Soon after Ohio was granted statehood in 1803, legislators set aside a plot of land known as “College Township” to set up Miami University. The school was established in 1809 to educate students in a nondenominational setting on the western edge of the United States. Miami attracted students from a rapidly growing Midwest population, and three fraternities (Beta Theta Pi, Sigma Chi, and Phi Delta Theta, known as the “Miami Triad") got their start in Oxford during the mid-19th century. After gaining a reputation as the “Yale of the Early West,” Miami was nearly shuttered when Civil War rivalries divided Northern and Southern families and pushed nearly all of its students onto the battlefield. Miami’s student population plummeted, the school sank under a pile of debt, and the school closed in 1873.
Miami alum and Ohio legislators banded together to re-launch “New Miami” as a co-ed liberal arts institution in 1885. The school slowly gained traction, absorbing nearby women’s colleges Oxford College (1929) and Western College for Women (1974). During the mid-20th century, Miami expanded its student body to 15,000 undergraduates and made room for all of them by opening two satellite campuses in Hamilton and Middletown, as well as a European campus in Luxembourg.
Miami has a reputation as one of the most picturesque college campuses in the country. Administrators have made a conscious effort to preserve the natural beauty created by grassy quads and stately old trees, as well as architectural unity among the structures. Red-brick Georgian revival buildings stay low so as not to tower over the tree-line (or the iconic Beta Bell tower, which dominates the skyline), and except for the oldest buildings in the Western Campus section and Art Museum, they all stick close to the same red-brick-and-white-pillar facade. Walkways replace roads as the primary way to get around. They fan out from the administrative and athletic facilities on the north end to the cluster of dorms and classrooms in the center and end at the museums, cultural centers, and quieter residential buildings down-campus.
Students report that Oxford isn’t just a college town, the college is the town—which makes sense, since Oxford was designed to house Miami students and employees. Miamians joke that the school is surrounded by corn fields. While the corn is a bit of a stretch, it is roughly a 40-minute drive from the nearest highway to get to Oxford. The uptown portion adjacent to the university is populated by small restaurants, pubs, and stores to give Miami students a chance to get off campus for a while. A little further away from campus, uptown Oxford has a few social options for the younger townie crowd. For cash-strapped college kids, the local Wal-Mart branch is a retail mecca. But for the city experience, most students report heading down the road an hour to Cincinnati.
Miami’s athletic traditions aren’t as consequential as those at, say, USC, but the sense of tradition makes several sporting events among the highlights of Miami’s fall season. The “Battle for the Victory Bell” pits Miami against the University of Cincinnati for year-long possession of the Victory Bell. The original bell, property of Miami, was stolen in the 1890s by rowdy Cincinnati fans, and since then, the teams have allowed the winner to take the bell home (although the original was replaced by a replica trophy in the 1940s). The other is the “Battle of the Bricks,” a year-long, all-sports competition between Miami and Ohio University that tallies points for every win or loss in a varsity match-up between the two schools over the entire season. The series gets its name from both universities’ distinctive use of brick in on-campus buildings, and the trophy—two bricks supported by pillars, reminiscent of Miami's architecture—goes to whomever gets the most wins by year’s end.
Of course, it wouldn’t be college without drinking rituals, and Miami’s annual homage to overconsumption is Green Beer Day. Celebrated on the Thursday before St. Patrick’s Day, Miami students set their alarms extra-early and hit Oxford bars to enjoy cheap and plentiful green-tinted beer, as well as green-tinted delicacies like green eggs and ham. The fun’s not over until every participant has shown off his or her green tongue.
Walking on the Miami seal at the center of campus is said to be bad luck. Students who dare can find out for themselves whether it really does mean they’ll never graduate. But if you want to find a tradition that everyone believes in, stop by off-campus sandwich shop Bagel & Deli for a late-night snack—although you’ll be waiting in line behind half the Miami student body.
Benjamin Harrison (1852) was the 23rd president of the United States.
P.J. O’Rourke (1969) is a political satirist and journalist whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone and The Atlantic.
Ben Roethlisberger (2004) was the youngest quarterback in history to win the Super Bowl, with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Thomas Mallory (1961) is an orthopedic surgeon and creator of a hip-replacement prosthesis.
Mike DeWine (1969) is a Republican U.S. senator from Ohio.
Calvin Brice (1863)was a Democratic U.S. senator from Ohio.
Brad Alford (1978) is the CEO and chairman of Nestle USA.
Maria Cantwell (1981) is a Democratic U.S. senator from Washington.
While sports fans may not know much about Miami’s Division I athletic teams, they will probably recognize one of the many names that have risen to prominence from the basketball and Division I-A football programs, known nationally as the “Cradle of Coaches.” Over the centuries, a number of prominent college and professional coaches from the NCAA, NFL, and NBA got their starts either coaching or playing for the Red Hawks.
Beyond football, Miami generally excels within the Mid-American Conference in any number of sports—its women’s teams collectively won the Jacoby Trophy for all-around conference excellence in the 2007-2008 season. And off the field, Miami boats some of the best-rounded student-athletes in the country, historically claiming the highest student-athlete graduation rates after the Navy.
In addition to the standard varsity and intramural offerings for both men and women, Miami has carved a niche in the specialized sport of women’s synchronized ice skating, now the largest women’s sport on campus. The team has competed across the world and is usually a strong medal contender at the U.S. and World Synchronized Skating Championships.
The Tri-Del Sundial tells the correct time about 4 times a year. It is, however, always decorated with turtles.
The first Miami students were called to class with a bugle instead of a bell.
The Miami Student claims to be the oldest student newspaper in the country, although Dartmouth College students lay claim to the same distinction.
The inscription on a piece of sculpture on Miami’s campus reads, “To think that in such a place, I led such a life.” This has become the unofficial motto for Miami students.
According to a Miami student: “Dorms at Miami are divided into four main quads, and each has a different theme. When you apply to Miami, you are asked to pick from a list of various “communities,” which determines where you will live as a freshman. You’ll have no idea what community to pick or what it means to live in one of these “communities.” Don’t worry--at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter because after orientation you’ll never really hear about your community again.
"If you choose a sports-oriented or physically active community, you will end up on South Quad. The bonus to this is that you are close to the Rec and sporting facilities. The downside is that the dorms are some of the oldest with the smallest rooms and no A.C.
"If you choose anything academic or humanities-based, you will end up on East Quad. The crowd usually ends up being pretty laid-back. But be warned—-East Quad is a hike from Uptown and all other dorms.
"If you’re an athlete, you will be on North Quad. If you are into dating athletes you can try and score a place here, since it also houses upperclassman. The bonus to this area is the eye candy for sure, but the downside is that as an outsider to the athletic community you have slim pickings in terms of meeting as many new people.
"The final quad is Central Quad. This is used to house sorority girls after they rush, because Miami does not allow sorority houses. You’ll be in close proximity to all your sisters if you rush. The down side is that you are in close proximity to ALL of your sisters if you rush. There aren’t many guys living in this area. Other random dorms exist throughout campus but they are for special interests such as the honors dorm.
"The actual dorm facilities vary on campus, but most dorms are pretty old, small and devoid of A.C. Most are three floors and are co-ed, one of the greatest parts of college life by far. Each dorm has a resident adviser per corridor, and depending on the RA, that arrangement make dorm partying tricky at times. Miami is in the process of making students live on campus as freshmen and sophomores, but the allure of off-campus life shacked up with friends in a student-friendly Oxford house may be too strong."