird’s 16-foot wingspan to two other floats waiting to take to the field during halftime. Later, the charred dove’s remains rested in Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s front year with a sign reading: “Who cooked our goose?”
Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong packed the house for a Fieldhouse concert on March 14, 1957. Jazz was clearly a big-time draw in the 1950s and 1960s, with many of music’s biggest names playing campus venues — and in the case of Armstrong, providing a profound cultural experience. He had to jostle through a crowd of autograph hounds in order to exit the premises. No wonder as the gravel-voiced trumpet player was such an icon and had such a profound effect on 20th century music that PBS documentarian Ken Burns once said of Armstrong: “He is to music what Einstein is to physics, and what the Wright brothers are to travel.”
1958: UC's first computer
Nearly six feet tall and weighing more than 7,000 pounds, UC’s first computer rolled onto campus in three parts on June 1. And so, UC entered the computer age months before East Coast schools like Yale University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The machine, the IBM 650, was considered state of the art because it actually fit into one room. In the late 1950s, countries all over the world sent astronomy data to UC’s internationally renowned astronomer Paul Herget, later elected to head the National Academy of Sciences, so that he might calculate the orbits of manmade satellites and minor planets. Interestingly, while working at UC, Herget designed the shape of Pringles potato chips for Procter & Gamble, which wanted a chip that would stack in a can.
On three consecutive Sundays — starting on April 24, 1960 — millions of families lined up at churches and schools across the nation to swallow a spoonful of pink syrup or a sugar cube treated with a life-saving polio vaccine developed by UC College of Medicine faculty member Albert Sabin. These Sabin Sundays launched general U.S. use of the oral polio vaccine, which is credited with eradicating the wild polio virus in this country. It also halted a worldwide epidemic and prevented hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of cases of paralysis. Sabin’s development was the vaccine of choice for mass immunization because of its ease of administration, low cost and ability to break the chain of transmission.
1961-62: Back-to-back NCAA titles
The University of Cincinnati Bearcats joined the elite ranks of teams holding back-to-back NCAA titles by beating Ohio State University in the Men's Division I Basketball Championship in both 1961 and 1962. Going into that 1961 championship game, no one thought UC had much of a chance. The Buckeyes — led by future Hall of Famers Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek — were unbeaten and the defending champs. And UC had just graduated the country's most prolific player, Oscar Robertson. Nevertheless, in 1961, the Bearcats won a stunning 70-65 game in overtime. On March 24, 1962, the Bearcats handily dispatched the Buckeyes again, this time by 71-59. In 1963, the Bearcats missed a third such title by only two points in overtime play against Loyola of Illinois. To mark the era, a crowned “gingerbread man” Bearcat appeared to mark UC’s back-to-back national titles. Indeed, how sweet it was!
1963: UC grad on first Everest team
On May 22, 1963, UC geology alumnus Barry Bishop, a photographer with National Geographic at the time, was part of the first American team to reach the summit of Mount Everest at 29,028 feet. The American team’s historic climb was perilous. They went solo — without Sherpas — because the team had opted to climb a route that was thought to be suicidal at the time. Bishop and his three teammates spent 40 hours on their last assault. Insufficient oxygen made movement agonizing, each step requiring seven breaths. On the descent, the team nearly froze to death. They had no oxygen tanks for their aching lungs, no shelter, no flashlights — and night closed in. The temperature was 18 degrees below zero, and the wind was gusting at 60 to 70 miles per hour. Bishop survived but lost all his toes and parts of his fingers to frostbite — and he gained the fulfillment of a long-time dream. He later wrote in National Geographic that he and a fellow climber “cried like babies with the joy of having scaled the mightiest of mountains.”
1964: International reach
UC’s Worldfest, an event held each spring to raise awareness on campus of international cultures via entertainment, food and educational offerings, began with the UC YWCA International Bazaar in 1964. Bazaar day attracted traders, artwork and commodities from around the world. Originally marketed as a prime opportunity to find exotic holiday gifts and cuisine, the one-day event morphed into the full-blown International Week by 1968.
UC hosted "Alumni Fun," a nationally broadcast Sunday afternoon quiz show that aired from 1963-66 in which famous alums competed to win scholarship money for their alma maters. The show traveled to different locales to broadcast from an array of campuses. UC’s episode featured: future baseball hall-of-famer Sandy Koufax; Surgeon General of the Navy Edward C. Kenney; and actor Lee Bowman who appeared on Broadway and co-starred with Rita Hayworth and Jean Arthur in 1940s Hollywood films.
