Founded in 1842 on “liberal principles,” Ohio Wesleyan has a long tradition of being integrated, secular (though informed by Methodist values), activist, and internationalist. Many of its buildings went up during the late 19th century as enrollment and the endowment grew, and the school went co-ed. Another building boom happened during the early 20th century, before the Depression.
The Great Depression threatened to shut the school down altogether, but OWU adjusted its curriculum, deemphasizing Latin and Greek and encouraging the study of business administration and economics. It managed to continue attracting enough interest to survive.
Academic standards began to decline in the 1970s, and the school’s reputation suffered. A change in leadership in 1985 halted the slide, and now OWU is consistently ranked among the top 100 liberal arts colleges in the nation.
OWU’s 200-acre campus is divided between East and West by Sandusky Street, Delaware, Ohio’s version of a Berlin wall. It separates mostly academic buildings (East) from dorms and the administration (West).
The architecture varies widely. White and yellow Elliott Hall in the East, the college’s first home and the state of Ohio’s oldest Greek Revival building, dates from 1835. University Hall on the Academic Quad, by contrast, was built in 1893 and is a Neo-Romanesque structure—tall, stone, turreted. And Stuyvesant Hall, the oldest West Campus dorm still in use, was built in 1930 and features a broad, stately, and bright red brick facade.
Many more buildings have sprung up in the past couple decades, including the modernist Hamilton-Williams Campus Center, which has become a focal point for student life. There, students can find the bookstore, the Student Mail Room, a food court, lounges, meeting rooms, the Women's Resource Center, Counseling Services, and the University Chaplain, as well as several relevant administrative offices (Greek Life, Student Life, Dining Services, Residential Life, and Student Involvement).
Delaware, Ohio, is admired for being quaint and charming. It provides students with the basic necessities, offering excellent pizza and ice cream, but leaves the big city excitement to Columbus, which is only half an hour away. Students tend to go to that bigger city both to get away and to mentor public school students.
Town-gown relations are warm: the Arts Castle, a cultural touchstone, was originally a gift from the college, and OWU is currently renovating the Strand Theater downtown.
Blue Limestone Park is also close by and accessible to nature-loving students with cars.
Monnett Weekend: Originally a springtime festival at the women’s college where the female students danced around a Maypole and men hid in foliage to watch. Now co-ed, the celebration features a “People’s Parade,” clowns, and a carnival, as well as faculty lectures and a recital by the Choral Arts Society.
The President’s Ball: A formal dance that occurs in early December.
Unity Through Music: A celebration of different musical styles culminating in a dance in the Campus Center.
Springfest: A mid-April event, featuring high-profile musical acts.
Vice President Charles W. Fairbanks (1872) was famous for being spurned by President Teddy Roosevelt for William Howard Taft.
Lucy Webb Hayes (1853) was the first First Lady to hold a college degree.
Wesley Branch Rickey (1904) was the Major League Baseball executive who first signed Jackie Robinson and then drafted Roberto Clemente.
Frank Sherwood Rowland (1948) won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Mary King (1962) was a civil rights worker.
Ohio Wesleyan’s Division III Battling Bishops have 21 varsity and 16 intramural teams to choose from, with men’s and women’s soccer and men’s and women’s lacrosse being the most popular. The school plays in the North Coast Athletic Conference, and its fiercest rivalry is with nearby Denison College's lacrosse team. Men’s golf has also been historically successful, with eleven NCAC championships. On the whole, OWU has 100 conference championships overall, which puts it ahead of Denison and Kenyon. Club sports include hockey, rugby, and chess.
Ohio Wesleyan usually ranks among the top ten liberal arts colleges in the country for having the highest percentage of international students.
It is a member of the Five Colleges of Ohio Consortium, including Denison, Oberlin, Kenyon, and the College of Wooster.
The Sulfur Spring on campus used to be the focal point of a spa that existed on the school's grounds before the school was built.
Stuyvesant, Thompson, Bashford, and Smith are large dorms known for parties and, in Smith’s case, for being the most recently renovated and freshmen-only.
Welch, a “quiet dorm,” is for Honors students.
Hayes is the only all-female dorm.
Small Living Units (SLUs) are co-ops for upperclassmen. Each house contains 15 students and is organized around a theme, such as Peace and Justice, Creative Arts, or Foreign Languages.
Juniors and seniors are allowed to live off-campus. Seventeen percent of the total student body opts to leave the dorms behind.