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The History of Hiram College 

The Western Reserve 
Eclectic Institute at Hiram, Ohio in the 1850s


    Hiram College was established in 1850 as a preparatory institution of high grade called the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute.  It was founded by the Disciples of Christ and located in Hiram, Ohio because the founders believed this area of the Western Reserve to be healthful and free of distractions.  It has been nonsectarian and coeducational from the beginning.  The original charter was authorized by the state legislature on March 1, 1850 and modified in 1867 to recognize the institution's new collegiate rank when it became Hiram College. 
    During the "Eclectic" years, from 1850-1867, there were seven principals, all but two serving very brief terms.  Amos Sutton Hayden and James A. Garfield were the principals who did most to establish the nature of the institution.  Hayden was a Disciple minister who, along with his brother William and several others, took the initiative for the founding of a Disciple school on the Reserve.  He then guided the school through the rough waters of its first six years. 

Amos Sutton Hayden,

William Hayden,

Almeda A. Booth,
c. 1857


    Garfield was a student at the Institute from 1851-1853 and rose to prominence through his intellectual ability and personal charisma.  He took two years away to complete his collegiate degree at Williams College, then returned in 1856 to become first a teacher, then principal of the Institute.  Garfield was a classical scholar and taught Greek and Latin, along with such subjects as Mathematics and Geology.  Recognizing the value of formal education, Garfield broadened the curriculum offered at the Institute and insisted on its nonsectarian character.  Although he left Hiram in 1861 to take up the Civil War command of Company A of the 42nd Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, a regiment recruited from Hiram, his name appeared in the Institute's catalogues until 1863. Throughout his life, he retained his fondness for Hiram, making frequent visits and corresponding with numerous Hiram people.  Two of his greatest friends were Almeda Booth, teacher of English, Classics and Mathematics from 1851 to 1866, and Burke A. Hinsdale.

James A. Garfield, c. 1856


Burke A. Hinsdale, 1870


    Three years after the Institute attained collegiate rank and became known as Hiram College, Burke A. Hinsdale was appointed president.  Again because of the fairly brief terms of the two presidents who preceded him, Hinsdale is known as the first permanent president of Hiram College.  During his administration (1870-1882), the College achieved higher academic standing and set an ideal of intellectual honesty and sound scholarship.  Hinsdale gathered around him the nucleus of a strong faculty who continued to serve the College for the next half century.

Hinsdale's "permanent" faculty

Edmund B. Wakefield,
Science, Bible, 
Political Science, 1869-1911

George Henry Colton,
Science, 1870-1926

Colman Bancroft,
Mathematics, 1875-1914


George Alfred Peckham,
Classics, Bible, 1880-1926

Bailey Sutton Dean,
English, History, 1882-1915

    Ely V. Zollars was the next president to make a distinct mark on the College.  Serving from 1888-1902, he substantially increased student enrollment, established a productive endowment, and carried out a building program that added a dormitory, an administration building, and a library/observatory to the campus.


ElyV. Zollars, c. 1890

Association Building, home of the 
YM/YWCA groups, 1900


Teachout-Cooley Library and Observatory
with Old Main in the background, 1901

Miner L. Bates, Class of 1895

    President Miner Lee Bates, a Hiram alumnus of the Class of 1895, served from 1907-1930.  Much beloved by all Hiram constituencies, he worked hard to reinforce the college's academic reputation, added several new buildings and a wing to the library, and led two successful capital campaigns.


Kenneth I. Brown, 1931

    Bates was followed as president by Kenneth I. Brown, a 30-year-old Harvard graduate who, more than anyone else, established Hiram's reputation for innovative education.  Under Brown (1930-40), the faculty tested and approved the Intensive Study Plan, whereby students took only one course in each of five 7-week terms.  The innovative plan was highly successful and was reviewed in prestigious education journals as well as in the Saturday Evening Post in an article titled "The Happiest College in the Land" (September 18, 1954).


Centennial Hall, 1950s

Paul Fall, c. 1955


Hiram students traveled abroad in 1950.

During the 1950s, 
Hiram College leased the Showboat Majestic 
for a summer course that entertained at towns 
along the Ohio and connecting rivers.

    Hiram's next president, Paul H. Fall (1940-1957) saw the college through the war years and administered the Intensive Study Plan for 250 Army Air Force cadets in training at Hiram as well as the college's traditional students.  The College's 100th anniversary in 1950 was celebrated with the dedication of Centennial Hall, a new dormitory for women.  The decade of the 50s saw two more Hiram innovations, the inauguration of "study abroad" or extramural courses and a summer Speech course on the Showboat Majestic.  Although showboat summers no longer occur for Hiram students, the College still sends numerous classes abroad each year, and the students are taught by the Hiram faculty who accompany them.

Paul Sharp, c. 1960

Elmer Jagow, 1967

    Paul F. Sharp (1957-1964) and Elmer Jagow (1966-1985) presided over a 30-year period of expansion which included a substantial increase in the student body and in the amount of the college's endowment, as well as the addition of three dormitories, Art and Music buildings, a student union, and a new main classroom building.  Jagow's administration also focused intensively on increasing minority enrollment and a minority presence among faculty and staff.  Curricular innovations included the "Twentieth Century Course," the Freshman Colloquium program which is still a backbone of the curriculum, the Weekend College for adult nontraditional students, and the Regional Studies initiative, whereby faculty use Hiram's location on the Western Reserve as a laboratory in which to focus their academic disciplines.

The Hiram College Library, 2001

The Martin Common leading to
Gerstacker Science Hall, 2001

    Under G. Benjamin Oliver (1989-2000), the campus expanded significantly with the addition of the new library, the Esther and Carl Gerstacher Science Building, and the Paul E. Martin Common.  Yet another innovation was the conversion of the academic calendar to a 12-3 split semester plan.  Students enroll in three courses during each of the 12-week terms and take only one intensive course in each 3-week term.  The 3-week intensives lend themselves particularly to study abroad programs.


G. Benjamin Oliver, 1990

Richard J. Scaldini, 2001

    The College's Sesquicentennial in 2000 and the inauguration of President Richard J. Scaldini in September, 2001 celebrated Hiram's rich past while embracing a promising future.  Scaldini served Hiram for three years before resigning to work as a consultant to higher education institutions.  His accomplishments at Hiram include establishing an incentive program to foster entrepreneurial thinking and new business practices, and streamlining the College's strategic planning efforts.

Thomas V. Chema, September 2003

    Thomas V. Chema was named Interim President of Hiram College in June, 2003 and was formally named the 21st President of Hiram College on Feb. 2, 2004.  Prior to his appointment at Hiram, Chema served the institution as a board member and chairman of the Institutional Advancement Committee, which oversees fundraising, enrollment management and the institution's overall reputation.  He has extensive experience leading large and highly visible organizations including the Gateway Development Corporation, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), and the Ohio Lottery Commission.

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