Campus History

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.

What You Didn't Know About Wright State

Historical Timeline


Stanley Allyn meets with Novice Fawcett concerning a proposed state bond that includes a college in the Dayton area.


Community fundraising drive nets $3 million in seed money to establish a public university in the Dayton area.

428-acre parcel of land next to Airway Road and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base purchased.


Founders Robert S. Oleman and Stanley C. Allyn, with Campus Business Manager Frederick A. White, break ground for WSU's first building, Allyn Hall.


The Dayton Campus of Miami University and Ohio State University opens in Allyn Hall September 8 with 3,203 students registered for classes and 55 faculty members. The campus comprised general college, science and engineering, Dayton academic center of Miami University, and graduate center of Ohio State University.


State Bill #210 passed to create WSU as an independent state university, contingent upon enrollment totals.

A contest attracts dozens of suggestions for the university name, from Buckskin University to Whatsamatta U. The Ohio General Assembly approves the name Wright State to honor Dayton's Wright Brothers.


Dr. Brage Golding, dean of Purdue University School of Engineering, is selected as the first Wright State University president.


Wright State receives independent status when enrollment reaches 5,704.

Graduate studies department created.


Wright State University holds its first commencement ceremony on Founders Quadrangle.

Lake Campus branch opens in Celina.

Soccer becomes WSU's first intercollegiate sport. A team of walk-ons, under Coach Bela Wollner, compiles a 8-3-2 record.

WSU receives full accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.


The Ohio General Assembly approves the largest single physical expansion in 20 years with a $14 million appropriation to build the University Library, Creative Arts Center, and Physical Education Building.

John Ross is hired as the first men's basketball coach and varsity games are played at Stebbins High School.

Student Caucus sponsers WrightStock, modeled after Woodstock, on Achilles Hill at the eastern edge of campus.


Hamilton Hall opens, housing the first 242 students to live on campus.

Enrollment reaches 11,000.


The first WSU October Daze is held. The three-day party features a battle of bands, nightly film classics, helicopter rides, and a flea market.

C.J. McLin dedicates the Bolinga Black Cultural Resources Center, which opened on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday to promote understanding of the culture and heritage of black Americans.


WSU established its first women's intercollegiate sports teams: tennis and softball.

Graduating class numbers 2,500.

When President Golding leaves to become president of San Diego State University, vice president and "first employee" Frederick White becomes acting president.


Dr. Robert J. Kegerreis becomes Wright State's second president.

The new University Library and Physical Education Building open.

The School of Nursing admits its first students.


Students organize a drive to raise funds and gather food, clothing, and blankets for victims of the April 4 Xenia tornado. More than $3,000 and 69 van-loads of groceries are collected.

The Creative Arts Center opens, marking a dramatic expansion of the performing arts.


WSU's first appearance in a postseason NCAA tournament comes when the Raider men's baseball team comes in third at the Mideast Regional Tournament. It is Ron Nischwitz's first season as head coach.

First Alumni Teaching Excellence Awards are presented at June commencement.


First students admitted to the School of Medicine.

Controversy swirls around a student request to show the film, Deep Throat. Ironically, while the university seeks an injunction against the showing, Bob Woodward speaks at WSU about Watergate and...Deep Throat.


Governor James Rhodes response to the national energy crisis by ordering businesses to cut their hours and public schools to close. Universities are among the few "essential" institutions allowed to continue regular operations in the 24-county area served by DP&L. Thermostats are lowered, hot water taps turned off, and lights dimmed across campus.

WWSU hits the airwaves as an FM station (88.5) for the first time on April 4. The station originated as a closed-circuit, campus-only station in 1968, extending an AM signal to Hamilton Hall in 1971. (WWSU now broadcasts on 106.9 FM).

Enrollment reaches 14,362.


In January, the heaviest Miami Valley snowfalls since 1918 close the campus from January 16 through 18, and again January 26 and 27.

WSU holds its first Campus Scholarship Campaign, with faculty and staff donating more than $39,000 to provide scholarships for continuing students.


First students admitted to the School of Professional Psychology.