Veterans Memorial Bridge, also informally called the TUC Bridge, opens. Between 1965 to 2001, the span between TUC and McMicken Hall comes to serve as the university’s informal public square — the campus gathering and meeting place. It stood witness to countless special events and campus protests, including those related to the Vietnam War and Desert Storm as well as student assembly for Commencement and even the surprising 1976 wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Bearcat. The plaque that once identified the old bridge has been relocated to a new span between CCM and the south wing of TUC.
The Christmas animated musical comedy “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas" premieres with a score composed by Tony Award winner and UC alumnus Albert Hague, who graduated from CCM in 1942. Hague, best known for his television compositions and acting, had his Broadway breakthrough in 1955 with "Plain and Fancy," followed by "Redhead," which won nine Tonys in 1959, including Best Composer and Best Musical. In the 1980s, Hague played the recurring role of Mr. Shorofsky, the music teacher, in the TV series "Fame."
1967: First regional campus
UC acquired land that was originally designated to become the Blue Ash airport as the future site for its first regional campus in 1965. On Sept. 25, 1967 Raymond Walters General and Technical College — originally named for UC’s longest-serving president — opened with its first classes. There were 632 students on that first day. Today, what we now call UC Blue Ash College is the largest regional college in Ohio with an enrollment of just under 5,000 students.
1967: Municipally sponsored, state affiliated
Though the city boasted of UC’s status as the “second-oldest and second-largest” municipal university in the nation — the University of Louisville was older and the City University of New York was larger — the university’s future lay in an alliance with the state. And on Nov. 7, 1967, Cincinnati voters made UC the only university in the country that was municipally sponsored but state affiliated. At the time of the vote, UC was one of the four fastest-growing universities in the country. This vote and action in 1968 by the Ohio legislature began a decade-long transition ultimately culminating on July 1, 1977, when UC fully joined the university system of Ohio — it was a move equal in importance to the university’s original founding in 1819.
1967: Organ transplant first
On Dec. 11, a 36-year-old Cincinnati police office, Ernest P. Harper, made local medical history when he received a kidney from his sister, Elizabeth, in the first transplant operation at UC Medical Center. The then-experimental procedure was performed by Dr. J. Wesley Alexander, who pioneered transplantation in Cincinnati. Today, UC’s world-renowned transplant surgeons perform regular heart, kidney, pancreas and liver transplants for patients.
1968: First African-American Board member
The Rev. L. Venchael Booth, the first African American to serve on UC's Board of Trustees, stands just to the left of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Rev. L. Venchael Booth becomes the first African American to serve on the UC Board of Trustees. This came at a time when black students on campus were actively seeking more support and representation. The United Black Student Association at UC demanded the formation of an African American Studies Department to encourage more black faculty and staff on campus. A preacher at Cincinnati’s Zion Baptist Church, Booth hosted a visit by Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1964. He served on the board until 1989.
1969: UC's own "Tower of Mordor"
Crosley Tower has been likened to a “Disney villain’s lair,” and it was once described as UC’s own “Tower of Mordor.” As such, it’s fitting that urban legends abound regarding the brutalist architecture structure completed in 1969. One legend has it that a Volkswagen is buried within its concrete walls. Another that when it was poured -- in a marathon 18-day, non-stop operation that saw the tower dramatically rise 220 feet — a workman fell in and is entombed in the building. Both are false. Another rumor, around since the mid-1980s, claims the building is sliding downhill. It’s not.
On April 22, 1970, the UC campus participated in the first Earth Day with speakers, forums, discussions and a noon rally on the bridge that was once a campus landmark in front of TUC. At the end of the rally, one speaker exhorted the crowd of UC students, high school students and senior citizens to take action, including, “one thing we can all do right now is pick up all this [expletive] we're sitting on here on the hill." And as the rally broke up, students did just that — slowly picking up countless cigarette butts and gum wrappers that peppered the grass of the hillside. Events devoted to environmental concerns in later years included solar-cooked eggs in the campus cafeteria and an “anti-competition” of games on the Engineering Quad.
1970: Campus unrest and closure
Top left, UC’s executive vice president Ralph Bursiek in a moment of weary resignation after the 1970 Board vote to close the university. This photo made the national news at the time.
