Ohio Northern University

Ohio Northern University
Former names
Northwestern Ohio Normal School (1871–1885)
Ohio Normal University (1885–1903)
MottoEx diversitate vires
Motto in English
Out of diversity strength
TypePrivate college
Established1871; 153 years ago (1871)
Religious affiliation
United Methodist Church
Academic affiliations
Endowment$160.3 million (2019)
PresidentMelissa J. Baumann
ProvostJuliet K. Hurtig
Academic staff
Students3,088 (2017)
Undergraduates2,900 (2017)
Location, ,
United States
ColorsOrange, Black, White
NicknamePolar Bears
Sporting affiliations

Ohio Northern University (Ohio Northern or ONU) is a private college in Ada, Ohio. Founded by Henry Solomon Lehr in 1871, ONU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It offers over 60 programs to choose from across five colleges and is affiliated with the United Methodist Church.


Early years

An Ohio historical marker outlining the institution's history

Henry Solomon Lehr founded the Northwestern Ohio Normal School in August 1871. When the college's curriculum grew to include pharmacy, engineering, law and business programs, its name was changed to Ohio Normal University in 1885 and, eventually, in 1903, to Ohio Northern University. In 1899, it became affiliated with the United Methodist Church to reduce debt.

Interwar and post-war education

Martin Luther King Jr. statue at Ohio Northern University

Before the Great Depression, more than one thousand students were typically enrolled at Ohio Northern every year. Both the Great Depression and the following World War II plunged the school into low enrollment, and the possibility of closure was considered. During World War II, enrollment reached a low of 156 students. Thanks to the G.I. Bill, Ohio Northern was able to bring enrollment back up to nine hundred students by 1946.

Throughout the 1960s, a number of ONU students and faculty/staff participated in the American Civil Rights Movement. ONU hosted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on January 11, 1968, four days before his 39th birthday and just three months before his assassination. During his visit at ONU, King famously spoke regarding the myth that many immigrant and/or ethnic groups successfully pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, whereas African Americans were incapable of doing so. ONU honored King and his speech on campus with the unveiling of a statue in his likeness on April 17, 2018.

Later 20th century into today

Growth continued under Dr. DeBow Freed through the 1980s and 1990s with additions to the Taggart Law Library, Presser Hall, Dukes Memorial, Wilson Art Building, Biggs Engineering, Heterick Memorial Library, and Meyer Hall of Science, and the construction of the Freed Center for the Performing Arts and a new president's on-campus home. Under Dr. Kendall Baker, campus additions include Dicke Hall, an expansion of the Robertson-Evans Pharmacy building, the Dial-Roberson Stadium and the Mathile Center for the Natural Sciences. In 2008, Ohio Northern University built and opened The Inn at Ohio Northern University. A new engineering building was opened in October 2019.


Melissa J. Baumann is Ohio Northern University’s 12th president, and first female to serve in the role.

Past ONU presidents

  • Henry Solomon Lehr (1871–1900)
  • Leroy A. Belt (1900–1905)
  • Albert Edwin Smith (1905–1930)
  • Robert Williams (1929*–1943)
  • Robert O. McClure (1943–1949)
  • Frank Bringle McIntosh (1949–1965)
  • Samuel Lewis Meyer (1965–1977)
  • Ray B. Loeschner (1977–1979)
  • Harold A. Bolz (1979, interim)
  • DeBow Freed (1979–1999)
  • Kendall L. Baker (1999–2011)
  • Daniel A. DiBasio (2011–2022)


Presser Hall, housing the music department of Ohio Northern University, with the Dukes and Lehr buildings in the background.

The institution comprises five colleges:

  • Getty College of Arts and Sciences
  • James F. Dicke College of Business Administration
  • T.J. Smull College of Engineering
  • Rudolph H. Raabe College of Pharmacy
  • Claude W. Pettit College of Law (established 1885)

Prior to 1973, the law school was known as "the Warren G. Harding College of Law". It was renamed in honor of Claude W. Pettit, a judge and former dean of the college.


A Polar Bears punter during a football game in 2022

ONU students participate in intercollegiate, intramural, and sports clubs in a variety of sports. The ONU Polar Bears compete in the NCAA Division III Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC). The men's volleyball team participates in the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association in the Great Midwest Men's Volleyball Conference.

  • The school mascot is a polar bear named Klondike.
  • The ONU varsity football team defeated Mount Union College in 2005 to snap the Purple Raiders 110-game regular season winning streak.
  • The ONU women's volleyball team had an NCAA All-Divisions record 36 consecutive winning seasons.

National honors

NCAA Championship

NCAA Runner-up finishes

  • 1989 Women's Volleyball NCAA Division III Runners-up
  • 2012 Men's Soccer NCAA Division III Runners-up

NCAA Final Four appearances

  • 2001 Men's Basketball NCAA Division III Final Four
  • 2008 Women's Volleyball NCAA Division III Final Four

NCAA Elite Eight appearance

  • 2017 Women's Basketball

NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearances

  • 1999 Football
  • 2000 Football
  • 2010 Football
  • 2015 Football
  • 2019 Women's Soccer
  • 2022 Men’s Soccer
  • 2023 Women’s Basketball
  • 2023 Men’s Soccer

Club Sport Championship

  • 2007 Men's Volleyball NIRSA Division II National Champions

Notable alumni

40°46′01″N 83°49′30″W / 40.7669°N 83.8249°W / 40.7669; -83.8249

This page was last updated at 2024-01-10 05:01 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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