WSU Theater's production of Look Back in Anger is invited to perform at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts by the American College Theatre Festival. Only the top-10 college productions in the nation are invited each year.

WSU men win the Third Annual National Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Tournament.


Theatre in Ohio 1980 survey, published by the Ohio Theater Alliance, lists WSU Theater's audiences as the largest of any college or university in the state. Attendance during 1980 is over 38,000.


The WSU delegation to the National Collegiate Model United Nations returns for the first time with the top award, beginning an unparalleled 16-year streak of bringing home top awards at the annual event.


The WSU men's basketball team, under the direction of Coach Ralph Underhill, wins the NCAA Division II national tournament.

Paraplegic Nan Davis walks at June commencement by means of computer-controlled, electric stimulation research done at Wright State. Dr. Jerrold Petrofsky and his staff gain national attention for their work with paralyzed patients.

The Alumni Association presents its first Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award.


The WSU international student exchange program wins the G. Theodore Mitau Award for Innovation and Change in Higher Education. The award is based on Wright State's unique jobs program for students to fund their participation in exchange programs with Japanese and Brazilian universities.

The WSU Department of Theater Arts wins the first of two Ohio Program Excellence Awards.


Dr. Paige E. Mulhollan becomes the university's third president.

Faculty members Thomas Whissen and David Garrison compose the WSU Alma Mater as part of the university's 20th anniversary celebration. It is performed for the first time at commencement.


WSU Board of Trustees approves a new mission statement, identifying WSU as a "metropolitan university" committed to providing leadership in addressing the educational, social, cultural, economic, and technological needs of the Miami Valley.

Wright State forms a partnership with six area educational institutions and area businesses to form EMTEC, the Edison Materials Technology Engineering Center.

An eight-student team wins the National Intercollegiate Mock Trial Tournament in Iowa, defeating Northwestern University in the finals.

Enrollment nears 17,000.


The College of Education and Human Services, and Dayton Public Schools agree to jointly operate the E.J. Brown School as a "living, learning laboratory."

WSU athletics move to NCAA Division I.

Enrollment hits 17,066.


The Motion Pictures area of the Department of Theater Arts wins an Ohio Program Excellence award.


WSU hosts the first national conference of metropolitan universities and launches an academic journal as a forum for metropolitan universities.

The Financial Services program in the Department of Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate wins an Ohio Program Excellence award.

The Nutter Center opens with commencement and a performance of the Boston Pops Espanade Orchestra.

WSU research funding tops $20 million.


The Kellogg Foundation announces a $2 million grant to WSU to fund The Partners for Community Health Development Project. The project is designed to improve health care delivery to underserved residents of both east and west Dayton, and to develop innovative ways to train health care professionals in medicine, nursing, and psychology.

The largest academic building on campus, the Fritz and Dolores Russ Engineering Center, opens, serving as a centerpiece of engineering and computer science research in the region.

Accounting students take top prize in the nation in the annual Case Competition. (WSU students win again in 1994.)


The Center for Teaching and Learning opens, offering programs and assistance to faculty in improving teaching.

The Women's Center opens.

On-campus housing reaches the 2,000 student level with the addition of The Village, apartment units for graduate and married students.

The men's basketball team wins the MidContinent Conference title and advances to the NCAA tournament.


Dr. Harley E. Flack becomes Wright State's fourth president.

WSU, the University of Dayton, and the Air Force Institute of Technology sign an agreement to create the Dayton Area Graduate Studies Institute (DAGSI) to provide the community with a top-notch advanced engineering education and research center.

Fund-raising efforts exceed $2.7 million.


Virginia Kettering endows $1 million scholarship for geriatric medical education.

External funding tops $26 million.

WSU granted new Ph.D. program in engineerign by Ohio Board of Regents.

Enrollment totals 15,697.


WSU's original production of 1913: The Great Dayton Flood opens the 29th Annual American College Theatre Festival at the Kennedy Center.

WSU breaks ground on a new academic building, which will house the College of Nursing and Health, School of Graduate Studies, and administrative offices.

The Information Technology Research Institute, a cooperative research and development organization, established.

For more information, please see WSU's "Celebrating 40+ Years of History."