Like many others across the nation, UC’s campus closed following the May 4, 1970 shootings at Kent State. Peaceful marches and sit-ins against the Vietnam War at UC included students occupying the Van Wormer Administration Building on May 6 and Beecher Hall the next day. Students also marched peacefully through campus and staged a sit-in at Fifth and Walnut streets in downtown Cincinnati. Following the month’s long closure, commencement was ultimately held on June 14, but many seniors opted not to return for the ceremony. The UC Alumni Association invited those grads back four decades later to walk as part of the official graduation ceremony on June 11, 2010.
1971: Gender equity milestone
1975 News Record cartoon
Women's intercollegiate athletics debuted at UC in 1971 with six varsity sports. The teams adopted the name “Lady Bearcats.” The next year, in 1972, the enactment of Title IX boosted equity in athletics, including scholarships, equipment and facilities. An incident in January 1975 demonstrates how necessary that was. A UC-Miami women’s basketball game was stopped with five minutes to go at 7:30 p.m. to allow the men’s team to warm up for an 8:05 p.m. start. Recalled one woman player, “It was like the ultimate slap in the face.” Another recalled, “When the men came out, all the crowd booed… . That’s terrible, but yet, it’s great, because we want equality.” One step toward greater equality came in 1990 when the women teams dropped “Lady” and became known, like their male counterparts, simply as Bearcats.
1971: Neil Armstrong teaches at UC
In 1974, Neil Armstrong tried his hand at the annual paper airplane contest hosted by a UC aero engineering club. Photo/Ralph Spitzen
Astronaut Neil Armstrong — the first person to walk on the moon — retired from NASA to join UC as a professor of aerospace engineering. He created courses such as aircraft design and flight navigation operations in UC’s aerospace program — which is the second oldest such program in the nation and the country's first co-op program in aeronautical engineering. (Orville Wright consulted in setting up the program’s original curriculum.) Of his time at UC, Armstrong later said, "I really enjoyed teaching. I love to teach. I love the kids, only they were smarter than I was, which made it a challenge."
1972: Nation's first woman board chair
Jane DeSerisey Earley was elected chair of UC’s Board of Directors, the first woman to hold the position at any U.S. university. She had made history before. In 1941, she became the first woman and youngest person (at that time) to be named to UC’s board, where she helped organize the Friends of the University to solicit funds each year to support the university. This was the start of UC’s annual giving campaign. Early was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in 1966.
1972: Second regional campus opens
UC’s second regional campus, Clermont College (then Clermont General and Technical College) opened in Batavia. The campus size and student population has grown substantially since, from 60 to 91 acres and from 300 to nearly 4,000 students. Today, this accredited, open-access college offers more than 50 associate degrees and certificate programs with day and evening hours for full-time and part-time students.
1972: Alum becomes Cincinnati's first black mayor
Ted Berry and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a register-to-vote rally.
National civil rights leader Theodore “Ted” Berry, who earned both his undergraduate and law degrees at UC, became Cincinnati’s first black mayor, taking the oath of office on Dec. 1, 1972. Born in poverty in rural Kentucky, Berry graduated from Woodward High School in 1924 as Cincinnati's first black valedictorian at any area high school. (In his senior year in high school, he won an essay contest with an entry submitted under the pseudonym Thomas Playfair after an all-white panel had rejected his initial submission.) He then earned his UC degrees while working at a steel mill. He subsequently worked as Hamilton County’s first black assistant prosecuting attorney, became a civil rights attorney for the NAACP, served in the administration of U.S. President Lyndon Johnson — among many other achievements. At one point, Berry became deeply involved in the civil rights movement in the South. He and Thurgood Marshall, future U.S. Supreme Court justice, traveled from city to city, at great personal risk, to file lawsuits. The City of Cincinnati has named both a street and a park after Berry, and in his later years, Berry wondered aloud: “Maybe they should write a poem about me that says, ‘They told him it couldn’t be done, but he did it.’”
1973: First black student body president
Tyrone Yates was elected UC’s first black student body president. He went on to serve as the city’s vice mayor and as a member of Cincinnati City Council; State of Ohio Assistant Attorney General; and a member of the Ohio House of Representatives where he was treasurer and president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus and chair of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Foundation. He currently serves as a Hamilton County municipal court judge.
