Explore the timeline below to learn more about Otterbein’s history in connection to key moments in world history and the history of the United States. To read more about Otterbein’s 175 years of excellence, opportunity, and community, check out the Commemorative issue of Towers Online.
1800 – 1859
First Christian denomination founded in America becomes Church of the United Brethren in Christ, led by Philip William Otterbein.
OHIO BECOMES THE 17th STATE.
Otterbein is founded as co-educational and open to students of all races and creeds. Women served on the faculty from the founding.
Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell are born.
Saum Hall, the first building constructed by the University, is completed. It remained in use until 1969.
In 1857, Otterbein’s first class graduates, consisting of Sarah Jennie Miller and Mary Katherine Winter (later Hanby).
Dred Scott case rules that descendants of slaves are not U.S. citizens.
In 1858, Benjamin Russell Hanby, composer of Darling Nelly Gray and Up on the Housetop, graduates.
In 1859, William Hannibal Thomas, Otterbein’s first Black student, enrolls— though he leaves after one term.
1860 – 1889
The Civil War begins.
In 1861, students and faculty, including science professor Dr. Thomas McFadden (at top), leave Otterbein to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War.
The 15th Amendment provides voting rights for men of color.
In 1872, the new Main Building is dedicated. It was officially renamed Towers Hall in 1956, although students had unofficially called it “Towers” for decades
EDISON INVENTS THE LIGHT BULB.
Otterbein baseball team defeats The Ohio State University, 10-8. The team was disbanded due to faculty concerns.
The Wall Street Journal is founded
1890 – 1909
In 1890, Otterbein football team defeats The Ohio State University, First Founders Day celebration. 42-6
First Founders Day celebration.
In 1891, tan and cardinal are chosen as Otterbein’s colors.
In 1893, William Henry Fouse becomes the first Black student to graduate from Otterbein.
Otterbein’s 50th anniversary.
The Board of Trustees considers moving Otterbein to Dayton. Concerned citizens of Westerville raised money to make the major improvements necessary to persuade the board to stay. By 1906, these improvements included two new telephone exchanges, a natural gas line, waterworks, sanitary sewers, and paved streets.
Basketball becomes the first women’s athletic team at Otterbein.
Mrs. Sarah B. Cochran donates $25,000 for the construction of Cochran Hall, on the condition that Otterbein pays off all of its existing debt in the amount of $65,000.
Wright brothers’ first airplane flight.
Otterbein stages its first theatrical production, Shakespeare’s As You Like It.
In 1907, the first varsity letters are awarded in football, basketball, 1907 baseball, and track.
Esther Kirksey, Otterbein’s first female Black student, enrolls.
Pi Beta Sigma and Pi Kappa Phi, Otterbein’s first fraternities, are founded
In 1909, Otterbein Band performs its first marching show.
The Anti-Saloon League moves to Westerville.
1910 – 1919
In 1910, Sigma Alpha Tau, Otterbein’s first sorority, is founded.
Class of 1911 commits $2,000 for new athletic fields, which opened in 1914.
Kiyoshi Yabe, Otterbein’s first Japanese student, graduates in 1912.
The first Scrap Day competitions take place between freshmen and sophomores, including a tug-of-war across Alum Creek.
Otterbein University becomes Otterbein College.
Tan and Cardinal publishes its first issue.
Daylight saving time is created.
The United States enters WWI; women take on more roles on campus.
Otterbein Love Song is written by music professor Glenn Grant Grabill and his wife, Celia, both Class of 1900. It is quickly adopted as Otterbein’s alma mater
McFadden Science Hall is dedicated in 1919.
Quiz and Quill publishes its first issue in 1919
Prohibition begins in 1919.
1920 – 1929
19TH AMENDMENT GIVES WOMEN THE RIGHT TO VOTE
In 1921, Otterbein Student Council forms, giving students a degree of self-governance.
Otterbein Women’s Club of Columbus and Vicinity is formed. Name changed to Westerville Otterbein Women’s Club in 1951.
Otterbein celebrates the 75th anniversary of its founding with a campaign to raise $2,000,000, a visit from Vice President Calvin Coolidge, and an outdoor pageant called The Spirit of Otterbein.
NATIVE AMERICANS RECEIVE U.S. CITIZENSHIP.
In 1924, President Clippinger begins the tradition of new student orientation.
Dr. Frank O. Clements, class of 1898, is elected chair of the Board of Trustees. He and his wife, Vida, established a strong tradition of transformational philanthropy to Otterbein.
In 1926, Otterbein alumni magazine begins. The magazine was later named Towers in 1939.
