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Our History and Traditions

Take some time to learn how Miami University of Ohio came to be, and about the campus traditions we continue to uphold.

Miami's Will Goes Way Back

As one of the country's first public universities, Miami University was made possible by a law that President George Washington signed in 1795. Our institution was officially chartered in 1809 and welcomed its first students in 1824.

In the following years, Benjamin Harrison would attend, graduate, and go on to serve as the 23rd President of the United States. Another notable alumnus is Professor William Holmes McGuffey, who taught at Miami from 1826 to 1836. During this time, he performed research for his Eclectic Readers series, which would revolutionize education for generations of Americans.

In the years that followed, Miami's reputation grew as quickly as its enrollment. Once referred to as the "Yale of the West" for its ambitious liberal arts curriculum, Miami consistently ranks among the nation's top public universities for the quality of teaching and overall student experience.

"Great Lives Never Go Out; They Go On."

Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd President of the United States from March 1889 to March 1893, was one of Miami University's most famous graduates. Prior to serving as the country's president, Harrison also served as president of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity and the Miami Union Literary Society. He graduated from Miami in June 1852. One of his notable quotes is: "Great lives never go out; they go on."
Portrait of Benjamin Harrison

McGuffey and His Readers

Professor William Holmes McGuffey, who taught at Miami from 1826 to 1836. revolutionized education with his Eclectic Readers' series, also known as the McGuffey Readers. They were first published in 1836 and used as textbooks across the United States for about 100 years. By the end of the 19th century, more than 100 million copies were printed and sold.

William Holmes McGuffey McGuffey Hall, home to the College of Education, Health and Society
Front cover of the first McGuffey Reader.

Inspiring Future Generations

Nellie Craig was a trailblazer who broke new ground both at Miami University and in her community. Miami's first Black graduate has a building named in her honor on the university's Oxford campus. Miami's Board of Trustees approved renaming the Campus Avenue Building after Craig, who graduated from Miami in 1905. (It is now named Nellie Craig Walker Hall.)
Nellie Craig in the center of her class during a group photo
Craig was one of 20 women enrolled in Miami’s Ohio State Normal College (now the College of Education, Health and Society), where she earned her two-year teaching certificate and was the first Black educator to student teach in the Oxford Public School system to a mixed-race classroom.

Traditions That Make Miami Unique

Some fun, some serious. All built to last forever.

Rub the turtle's heads and get a healthy dose of good luck, or walk on the seal and you're going to fail your next exam.

A Model of Public Higher Education for Over Two Centuries

From our start in the early 19th century as a small midwestern college to our transformation into a 21st century international university, Miami University has stood for two centuries as a model of public higher education. Miami University 1809-2009, Bicentennial Perspectives, a historical timeline spanning five different eras of campus life, shows how national social forces and academic culture interacted in the college town of Oxford, Ohio.

Old Miami, 1787–1885

Inventing College Life


  • July 13, Northwest Ordinance passed by Continental Congress
  • September 17, United States Constitution written; ratified 1788


  • September 30, President George Washington signs patent for Symmes Purchase


  • August 3, Miami Tribe signs Treaty of Greenville


  • September 1, commissioners of the legislature locate the Miami College township on public lands in the Cincinnati district


  • February 17, the Miami University chartered by State of Ohio


  • Village of Oxford laid out in the college township; Miami University campus surveyed


  • Log schoolhouse erected on University Square to serve Oxford Township


  • Construction of first classroom building, Franklin Hall (later part of Old Main), begun


  • Proposed relocation of Miami University to Cincinnati defeated in legislature


  • President Robert Hamilton Bishop inaugurated; classes begin


  • Erodelphian Literary Society and Union Literary Society organized


  • First residence hall, North Hall (later Elliott Hall), constructed


  • Chapter of Alpha Delta Phi fraternity established


  • William Holmes McGuffey publishes his first Eclectic Reader
  • Second residence hall, South Hall (later Stoddard Hall), constructed


  • Oxford Theological Seminary established


  • Alpha chapter of Beta Theta Pi fraternity founded


  • President George Junkin inaugurated


  • President Junkin issues Laws of Miami University for Government of the Faculty and Students


  • President Junkin resigns following student disruptions


  • President Erasmus D. MacMaster inaugurated


  • Conflict among literary societies, board, and faculty
  • Miami Tribe removed from traditional lands to western territories


  • January 12, Old Main sealed with snow, seventeen students dismissed or depart
  • December 27, Alpha chapter of Phi Delta Theta fraternity founded