1973: Nation's first McDonald's on campus
On Oct. 2, UC became the first university with a McDonald’s location on its campus. It was also the largest McDonald’s in the company’s chain. The fast-food option proved enormously popular with both students — and with stray dogs. A November 1973 News Record letter to the editor describes how students routinely held doors open for stray dogs to enter and even brought their own dogs to eat the food remains on the floor, around garbage cans and among resulting litter strewn on campus. All in all, opined one student, “not a day goes by that a dog cannot be found running loose in the [Student] Union.” So much for this being Bearcat country!
1975: Alum developed Pentium chip
Vinod Dham, the father of the Pentium chip, arrived in Cincinnati from India with $8 in his pocket to begin studies at UC. After earning a UC master’s of science in physics in 1977, he went on to work for the tech giant, Intel, where he was tasked with leading the team that developed the first Pentium processor. In the race between tech companies to develop the Pentium chip for a market more-than-ready for a powerful microprocessor, Dham earned a general’s hat from his team members as a tribute to his drive and dedication. He was later known to say, "Speed was God for us when we designed Pentium. All we did was to build the fastest BMW or Lamborghini equivalent of a chip.”
1976: Mr. and Mrs. Bearcat get married
The 1970s brought a Mrs. and Mr. Bearcat to campus. For Homecoming in 1976, the mascots got married at noon at the old student union bridge, with the Tangeman University Center clock chimes setting the procession over the bridge for the ceremony. The cheerleaders were the bridesmaids, and the team captain gave away the bride, while a law professor performed the ceremony. A reception and large dance were held that evening for the university community.
The University of Cincinnati became a state institution on July 1, 1977. It was a move equal in importance to the university’s original founding in 1819. The final conversion process began in 1976 with an agreement between the UC Board of Directors, the City of Cincinnati and the Ohio Board of Regents that was ratified by Cincinnati voters in a June 8 election. State affiliation meant a significant increase in state funding, as well as a reduction of local property taxes and student tuition. With this, UC became Ohio’s twelfth fully state-supported university.
1977: Ultimate cheering section
“They play the games, we make the noise!” is the motto of Rallycats, officially founded in 1977 by business administration student Alvin Roehr and band member Randy Smith. Roehr roomed with several football players and wanted to support and acknowledge their achievements in the 1976 football season when UC finished with a 9-2 record and a top 20 national ranking. In its early years, RallyCats operated as an informal group of students, many of whom prided themselves for being the loudest at games and going to great lengths to inconvenience fans and players of opposing teams. The fledgling group even rented convoys of recreational vehicles to cheer on UC sports teams at away games. At more than 300 members strong today, RallyCats is now among the largest student groups on campus and boasts members from across the nation who cheer on the Bearcats at nearly every UC home and away sporting events.
1985: Air Care takes flight
The university’s first Air Care helicopter first went aloft as an aerial ambulance, ferrying patients to the UC Medical Center’s top-notch trauma facility. By 1987, demand was high enough to add a second copter. Since that time, this rapid-response service has completed tens of thousands of flights in response to medical emergencies and trauma, about 10 percent of those flight helping children in critical need.
On Nov. 16, UC astutely applied for and subsequently activated the domain name uc.edu, a coup over all the other UCs in the world — including numerous schools in California, Chicago and Connecticut. UC’s acquisition of the uc.edu domain came thanks to Joe Landwehr, who began his university career as a programmer trainee in the 1960s, when computing — before the existence of the internet — chiefly consisted of central processing units called mainframes often used for bulk data analysis. Committee meeting minutes of the era describe Landwehr as the linchpin person who could "get systems up and keep them going." In the 1980s, he was the campus point person for those interested in purchasing a new innovation that allowed remote access to the mainframes — PCs! To appreciate the foresight of UC’s securing our domain name, it’s important to realize that the Web, as we know it today, did not yet exist in the 1980s. Instead, UC had what was called a bitnet connection, a daisy-chain linkage to Ohio State which, in turn, had a connection to the next institution. In terms of communication, it was good enough for sending emails, but that was about it. It wasn’t until 1993 that UC’s first web page went live.
