Brief History

An act of Congress signed by George Washington in 1792 stipulated that a university be located in the Miami Valley north of the Ohio River. The official act to establish Miami University was passed on February 17, 1809. Miami is the tenth oldest public university in the nation and takes its name from the tribe that once inhabited the area known as Ohio’s Miami Valley.

Delayed by the War of 1812, instruction began in 1824 with a president, two faculty, and 20 students. Enrollment grew rapidly, reaching 250 by 1839.

In the 1830s, William Holmes McGuffey wrote the first of his Eclectic Readers while a Miami professor. Among the many talented young students was Benjamin Harrison who graduated in 1852; he was elected the 23rd president of the United States in 1888.

A few years after the Civil War, with changed conditions and advancing prices, the income of the university became insufficient to support its work. Miami closed in 1873, opening 12 years later when resources had accumulated and the state of Ohio began a policy of appropriating public funds for support.

Coeducation began in 1888; by 1903 there were more than 100 women on campus—one third of the total enrollment. Our first African American student, Nelly Craig, graduated in 1905.

Many other milestones have been reached. The concept of artist-in-residence began here. Beginning in 1835, four national fraternities were founded here, giving Miami a nickname, "Mother of Fraternities." Another nickname is "Cradle of Coaches," referring to the coaching success of so many former players and coaches. Ohio's first intercollegiate football game was played at Miami in 1888 against the University of Cincinnati.

In the beginning, the course of study at Miami was strictly classical. Over the years, new academic divisions were added to meet the changing needs of students and society: education in 1902, business in 1927, fine arts in 1929, graduate programs in 1947, engineering and applied science in 1959, and interdisciplinary studies in 1974.

In 1974, Miami acquired the Western College for Women, a 120-year-old private institution adjoining the Oxford campus.

Miami’s Middletown and Hamilton campuses opened in 1966 and 1968, respectively. Also in 1968, Miami opened a European center, now named John E. Dolibois European Campus, in Luxembourg. Miami’s Voice of America Learning Center in West Chester opened in 2009.

A number of campus buildings are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, including Elliott, Stoddard, and Peabody halls, and the Western College for Women Historic District. The McGuffey Museum is a National Historic Landmark.

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