  • President MacMaster resigns
  • President William C. Anderson inaugurated; joins Phi Delta Theta fraternity
  • Oxford Female Institute (later Oxford College) chartered; John W. Scott, principal


  • Chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity established


  • Western Female Seminary (later Western College) chartered; Helen Peabody, principal


  • Oxford Female College chartered; John W. Scott, principal
  • President John W. Hall inaugurated


  • Alpha chapter of Sigma Chi fraternity founded


  • Junction Railroad reaches Oxford


  • April 12, American Civil War begins
  • Ozro Dodds, student, and Professor Robert W. McFarland form volunteer companies for Union


  • President Robert L. Stanton inaugurated; seeks new funding sources for Miami


  • Andrew D. Hepburn named president


  • National financial panic, low enrollment, no endowment; trustees suspend operation


  • Miami Classical School and Miami Classical and Scientific Training School operate on campus


  • President Robert W. McFarland takes office; Miami reopens classes

New Miami, 1885–1941

Embracing Professionalism


  • Miami reopens; Robert White McFarland (1885–88) assumes the presidency


  • Oxford Female College confers baccalaureate degrees


  • Five women admitted as "special students" by trustee resolution of June 21


  • Ethelbert Dudley Warfield (1888–91) assumes the presidency
  • First football game played, against University of Cincinnati


  • William Oxley Thompson (1891–99) assumes the presidency
  • Miami admits seventeen women students


  • Brice Hall, first donated building, constructed for science instruction; Calvin Brice, donor
  • Alumnae Hall built at Western College, James Renwick Jr., architect; Olivia Meily (Mrs. Calvin) Brice, donor


  • Miami builds a baseball field
  • Western College and Seminary confers baccalaureate degrees


  • Miami Field constructed for football
  • Sleeper Bill provides first regular annual appropriation from State of Ohio


  • Herron Gymnasium (later Van Voorhis Hall) constructed


  • David Stanton Tappan (1899–1902) assumes the presidency


  • Three of sixteen women at Miami awarded bachelor's degrees


  • The Ohio State Normal College established in Oxford
  • Guy Potter Benton (1902–11) assumes the presidency
  • Delta Zeta, a fraternal organization for women, founded


  • Nellie Craig, first African American woman, enrolls; earns Normal College diploma in 1905


  • Hepburn Hall constructed as first residence hall for women


  • New Administration/Auditorium Building (later Benton Hall, Hall Auditorium) constructed


  • First Alumni Campaign matches a Carnegie Award to build Alumni Library
  • South Pavilion, Normal College (later McGuffey Hall), constructed


  • Earl Kelley, first identified male African American enrolled (1902), earns Normal College diploma


  • Raymond Mollyneaux Hughes (1911–27) assumes the presidency


  • Bishop Hall constructed as residence for women


  • United States enters World War I


  • Miami "No-Horse Rule" replaced by "No-Car Rule"


  • Wells Hall constructed as residence for women


  • University Hospital (later MacMillan Hall) constructed
  • Ogden Hall constructed as residence for men, and student center
  • New Freshman Dormitory (later Swing Hall) constructed as residence for men


  • Oxford Retreat main building (former Oxford Female College) purchased, renamed Fisher Hall
  • Irvin Hall, first fully neo-Georgian classroom building, constructed as recitation building


  • Alfred Horatio Upham (1928–45) assumes the presidency
  • School of Business Administration (later Farmer School of Business) founded, located in Irvin Hall
  • Oxford College for Women acquired; main building renovated for women's residence


  • School of Fine Arts founded


  • Center section, Hughes Hall (later Kreger Hall), constructed for chemistry
  • Withrow Court constructed for men's athletics and physical education, and assembly hall


  • North and South dormitories renovated in neo-Georgian style, named Elliott Hall and Stoddard Hall


  • New Freshman Dormitory Number One (later Symmes Hall) constructed for men


  • North Residence Hall (later Hamilton Hall) constructed as residence for women


  • South Hall (later Richard Hall) constructed as residence for women
  • Beta Theta Pi Campanile constructed

National University, 1941–1970

Expanding Access


  • December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Naval Station attacked; United States enters World War II
  • War depletes civilian enrollment, military training schools prepare 10,000 recruits and reserves


  • President Alfred H. Upham dies in office; A. K. Morris, acting president, 1945&#8211 ;46


  • Ernest H. Hahne (1946–52) assumes the presidency; "Veterans' Village" ("Vetville") erected
  • Graduate School established as a separate academic division


  • John E. Dolibois named executive secretary of Miami Alumni Association


  • Reid Hall residence for men, Rowan Hall Naval ROTC building constructed
  • Upham Hall center section (humanities) constructed; north wing, 1950, and south wing , 1965 (natural sciences)