VARSITY LETTERS FOR WOMEN ATHLETES ARE AWARDED.
Viola Burke becomes Otterbein’s first female Black graduate, earning her bachelor’s degree in music.
Alumni Gymnasium opens. The building is now the Battelle Fine Arts Center, home of the Department of Music.
STOCK MARKET CRASH OF 1929 MARKS THE START OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION.
1930 – 1944
In 1931, The Star-Spangled Banner becomes America’s national anthem.
Otterbein’s fraternities and sororities are officially recognized and allowed to use Greek names and letters in public, rather than operate as underground organizations.
The first Cap-Otter trophy is purchased, in 1932, to celebrate the athletic rivalry between Capital University and Otterbein.
Work Study program is established on campus.
President Clippinger retires after 30 years. He was responsible for Otterbein’s first endowment and accreditation.
The United States enters World War II. Approximately 500 Otterbein students, faculty, and alumni volunteered for, or were drafted into, service. Within a year, women outnumbered men on campus by a 4:1 ratio.
In 1942, Otterbein welcomes Japanese-American students from internment camps to enroll.
In 1944, Harold Hancock, known as “Mr. Otterbein” for his knowledge of Otterbein’s history, joins the faculty
1945 – 1965
Vida Clements, class of 1901, is elected to Board of Trustees. One of Otterbein’s biggest benefactors, she later established the Clements Foundation in 1966.
Returning WWII veterans lift Otterbein to a championship football season and spearhead the drive for a new stadium.
OTTERBEIN’S 100TH ANNIVERSARY IS CELEBRATED WITH A CAMPAIGN RAISING $640,000.
In 1948, WOBC 630 AM (later WOBN) begins broadcasting music and news from campus.
Joanne Van Sant “Dean Van” joins the faculty, eventually becoming dean of students and vice president for student affairs.
THE “O” CLUB IS FOUNDED.
President Kennedy is assassinated.
CAMPUS CENTER OPENS.
Vietnam War begins.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is passed
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is passed.
1966 – 1989
Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy are assassinated.
First Black student group, SOUL, is formed on campus. The African American Student Union formed in 1989 and is still active today
OTTERBEIN BECOMES THE FIRST COLLEGE TO ELECT STUDENTS AND FACULTY TO THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES.
In 1970, four students are killed at Kent State University by Ohio National Guard troops. The tragedy forced the closure of many college campuses due to student unrest; Otterbein did not close.
Courtright Memorial Library opens.
It was named in 1979 through the generosity of A. Monroe Courtright, to honor his parents Robert and Ada.
In 1974, the first adult degree program is launched. Enrollment of adult students peaks at 899 in 1999.
Rike Center opens.
Space shuttle Challenger tragedy
OTTERBEIN OFFERS GRADUATE EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES.
BiGALA, the first LGTBQIA+ student organization, is recognized by the University.
1990 – 1999
BiGALA, the first LGTBQIA+ student organization, is recognized by the University.
Senior Year Experience is established.
The Common Book Program is established through support of Mary B. Thomas ’28.
Otterbein’s first website goes live.
OTTERBEIN’S 150TH ANNIVERSARY.
Liquor returns to Westerville.
2000 – 2009
The September 11 terrorist attacks kill nearly 3,000 people.
VERNON L. PACK ’50 DISTINGUISHED LECTURE AND SCHOLAR-IN-RESIDENCE SERIES BEGINS.
Otterbein wins NCAA DIII Basketball Championship.
The Otterbein Cardinal mascot is officially named Cardy.
“West” campus opens with the move of the Art and Communication departments to 33 Collegeview Ave. in 2007.
Otterbein is one of four universities in the nation to receive the Presidential Award for Volunteer Service.
BARACK OBAMA BECOMES AMERICA’S FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT.
In 2009, Kathy Krendl is named the 20th and the first female president of Otterbein University.
2010 – 2021
In 2010, Otterbein College becomes Otterbein University again.
First 10 students enroll in Otterbein’s Doctor of Nursing Practice Program — the first doctorate degree program at Otterbein since 1895.
The Point at Otterbein, a first-of-itskind innovation center, brings education, businesses, and the community together.
John Comerford becomes the 21st president of Otterbein University.
Otterbein hosts a Democratic presidential debate in a transformed Rike Center. The debate is broadcast worldwide on CNN.
The Covid-19 pandemic forces campuses around the nation to move to remote learning and send students home during spring semester. By fall of 2020, Otterbein offered one-third of classes in person, one-third in a hybrid format, and one-third online. Fall, winter, and spring athletics seasons were held simultaneously in spring 2021.
OTTERBEIN’S 175TH ANNIVERSARY.