UC set its Campus Master Plan in motion to transform an architecturally frenetic, concrete campus into an integrated whole studded with masterpieces of design. Realizing this vision meant uprooting parking-lot pavement in favor of open green spaces. It’s given rise to premier academic, research and living facilities. This level of cohesive planning and implementation takes place but once in a century, and the world has taken note. Books — as well as countless newspaper and magazines from The New York Times to Forbes — have chronicled and praised these efforts as a model to follow. Most recently, The New York Times Magazine contained an eight-page spread on the university’s architecture, calling the dramatic campus renovation of the past quarter century “the most ambitious campus-design program in the country.” Similarly, the Chicago Tribune opined: “The spectacular revamp is one of the most significant acts of campus planning since Thomas Jefferson laid out his ‘academic village’ at the University of Virginia…”
Benjamin “I think you can pick me out” Lang was a one-time UC co-op with Japan’s Toyobo Co. He liked it so much that he later returned to Japan to work as coordinator of international relations for the City of Iwamizawa.
The International Co-op Program begins at UC, a testament to a world that was growing increasingly smaller and more accessible. The new program continuously and deliberately prepares students to live and work abroad by means of exhaustive language and cultural preparation. Since then, thousands of UC students have worked abroad, mainly in Japan, Germany, Chile and Mexico but numerous other Asian, European and Central and South American countries. One of UC’s early international co-op students, Eric Knopp, was the first such student working at Kawasaki Steel (Chiba, Japan) who ever delivered his first-day-on-the-job introductory speech in Japanese. He recalled, “I cannot tell you how much respect that won for me. Everyone told me that my Japanese was the best of any foreign student they’d ever had. That says a lot for the IEP (UC’s international co-op preparation program) because Kawasaki…also hires students from Canada and France.”
Video link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/fPa2bOxqm-c?rel=0
The morning of June 23 felt like Derby Day on campus. Women milled about campus in fancy clothes and hats. TV crews set up large cameras to catch the action focused on what had once been UC’s first co-ed dorm when it opened in 1971. Onlookers gawked about with 8mm cameras. A large smiling crowd settled in to watch the action that bright Sunday morning: Several quick explosions, a rumble and a cloud of dust, and then UC’s Sander Hall's 27-story glass tower was gone, thanks to about 520 pounds of dynamite. At the time, it was the second-tallest building in the world to be imploded. What remains are former students’ memories of foolish fun: False fire alarms sent a thousand residents in their jammies to evacuate almost every week. One grad recalled, “They got to the point where it was a game to see if you could hide from the RA and not evacuate the building. I recall kids throwing M-80s down the trash chute, which sounded like a cannon. I knew a guy who tried to shove a Coke machine down the elevator shaft.”
On Sept. 24, 1991, the African American Cultural and Resource Center opened its doors, culminating a nearly 25-year journey from the time when the center was first proposed in 1968 by the United Black Student Association. The first to walk over the threshold was UC trailblazer Georgia Elizabeth Beasley (pictured to the left of Marian Spencer in the top photo), who graduated the university in 1925. At the time of her undergraduate commencement, Beasley walked alone. She was the only African-American student graduating at the time and was asked to walk separately from white students at that commencement. Needless to say, she did not walk alone over the threshold of the AACRC as its 1991 founding. Warm welcomes, applause and prayers welcomed her and other trailblazers on that day.
1991: Tassels and Tyehimba
Tyehimba, a signature Commencement celebration sponsored by the African American Cultural and Resource Center begins. Tyehimba, which means “we stand as a nation,” allows graduates to acknowledge their achievements and express thanks to family, friends and the community. The festive event quickly became a model to emulate. “The [Tyehimba] is the best in the country. Other universities have come here to study it,” says Ewaniki Moore-Hawkins, AACRC director.
At the end of the regular season in 1992, UC fans were elated to cheer on a 23-4 basketball team that had climbed back into the Top 25 for the first time in 14 years. It was the team’s first NCAA bid since 1977. Once in the tournament, the UC squad won easily over Delaware and Michigan State to advance to the Sweet 16, where they took care of business in a 2-point win over Texas-El Paso, then hammered Memphis by 31 points to complete an improbable run to the Final Four. Paired with Michigan in the national semifinals, the Bearcats led by 7 points with 15 minutes left in the game, but were eventually outscored by Michigan’s “Fab Five” of freshman starters and lost 76-72. That season was the beginning of a return to national power for UC basketball, which saw its teams advance to the Elite Eight in both ’93 and ’96 and make 14 straight NCAA tournament appearances.