  • WMUB FM Radio founded


  • President Hahne dies; Clarence W. Kreger, acting president, 1952–53
  • Billings Natatorium, Collins and McBride residence halls constructed; Tallawanda Hall (1908) acquired


  • John D. Millett (1953–64) assumes the presidency


  • East Dining Hall (later "East End") constructed by Armco Steel with two cafeteria lines to serve 700


  • Porter residence hall, Administration Building (later Roudebush Hall) constructed


  • Work begins on Dennison (1958), Center (later MacCracken, 1961), Scott (1957) residence halls
  • University Center (later Phillip R. Shriver Center) constructed


  • Sesquicentennial celebration year, 1958–59; Old Main (old Harrison Hall) demolished
  • Walter Havighurst publishes The Miami Years (revised 1969 and 1984)
  • Hiestand Hall (School of Fine Arts), Miami Manor (married student housing) constructed


  • School of Applied Science founded; Dean of Educational Services created
  • Senator John F. Kennedy speaks at Miami Field; Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks in University Center
  • McGuffey House (1833) acquired for museum; designated National Historic Landmark, 1966
  • Bishop Memorial Gates; Sesquicentennial Chapel; Brandon, Dennison north wing, McFarland residence halls constructed
  • February 17, "Sesquicentennial Convocation" marks Miami's first formal Charter Day
  • Laws Hall (business administration), Williams Hall (WMUB studios, communication) constructed


  • Harrison Hall (social sciences) on site of Old Main, John W. Browne Stables constructed


  • Anderson, Dodds, Stanton, MacCracken (addition) residence halls; Harris, Erickson dining halls constructed
  • Culler Hall (natural sciences) constructed


  • Edwin Fulwider's Biography of a University mural created for University Center Heritage Room
  • Delta Delta Delta Sundial constructed
  • Dorsey, Minnich residence halls; Warfield Hall (Student Affairs) constructed
  • Phillips Hall (physical education), MacMillan Hospital center wing constructed


  • John D. Millett resigns presidency, named first chancellor of Ohio Board of Regents
  • Mississippi Summer Project student volunteers train on Western College campus


  • Phillip R. Shriver (1965–81) assumes the presidency


  • Miami University Middletown founded
  • Flower, Hahne residence halls; King Library phase one constructed


  • Shideler Hall (geography and geology), Murstein Alumni Center constructed


  • Miami University Hamilton founded
  • Miami European Center (named for John E. Dolibois, 1988), opened
  • Benton Hall (psychology), Millett Hall (assembly hall, sports arena) constructed


  • Institute for Environmental Sciences founded
  • McGuffey Laboratory School, Center for Performing Arts (theatre and music) constructed
  • Emerson and Morris residence halls constructed


  • Tappan residence hall, Hughes Laboratories (chemistry) constructed
  • April 15, Rowan Hall occupied by war protesters and Black Student Action Association, 176 arrested
  • April 16, strike called, Oxford Campus; May 4, four students killed by National Guard at Kent State University
  • May 7, President Shriver closes Oxford campus; reopens May 17

Public Ivy, 1970–1996

Cultivating Image


  • David G. Brown (1970–82) appointed provost and vice president for academic affairs


  • Institute for Environmental Sciences, formed 1969, admits first students


  • King Library completed


  • Unbeaten Miami football team defeats University of Florida in Tangerine Bowl
  • McKie Field constructed for baseball
  • Old Manse (1852) acquired (campus ministry, later comparative religion)


  • Miami Mission Statement rewritten to emphasize national aspirations
  • Western College, Oxford's last educational institution for women, closes, merges with Miami and campus acquired Langstroth Cottage (1856), Peabody Hall (1860/1871), Tenney Gateway (1890s), Alumnae Hall (1892), Patterson Place (1898), McKee Hall (1904), Sawyer Gymnasium (1914), Kelley Studio (1916), Clark Gate (c. 1916), Kumler Chapel (1918), Western Bridges (1920s), Ernst Nature Theatre (1922), Western Steam Plant (1924), Mary Lyon Hall (1925), Western Lodge (1926), Presser Hall (1931), Stancote House (1932), Corson House (1930s), Clawson Hall (1946), Boyd Hall (1947), Alexander Dining Hall (1962), Thompson Hall (1963), Hoyt Library (1971)


  • Goggin Ice Arena constructed for hockey and recreational sports


  • Multicultural Center opens in Bishop Hall


  • Women's Studies first available as a certificate-transcript notation
  • Miami Art Museum constructed


