The Ohio State University at Marion

Ohio State Marion began offering classes at its current location Oct. 1968

October 23, 2018
Marking 50 years on the Marion campus

October 2018 marks 50 years since the inception of the Ohio State Marion campus at its current location on state route 95 in Marion. It also marks 50 years since the dedication and opening of the first campus building Morrill Hall, which opened to students autumn quarter, October of 1968.

The early, early days
From its humble beginnings, the Marion community rallied in support of bringing Ohio State classes to Marion, Ohio. The Ohio State University commissioned a study in April of 1957 to measure the viability of offering "off-campus branches." The moment Ohio State trustees approved the study, 65 cities and towns across Ohio stepped up with offers of real-estate to bring The Ohio State University to their community. Marion, Ohio was one of those interested communities.

After considering the options, The Ohio State University Board of Trustees unanimously approved Marion and Newark as branch campuses with classes to open October 1, 1957. The Marion campus existed as night classes in the former Harding High School building (now Grant Middle School) from 1957-1968. The first quarter of classes saw 165 students register.

Marion rallies support
In 1965, with enrollment sitting at 332 and little growth on the horizon, Ohio State President Novice G. Fawcett noted that regional campuses needed additional science equipment and supplies at the high school, and a college level library in order to keep pace and be a viable option for students. Additionally, selling the idea of the regional campus to faculty presented a challenge since they would likely commute from the Columbus area. Someone would also need to step up and underwrite the initial costs in case of problems.

With 80 to 90 communities still pushing for a regional campus and pressure for enrollment growth, Edwin "Ted" L. Mitchell, recently elected to chair the campus fundraising/steering committee, pledged that his committee would promote growth at Ohio State Marion. The committee was made up of a cross section of community leaders and organizations, including staff from Marion City Schools, Marion Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce, and other community leaders. The fundraising firm of Ketchum, Inc., of Pittsburgh, Pa., was engaged to run a campaign.

After a strong effort, the drive exceeded its original fundraising goal of $400,000 with a grand total of $647,000 raised from clubs, organizations, corporate and industry gifts, unions, and private organizations. The top pledge of $40,000 came from Whirlpool Corporation. Additional funds to build the first campus facility would be provided by the State of Ohio, and a grant from the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

Choosing a location and developing the campus
With their pledge goal more than attained, the committee began looking at sites to build a campus. After considering the Marion Army Engineer Depot, the final choice was a 180-acre site consisting of Marion County Home land just south of State Route 95. On July 20, 1965, a bill was passed in the state legislature to give county commissioners the authority to sell the land.

A plan for campus development of a $1.5 million building was created and the architectural firm of Edwards and Burris was selected to design the building. Knowlton Construction Company of Bellefontaine, Ohio was awarded the contract on October 27, 1966. The company secured the winning bid of $945,000, with a target completion date of March 1967. Morrill Hall officially opened its doors to students October of 1968. Enthusiasm surrounding opening of the new campus pushed enrollment to all-time highs of 425 students, with 150 returning students, and approximately 275 new freshmen.

Ohio State Marion today
Today, the Marion campus, which is shared with Marion Technical College includes 186-acres, 8 campus buildings, an 11 acre prairie learning laboratory including shelter house, 8 undergraduate degree programs and over 300 unique courses taught annually. Students at Ohio State Marion are engaged in over 140 of Ohio State's 200+ undergraduate degree programs. Students take part in cutting-edge research, internships, education abroad, community engagement, and volunteer efforts.

During any given semester, the combined enrollment of Ohio State Marion and Marion Technical College is in the range of 2,500 to 3,000 students. In addition to faculty and staff from both institutions and the Marion campus has grown to the size of a small Ohio town, making a real and lasting impact on the economic growth of the Marion community, firstly by raising the education attainment rates of area citizens, which leads to better jobs and a larger tax base. Secondly, through the direct purchasing power of students, prospective students, faculty, staff, alumni and others that interact with the surrounding business community and the business community while engaged in the

Future impact
The Ohio State University at Marion continues striving to remain relevant and grow into the 21st century. Known as a commuter campus since its inception, the campus now attracts students from 48 of Ohio's 88 counties. The Annex of Marion, a privately developed student housing project opened in 2015 has grown to house 200 students from across Ohio. The university and the campus are now looking at the possibility of adding university owned on campus housing in the future. This means building a food service and student life infrastructure the support on campus housing.

Growth in STEM majors on the Marion campus looks to continue with the recent addition of an undergraduate degree in biology, and growing engineering coursework, that currently has students transitioning their sophomore and junior year to complete their degree through Ohio State's College of Engineering. As coursework continues to be added annually, the potential of a 4-year engineering degree at Ohio State Marion is on the horizon. Additional degree programs are also under exploration.

As the campus grows, so grows the community. What does the next 50 years hold? More facilities, more students, more programs, more community engagement, a vibrant residential campus of 3,000 to 5,000 students from around the country and the world. 50 years ago, Marion believed in Ohio State and what it could mean to its people. The campus continues to build on that promise of providing an access point to one of the world's most renowned universities, The Ohio State University.