1994: Big O statue unveiled
The University of Cincinnati campus contains only three statues to mark outstanding achievement: alumnus and Law dean William Howard Taft, who went on to make history as the only person to ever serve as both U.S. president and chief justice, inventor of cooperative education Herman Schneider and Oscar Robertson, one of basketball’s most-enduring icons. The nine-foot bronze statue of “The Big O” was erected in 1994 as a tribute to his UC playing career, co-captaining of the 1960 U.S. Olympic gold-medal basketball team, NBA career, and sure-footed business career.
1996: First female national champion
Becky Ruehl becomes UC’s first female national champion, winning the 10-meter platform-diving competition at the 1996 NCAA meet as a first-year student. That performance, plus her second-place finish in the 3-meter competition, earned her NCAA Diver of the Year. She would go on to finish fourth in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and earn four national championships before retiring from the sport in 2000. Ruehl’s national championship came precisely 50 years after UC’s first-ever national title, which also came in the pool, when Charles Keating Jr. won the 200-yard butterfly title.
1998: Sigma Sigma celebrates a century
Sigma Sigma, a local society of students (and now alumni as well) dedicated to supporting the university, celebrated its 1898 founding with the establishment of Sigma Sigma Commons — the result of years of planning and the successful effort to raise $1.8 million for the commons’ construction. The commons occupies the area once dominated by an expansive asphalt parking lot and “The Pit,” a dusty bowl beside the Armory Fieldhouse. Today, the commons is home of the campus’s biggest party of the year, the Sigma Sigma Carnival, each spring.
1999: A season to remember
UC was the nation’s top team, and Kenyon Martin was college basketball’s top player in the 1999-2000 season. UC was ranked No. 1 in the national polls for 12 of 18 weeks, and Martin made a clean sweep of the national player of the year awards (Naismith, Wooden, Rupp, Robertson, NABC). The Bearcats tied a school record for victories with a 29-4 record and won their fifth straight Conference USA regular season title. UC seemed poised for a run for the national title until Martin suffered a broken leg. Martin’s performance in UC’s dramatic comeback over DePaul on March 3, 2000, prompted this declaration from ESPN commentator Dick Vitale during the broadcast: “Who could ever vote for anyone else but Kenyon Martin for National Player of the Year? It has been a show! He has done everything humanly possible to carry his team to the locker room with a ‘W.’ He’s been marvelous, magnificent and magical!” Martin was a unanimous first team All-American, and despite his injury, was the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft in 2000 and spent 15 years in the pros.
2000: UC's endowment cracks $1 billion
On Aug. 31, 2000, UC’s endowment topped the $1 billion mark for the first time in university history. Dale L. McGirr, then vice president for finance, announced the university’s portfolio value to be $1,004,000,000 — a figure subject to daily fluctuations, but firmly over the symbolic $1 billion mark. Throughout the 1990s, UC’s fund had ranked around 40th in the U.S. among all colleges and universities, near the top 10 among public institutions and around 15th among public universities ranked by endowment per student.
2001: Saving lives at 35,000 feet
At UC, training to care for wounded military service members is as realistic as possible. As trauma surgeons, emergency physicians, medics, nurses and other care providers train to provide such care, it includes a simulation setting so realistic that they hear the engine noise of a military transport plane droning in the background. UC's Center for the Sustainment of Trauma and Readiness Skills (C-STARS) opened in 2001, as the U.S. Air Force selected the university as one of five national military-civilian training centers due to UC’s reputation for scientific research and providing the highest level of patient care and academic/urban Level-1 Trauma Center. The program is a collaborative effort of University Hospital, the UC College of Medicine and UC Surgeons.
2003: Ohio Innocence Project at UC
Ohio Innocence Project exoneree Ricky Jackson
Founded by lawyers including Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, the Ohio Innocence Project hired Mark Godsey — author of “Blind Injustice” — as director in 2003. The following year, the OIP received its first substantial gift from Richard and Lois Rosenthal. Resembling a mini law firm in the UC College of Law, the OIP today is made up of students, a few staff attorneys and an administrative assistant. To date, the OIP has freed 27 wrongfully convicted inmates from Ohio prisons who together had served more than 500 years for crimes they did not commit. One of those was Ricky Jackson. Because of a 12-year-old’s coerced “lie from the pits of hell,” Jackson was first sentenced to death by electrocution and ultimately served nearly 40 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Jackson was ultimately exonerated due to the ongoing work of the OIP and recently became the longest-serving exoneree in U.S. history.