  • Phillip R. Shriver teaches first course in history of Miami University
  • Bachelor Hall constructed (English, mathematics and statistics, speech and hearing clinic)
  • "Greening of the Future" Lilly Grant initiates Miami faculty development programs


  • Paul G. Pearson (1981–92) assumes the presidency
  • A new University Honors Program approved by University Senate with Honors Center in Bishop Hall


  • Summer reading program for all entering students inaugurated
  • Marcum Conference Center constructed on site of Fisher Hall, former Oxford Female College


  • Bob Kurz, Class of 1958, publishes Miami of Ohio: The Cradle of Coaches
  • Miami Field Gates relocated to newly constructed Yager Stadium
  • Walter and Marian Boyd Havighurst Hall constructed on Western Campus


  • 175th Anniversary Convocation, Millett Hall


  • Richard Moll's The Public Ivys ranks Miami a "Best Buy" for quality


  • University Liberal Education Review and Reform Project
  • April 6, 1987, "Liberal Education at Miami University: A Statement of Principles" adopted
  • February 27, 1989, "The Miami Plan for Liberal Education" adopted by University Senate
  • January 1, 1990, University Director of Liberal Education, Liberal Education Council named


  • Art Building, Biological Sciences Building (named Pearson Hall 1993) constructed


  • Rita Dove, Class of 1973, awarded Pulitzer Prize for poetry


  • Myrtis Powell, first African American vice president, named vice president, student affairs


  • Number of students living off campus in Oxford surpasses number living on campus
  • Miami Metro bus system established


  • Paul G. Risser (1993–95) assumes the presidency


  • Recreational Sports Center constructed


  • December, Risser resigns to become president, Oregon State University
  • Provost Anne H. Hopkins becomes first woman to assume acting presidency (1995–96)

Corporate University, 1996–2009

Encountering the Education Marketplace


  • James C. Garland assumes the presidency
  • Health Services Center constructed
  • Global Rhythms World Music Ensemble founded


  • Responding to the Miami Tribe, trustees change mascot from "Redskins" to "RedHawks"
  • Institute for Learning in Retirement established
  • No-car rule ends: Seniors allowed to purchase automobile permits; juniors 1998; sophomores 2004


  • Oxford water tower demolished
  • Campus-wide Institutional Diversity Plan released
  • Ditmer Field Parking Lot completed


  • Wally Szerbiak scores 43 points defeating Washington in NCAA Basketball Tournament
  • Responding to Title IX and President Garland's recommendation, Division I men's soccer, tennis, and wrestling are eliminated
  • School of Engineering and Applied Science created from former School of Applied Science


  • Responding to Oxford NAACP, President Garland creates Freedom Summer Memorial on Western Campus
  • Michael J. Colligan History Project created at Hamilton campus
  • Women's Studies becomes a major
  • Provost Ronald Crutcher creates First in 2009 Coordinating Council


  • Integrated Strategic Plan for the Arts at Miami presented to board of trustees
  • Campus Master Plan for 2009 initiated, projecting $500 million of construction
  • Verlin Pulley Bell Tower constructed
  • MacMillan Hall renovated to create Center for American and World Cultures; opened 2003


  • Child Development Center constructed on Western Campus


  • PhD Program in Gerontological Studies established
  • Vice President for Information Technology position created
  • Division I night football first televised on ESPN from Yager Stadium
  • Ben Roethlisberger quarterbacks Miami to MAC championship and GMAC Bowl win


  • President Garland releases strategic vision statement, First in 2009: The Spirit of a Remarkable University
  • Women's precision skating team wins national championship


  • For Love and Honor capital campaign announced, with $300 million goal
  • Richard T. Farmer designates Miami's largest gift to Farmer School of Business
  • Heritage Commons Apartments for students (six buildings) constructed


  • Information Technology Strategic Plan creates an entirely wireless campus
  • Campus Avenue Garage constructed
  • Goggin Ice Arena (1975) demolished, larger Goggin Ice Center constructed near Recreational Sports Center
  • Psychology Building constructed, to begin a new academic quad north of High Street
  • Trustees terminate the School of Interdisciplinary Studies (Western College Program)
  • David C. Hodge assumes the presidency
  • For Love and Honor campaign goal increased to $500 million to fund professorships and a Bicentennial Student Center


  • Women's Softball Stadium constructed
  • School of Engineering and Applied Science facilities constructed in new academic quad


  • North Parking Garage completed


  • Farmer School of Business facilities completion target
  • Voice of America Learning Center for workforce transition completion target, near Interstate 75