The groundwork establishing Wright State University as the region's first public institution of higher learning was first laid in 1961, when Dayton was the second-largest metropolitan area in Ohio that had no public higher education facility. This lack had become critical due to Dayton's emerging presence as a high-technology center that needed an increasingly educated work force. Thanks to the foresight of many key community business leaders, a community-wide fundraising effort was begun in 1962 to raise "seed money" from private funds to establish a branch campus of The Ohio State University and Miami University in or near Dayton. The ultimate goal was to establish a campus with the potential to grow and quickly transition into an independent university.
This effort was truly a campaign of the people. The larger employers, such as General Motors and National Cash Register, established payroll deduction plans.
More than 2,000 campaign workers recruited 10,000 contributers, who pushed the campaign over its $3 million goal in just over three months. The land needed for the campus was partially purchased and partially deeded to the state by the U.S. Government from available land adjacent to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and the construction of the campus' first building, Allyn Hall, was completed. In 1964, the Dayton Campus of Ohio State and Miami Universities was opened. In 1967, the Dayton Campus achieved status as an accredited independent university, and the newly named Wright State University became Ohio's 12th state-assisted university.
During its early history, Wright State was characterized by rapid growth. When the then branch campus opened, 3,203 students were enrolled. That number increased to just over 12,000 by 1974, and, by 1984, that figure jumped to about 15,500. The 1990s saw student enrollment remain steady at around 16,000. More recently, growth in other areas has occurred. For example, WSU ranks third among Ohio's state-assisted colleges and public universities in sponsored research.
Over the years, Wright State has provided additional resources to accommodate the traditional, residential student. Hamilton Hall, a traditional dormitory-style residence hall that houses up to 322 students, was built in 1970 and remained for a time the sole residence hall for the university. However, in 1980, the first phase of a multicomplex housing community opened, marking the university's new focus on attracting residential students. Today, university housing also includes apartments and housing geared for nontraditional and older students as well as for families.
For more information about the early history of Wright State University, please see Founding and Fulfillment: The History of Wright State University. The WSU Retirees Association is collecting oral history interviews with faculty, staff, and students from the early days of Wright State; these interviews are available in CORE Scholar, the campus online repository.