2003: Presidential firsts
The first woman president of the university, Nancy Zimpher, takes office and is followed in that role by the first African-American president, the first Asian-American president and now, President Neville Pinto. Over the past 15 years or so, UC has enjoyed steady growth in applications, our academic profile, enrollment, retention, graduation rates and more. Enrollment has increased more than 30 percent since 2003. Not to mention that the university is ranked No. 35 among public research institutions by the National Science Foundation. U.S. News ranks UC among the top tier of America’s best colleges, and The Chronicle of Higher Education has called UC a “research heavyweight.”
From 2004 through 2006 — and again in 2009 — the Bearcat dancers first won and then successfully defended their crown as the top hip-hop squad in the country during the National Cheer and Dance Championships.
Mick Cronin, a UC graduate and former assistant coach, takes over as the 26th head coach in Bearcats basketball history. In his tenure as coach, the Bearcats have advance to where the team has made its seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance in the 2016-17 season. Cronin leads the nation in Division I wins and total NCAA tournament appearances among active coaches his age and ranks second in Division I wins among active coaches under the age of 50.
UC opens a groundbreaking program that is the nation's first living-learning community to focus on first-generation college students. The was subsequently highlighted in national news outlets including The New York Times, NBC Nightly News, Inside Higher Ed and USA Today for its innovations in supporting at-risk college students. The 26-bed housing community opened in 2008 to serve freshmen who were most at risk for dropping out of college — first generation, Pell eligible students — by providing a 24/7 structured living and learning environment, as well as tutoring and mentoring support. The program expanded in 2011 with a residential component to also serve returning sophomores and again in 2012 for juniors. By 2014, the first-to-second year retention rate for residents of the house has reached an impressive 92 percent.
Lucy, the current binturong Bearcat mascot, is born. She’s the third in a line of Cincinnati Zoo binturongs — the first was Bo and the second was Alice — who have served as the living embodiment of UC’s spirit. Lucy makes 70 to 80 trips a year to the university mostly for athletic and special events, but has been known to appear at the occasional wedding. She was named via an online contest. The name, Lucy, won because the letters “uc” are part of her name. No matter how they spell it, she’s all UC to us!
Going to the dentist isn't always fun, but it’s all smiles when the UC Smiles program opens its doors at UC Blue Ash College. Founded in 2010, the monthly program staffed by UC dental hygiene students and area dentists provides free oral health check-ups to underserved school children in Greater Cincinnati at the Dental Hygiene Clinic. To date, more than 2,000 kids have been served.
On Dec. 4, UC dedicated a 15-foot, two-ton, bronze Bearcat statue: A bearcat waits in a tree, mouth agape with large, sharp fangs, seeming to sound a fierce challenge to his rivals. Hanging by its tail and one claw wrapped around the tree to give it balance, its other claw reaches out, ready to strike. The statue, near the east entrance of Fifth Third Arena, is a destination on campus for students, alumni and members of the community. Every day, the youngest of toddlers, newcomers and visitors to campus, alumni and fans make sure to have their picture taken at the statue.
Thanks to the support of 92,000 donors, UC completes its Proudly Cincinnati campaign exceeding $1 billion in private support, its largest campaign in history. The achievement placed the university among only 24 public universities that have raised $1 billion or more in a single campaign. UC’s $1,004,958,610 fundraising total places the university in the top 1 percent of all U.S. colleges and universities on Jan. 31, five months ahead of the Proudly Cincinnati campaign’s closing on June 30. The campaign benefited facility upgrades to the Lindner Center of HOPE, Engineering Alumni Learning Center, the Goering Center, Sheakley Athletics Center, Henry Winkler Center for the History of the Health Professions and the Garner Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders. More than $101 million were designated for financial aid and scholarships, with another $171 million designated to fuel research advancements.
2014: Collection: We shall overcome
From left, Robert Shropshire, Sr.; Louise Shropshire; the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.; and the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Sr.
The Shropshire collection holding sheet music, letters, family memorabilia and photos of Louise Shropshire is donated to the university archives. Shropshire was a Cincinnati woman, activist and black gospel composer and is now credited with writing one of the most inspirational songs of the 20th century, though she was never credited as the original composer. Her best-known composition, “If My Jesus Wills,” was copyrighted in 1954 and was adapted by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to unite the voice of the Civil Rights Movement. Her work would later be linked to the famous song "We Shall Overcome." Shropshire's lyrics read, “I'll Overcome, I'll Overcome, I'll Overcome Someday — If My Jesus Wills, I Do Believe, I'll Overcome Someday.”
