Ohio Northern University is a private, United Methodist Church-affiliated university located in the United States in Ada, Ohio, founded by Henry Solomon Lehr in 1871. ONU is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. ONU is a sister university with Dankook University, a private university in Seoul, South Korea. In 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2013 U.S. News & World Report listed Ohio Northern as regional universities midwest, #2, though there are Midwest universities that are ranked equivalently to or higher than Ohio Northern University in the complete United States University rankings.
Henry Solomon Lehr, a former soldier in the American Civil War, became the schoolmaster for the Ada public school in 1866. Lehr began offering additional courses in the evenings to motivated students to cover topics beyond the standard curriculum. After five years, he approached the town about starting a college. In August 1871, the Northwestern Ohio Normal School started with nearly 150 students attending classes in downtown stores and local churches until the first classroom building was completed in October. Lehr built the college, and was involved in all activities, including teaching, construction of buildings, faculty selection and curriculum design. In the post-civil war period, the school’s focus was on training individuals to become public school teachers. By the mid-1880s, the school’s curriculum had expanded to include programs in pharmacy, engineering, law, and business. In 1885, the school trustees changed the name to Ohio Normal University to reflect the expanded aspirations and scope.
President Lehr’s educational philosophy emphasized low tuition, flexible schedule and curriculum, and allowed women as students and faculty. To secure the school’s future, Lehr tried to secure state support for the school, but when that failed, he arranged to transfer the school to the United Methodist Church. When the transfer was completed in 1899, he was succeeded by Dr. Leroy Belt in 1900, and then by Dr. Albert Edwin Smith in 1905.
Between 1900 and 1930, the school grew and was re-organized administratively. During this period, the name changed to Ohio Northern University. A medical school and agriculture school were started, but subsequently closed. As high schools became more common in Ohio, ONU closed its preparatory program, which had allowed students to prepare for college. Dr. Smith traveled extensively on behalf of the school, and secured donations of nearly $500,000 for the first endowment fund. Fraternities had continued presence on campus, and Smith fought to maintain the student code which forbids smoking and drinking.
During the Great Depression and World War II, the school struggled financially as student enrollment dropped. Dr. Robert Williams introduced economy measures by reducing the administrative staff and combining academic programs. During the war years, the university participated in government programs supporting the Army Air Corps and Navy. In the 1940s, both the yearbook and student newspaper ceased publication, a classroom building was closed, and intercollegiate sports were suspended. President McClure served his first year without pay and many of the faculty went unpaid or on reduced salaries.
In 1944, the G.I. Bill enabled veteran military servicemen to attend college across the country. ONU received an influx of students in fall of 1945, and which continued for several years, straining the local housing and forcing the university, under the leadership of Dr. Robert McClure, to add trailers and student dormitories. By 1949, Dr. F. Bringle McIntosh shifted the school’s focus from survival to enhancing academic programs and securing accreditation. During the following years, individual programs were accredited and in 1958 the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools accredited the undergraduate program.
Throughout the 1960s, a number of ONU students and faculty/staff participated in the American Civil Rights Movement. ONU hosted Dr. Martin Luther King on January 11, 1968, four days before his 39th birthday and just three months before his assassination. During his visit at ONU, Dr. King famously spoke regarding the myth that many immigrant and/or ethnic groups successfully pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, whereas African Americans were incapable of doing so.
Under Dr. Samuel Lewis Meyer and Dr. Ray B. Loeschner, the university continued to expand its campus and curriculum, enjoying financial stability from steadily increasing enrollment. In the 1970s, new buildings included the Heterick Memorial Library, the Tilton College of Law and Taggart Law Library, the Wesley Center, the Young Building for Philosophy and Religion, the Biggs Engineering Building, the King-Horn Convocation Center, ONU Sports Center, Park Hall, two McIntosh extensions, along with refurbishing the Taft Building, the Wilson Art Center, and the Meyer Hall of Science. Five national honorary societies established chapters on campus, student organizations grew, and intercollegiate athletic teams expanded.
Growth continued under Dr. DeBow Freed through the 1980s and 1990s with additions to the Taggart Law Library, Presser Hall, Dukes Memorial, Wilson Art Building, Biggs Engineering, Heterick Memorial Library, and Meyer Hall of Science, and the construction of the Freed Center for the Performing Arts and a new president’s on-campus home. Under Dr. Kendall Baker, campus additions include Dicke Hall, an expansion of the Robertson-Evans Pharmacy building, and the Dial-Roberson Stadium. Current construction projects include the Mathile Center for the Natural Sciences annex connecting Meyer Hall of Science with the Pharmacy building and a comprehensive renovation of all on-campus housing. In 2008, Ohio Northern University built and opened The Inn at Ohio Northern University, which contains over 70 deluxe guestrooms. 
Starting in the early 1980s, the university provided computer services to a growing segment of the university’s population, expanding from a centralized mainframe to networked personal computers and a computer network. ONU joined OhioLINK and technology revolutionized academic administrative activities and supported classroom activities. With the addition of the Internet, the university began offering its first distance learning courses in the pharmacy program. Today, there are over 1,200 networked computers and Internet access on campus.
Ohio Northern is ranked second among midwest regional colleges by the U.S. News & World Report. It is considered "more selective", with an acceptance rate of 81.0%. It has an 48% 4-year graduation rate.
More recently, the university has commenced a search for a new president with the announcement that Dr. Kendall L. Baker will retire effective August 2011. On February 4, 2010, ONU announced that its board of trustees approved the nomination of Daniel A. DiBiasio, president of Wilmington College to become the new president of Ohio Northern. DiBiasio assumed his duties on August 1, 2011.
The university comprises five colleges:
Prior to 1973, the law school was known as "the Warren G. Harding College of Law". It was renamed in honor of Claude W. Pettit, a judge and former dean of the college.
ONU students participate in intercollegiate, intramural, and sports clubs in a variety of sports. The ONU Polar Bears compete in the Division III Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC). The men's volleyball team participates in the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association in the Great Midwest Men's Volleyball Conference.