From Woody's Couch

Our Playbook on OSU History

Category: People (page 1 of 50)

Everything but the Kitchen Sink: One man’s vision leads OSU to “teach all that is worth knowing”

Ohio State is now known as a preeminent American public research university with a broad range of academic disciplines and colleges, but its foundation could have been much more limited. Thanks to the efforts and vision of University founders like Joseph Sullivant, OSU was established with a forward-facing curriculum that helped it produce successful graduates and develop the wide array of degree programs.

Joseph Sullivant, 1878

Originally created with a focus on agriculture and engineering, OSU was established as Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College. During its formative process, the direction of the university’s curriculum was hotly debated. The government, the agricultural industry, and other existing universities all vied for leverage during this process. Despite these pressures, the university decided on a holistic education devised by Board of Trustees member, Joseph Sullivant.  In a speech delivered to the Board of Trustees in 1871 on the focus of the curriculum, Sullivant laid out his ideals for a school that would not only fulfill the needs of the agricultural industry in the United States, but would also provide a well-rounded education for all students who attended. The manuscript Sullivant wrote of his speech gives us his reasoning for proposing a curriculum that would allow for both academic study and practical training.

Education until that point tended to fall into two extremes, as Sullivant saw it. Classicists, as he called them, believed in education only for intellectual sake, with a disregard for any applicability to real life. On the opposite extreme were those focused on education only insofar as it provides functionality which can convert to material prosperity. Sullivant saw both of these extremes as detrimental to the progress of society, and argued for a more balanced education for students of the future OSU: broader than purely functional studies, while also taking into account applicability to real life. Study of the natural sciences (the sciences of classification, as Sullivant calls them) provides mental training applicable to other areas of learning. Education and mental training allow people of all occupations to

Manuscript of speech, 1871

gain successful practices beyond simple trial and error. A good, practical education “will most fully develop and train all the faculties and secure the ability to perceive, to reason to judge and to act with promptness and decision,” Sullivant argues in his speech. This view of the benefits of a broad, liberal education is quite modern, and can still be seen as the standard in our colleges and universities today.

To accomplish these goals, Sullivant propsed an initial curriculum consisting of six departments at the University: Agriculture, Mechanical Arts, Mathematics and Physics, General and Applied Chemistry, Geology, Mining, and Metallurgy, and Zoology and Natural Science. Ohio State’s focus has obviously expanded greatly since those early days, but looking at these departments shows how broad the initial vision was when considering its original purpose of farming and mechanical engineering. That broad vision, focused on both intellectual training and practical applicability, helped OSU develop into one of the nation’s leading research and liberal arts universities. By instilling in the University from the very beginnings the values of broad education crossing disciplines, Joseph Sullivant helped to ensure the future of American higher education through his proposed curriculum.

Written by Matt McShane

Gay Activism at OSU is Recognized in Early ’70s

The Ohio State University Archives would like to wish a happy Pride to all of our friends in the LGBTQ+ community! Pride is an annual month-long celebration and protest remembering the struggles of LGBTQ+ community both past and present. The tradition of Pride began on June 28, 1969, when a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City, escalated into a riot against police abuses that lasted for days. Police raids on “gay spaces” were a common practice in the twentieth century, with many on the receiving end experiencing police misconduct in the forms of assault and humiliation tactics. With the Stonewall Riots came a new wave of movements dedicated to LGBTQ+ rights unlike those before.

‘The Lantern’, May 17, 1971.

The Ohio State University and the city of Columbus felt that wave. Organizations dedicated to promoting gay liberation and creating safe social spaces for gay students at OSU began to form and vocalize themselves. The Ohio State chapter of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), which gained official recognition by the University in March of 1971, sponsored and organized many events in the summer of that same year. These included educational events, guest speakers, film screenings, organizational meetings, and, of course, social dances. Mass meetings were held regularly at Saint Stephens Episcopal Church on Woodruff Avenue, dances took place every Monday at the Newport Music Hall (then the Agora Ballroom), and a GLF sponsored event featuring activist Frank Kameny took place in the Ohio Union.

The Gay Activist Alliance featured in the 1973 Makio, page 255.

After succeeding the GLF in autumn of 1971, the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) continued the task of organizing the gay community. In addition to providing social events such as dances, the GAA provided counseling services to individuals. By 1975 the dances held at the Ohio Union stopped due to frequent harassment, but the Alliance continued to operate its counseling services from its office in the Ohio Union. In a Lantern article from January 1975, Robert Smith, a sophomore, said, “People call just to hear another gay person’s voice. They may call and just hang up several times before they get the courage to say anything.” The counseling was intended to help gay individuals accept themselves, though severe and complex individual situations were often referred to outside counselors.

‘The Lantern’, January 26, 1972.

Additionally, the GAA, having been funded in part by the Undergraduate Student Government, also began publishing its own newsletter called the Columbus Gay Activist, in 1971. The publication caused some controversy the next year, however, when it was denied funding by the Office of Student Accounting. Fearing legal reprisal over an article in the October 11, 1972, issue of the Activist, University legal counsel Jacob E. Davis instructed the auditing office to deny funds, claiming the article, which was about anal sex, would have violated state and local obscenity laws. Affording the money to the GAA and its newsletter would have therefore opened the University open to lawsuits for the misuse of state funds, according to Davis. Although the Archives contains records of the Gay Activist Alliance meeting with then-University President Harold L. Enarson and then-Executive Vice President Edward Q. Moulton, it is not clear how this situation was resolved.

Although this history of LGBTQ+ activism on Ohio State’s campuses is greater than what has been presented here, it is important that we share what we can this Pride season. Stonewall occurred in New York City, but the LGBTQ+ community continues to exist everywhere.

Written by John Hooton

Happy Thanksgiving from the Archives

Written and assembled by Olivia Wood

Happy Thanksgiving!  To celebrate the most delicious time of the year, we’ve decided to post some pictures commemorating different types of feasts here at Ohio State ranging from the late 19th century up until the 21st century.  Enjoy!


A Food and Nutrition class in Hayes Hall preparing a meal, circa 1900.


A Food and Nutrition course holding a meal, 1950.


An Ohio State home economics class preparing a meal, 1895.


Two students sharing dessert, circa 1930.


A group of students sharing a snack of celery, crackers, and cigarettes…yum? Circa 1940.


Students and chefs with a dessert spread of cake and cookies, 1942.


Student-employee appreciation event hosted in the Oval with a feast of pizza and cake, 2000.


The International Party hosted by the Mother’s Club, 1954.


Two students toasting to each other, circa 1930.


An ox roast held at Ohio State, circa May 1916. An ox roast really isn’t actually roasted ox–it’s roast beef!

Older posts