2015: New York Times: eight-page spread
Photo/.Ofer Wolberger for The New York Times
On Sept. 13, 2015, The New York Times Magazine spotlighted UC in an eight-page spread of images on the university’s architecture, calling the dramatic campus renovation of the past quarter century “the most ambitious campus-design program in the country.” Others have similarly noted the UC campus. The Los Angeles Times once opined: “…the university [has] one of the most impressive collections of contemporary architecture on any American campus” and one that “Architecture students will be studying…30 years from now.” The Chicago Tribune: “The spectacular revamp is one of the most significant acts of campus planning since Thomas Jefferson laid out his ‘academic village’ at the University of Virginia…” And Forbes named UC among the world's most beautiful college campuses. Others making that short list were Oxford University in England as well as Princeton University, Stanford University, Yale University and the University of Virginia.
On Oct. 23, Baehr Kellan Robinson was born, nearly 101 years to the day after his great-great-grandfather, Leonard "Teddy" Baehr. This Baby Baehr will no doubt soon learn how the name Bearcats hails back to a catchy cheer born during an Oct. 31, 1914, football game. During the spirited game, the cheerleaders sang out, “They may be Wildcats, but we have a ‘Baehr-Cat’ on our side” — in reference formidable fullback Teddy Baehr.
2016: New President Neville Pinto
Neville G. Pinto, who spent 26 years as a faculty member and dean at UC, is appointed the university’s president. The Board of Trustees voted to select Pinto as UC’s 30th president at a special meeting on Dec. 17, charging him to lead the institution ranked as one of America’s top 35 public research universities by the National Science Foundation and boasting approximately $429 million in research funding, top-ranked academic programs, a $1.2 billion endowment, a $3.3 billion regional economic impact and steadily rising enrollment, retention and graduation rates. Currently, UC enjoys record-breaking enrollment of close to 45,000.
2017: 1819 Innovation Hub
The intersection of academia and industry in Cincinnati now has a new address: 2900 Reading Rd. That’s where you’ll find the University of Cincinnati’s new front door to the entrepreneurial and business community — the 1819 Innovation Hub. Named for the year of UC’s founding, the 1819 Innovation Hub occupies a structure built in 1929, but make no mistake: UC’s $38 million investment in the renovation of the cavernous, 133,000-square-foot building signals that the 1819 Innovation Hub is all about UC’s future. It will serve as a creative supercollider, with students, faculty and businesspeople from multiple disciplines working together to develop creative solutions to problems.
As an African American student in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Marian Spencer wasn't permitted to live in a dorm on the University of Cincinnati campus. That makes the honor she received on Dec. 13 from the UC Board of Trustees all the more fitting. The board voted to name the newest residence hall after the civil rights pioneer. The new high-rise residence hall opened on Campus Green in 2018, christened Marian Spencer Hall to honor her activism and her many contributions to the university. For instance, earlier in 2017, she donated 80 years of Cincinnati civil rights history to UC in forms as diverse as music and official memoranda to comprise the “Marian and Donald Spencer Collection.”
On Feb. 20, UC President Neville Pinto launched the university's 10-year Strategic Direction, Next Lives Here. More than a plan, it's a mindset that means leaning boldly into the future, creating new opportunities and solutions in the process. It focuses on fostering the culture and conditions for our campus change agents — students, faculty, staff, alumni and partners — to propel our vision of leading urban public universities into a new era of innovation and impact. As a driver of this vision, UC opened the 1819 Innovation Hub to connect students, faculty, business and nonprofits. The proposed next-door neighbor to UC’s i-Hub is the new, $110-million National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health research facility. As visions like these develop, UC will indeed show that “next” literally does live at our doorstep.
2018: Record-setting enrollment
On Aug. 27, UC began a new school year by capping off six straight years of record enrollments. Total enrollment for fall 2018 stands at 45,949 students. UC’s steadily rising enrollment is proving the exception to both state and national trends.
Featured image at top: The Cincinnati & Clifton Inclined Plane Railroad, also known as the Bellevue Incline, passes over Clifton Avenue with the University Building to the right.