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Wilberforce University
Motto Suo Marte
Motto in English By one’s own toil, effort, courage
Established 1856
Type Private, HBCU
Religious affiliation African Methodist Episcopal Church
President Patrica Hardaway
Location Wilberforce, Ohio,
United States
Campus Rural
Sports basketball
Colors Green and Gold
Nickname Bulldogs
Athletics NAIA
Affiliations American Mideast Conference

Wilberforce University is a private, coed, liberal arts historically African-American university located in Wilberforce, Ohio, that is affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and participates in the United Negro College Fund.

The college was planned by the Cincinnati, Ohio Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church to provide a "literary institution" (classical education) and teacher training for black youth. Methodist representatives worked collaboratively with founders from the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) to develop Wilberforce University in 1856. It was named for William Wilberforce, the 18th-century English statesman and abolitionist.

The college played a role in the Underground Railroad. The campus is located three miles from the county seat of Xenia. It is about 21 miles from Dayton and Cincinnati, Ohio.

When the number of students fell due to the American Civil War and financial problems closed the college, in 1863 the AME Church purchased the institution. Wilberforce became the first college to be owned and operated by African Americans.




Cooperative Education

Wilberforce requires all students to participate in cooperative education[1] to meet graduation requirements. The cooperative program places students in internships that provide practical experience in addition to academic training.

NASA SEMAA project

In October 2006, Wilberforce held the grand opening and dedication for the NASA Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy (SEMAA) and the associated Aerospace Education Laboratory (AEL). It was attended by Dr. Bernice G. Alston, deputy assistant administrator of NASA’s office of Education, and the Honorable David L. Hobson, state representative from Ohio’s 7th congressional district.[2]

NASA’s program is designed to provide training in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to underprivileged students to support NASA’s future needs. There are 17 NASA SEMAA project sites through the United States. Through this partnership, Wilberforce will offer training sessions for students in grades K-12 during the academic year and during the summer. The AEL is computerized classroom that provided technology to students in grades 7-12 that supports the SEMAA training sessions.


Wilberforce University was developed by collaboration between the Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Church, whose members worked to promote classical education and teacher training for black youth. Among the first 24 members of the Board of Trustees in 1855 were Bishop Daniel A. Payne, Rev. Lewis Woodson and Messrs. Ishmael Keith and Alfred Anderson, all of the AME Church. Also on the Board were Salmon P. Chase, then Governor of Ohio and a strong supporter of abolition, as well as a member of the Ohio State Legislature, and other Methodist leaders from the white community.[3]

To start the college, the Cincinnati Conference bought a hotel, cottages and 54 acres of associated resort property called Tawawa Springs, after a Shawnee word for "clear or golden water". It had been started as a health resort because of the springs, which attracted summer people both from Cincinnati and the South. Some people in this area of abolitionist sentiment were shocked when Southerners arrived with their entourages of enslaved or free mistresses and mixed-race "natural" children.[4] Given migration patterns, this was also an area where numerous free blacks had settled, many having migrated from the South for better conditions. Xenia had quite a large free black population.

The college opened for classes in 1856, and by 1858 Rev. Richard S. Rust was selected as the first President. By 1860 the university had 200 students. Many were "natural" mixed-race sons and daughters of white planters from the South, whose education was paid for by their wealthy fathers.[3][4] The outbreak of Civil War threatened the college's finances. Church resources were diverted, and no more paying students came from the South. The college closed temporarily in 1862 and the Methodist Church was unable to fully fund it.

In 1863 the African Methodist Episcopal Church made the decision to buy the college to keep it going. Founders were Bishop Daniel A. Payne, who was selected as its first President; Bishop James A. Shorter and Dr. John G. Mitchell. Payne was the first African-American college president in the United States.

When an arson fire damaged some of the buildings in 1865, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court Salmon P. Chase and Dr. Charles Avery from Pittsburgh each contributed $10,000 for rebuilding. Mary E. Monroe contributed $4200. Congress approved $25,000 for the college in support, and the college was able to raise money privately from a wide range of donors.[5]

Generations of leaders: teachers, ministers, doctors, politicians and presidents of other colleges, and later men and women of all occupations, have been educated at the university. Growth of the university drove the need to build a new campus in 1967, located one mile away. In 1974, a tornado destroyed much of the city of Xenia and the old campus. It was part of the Super Outbreak tornado storm.

The university's strong tradition led it to establish the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center, to provide exhibits and outreach to the region. It also manages the Association of African American Museums to provide support especially to smaller museums. Other old campus buildings still in use include the Carnegie Library, built in 1909 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Shorter Hall built in 1922, and the Charles Leander Hill Gymnasium, built in 1958.


On March 21, 2008 a compliance audit was completed by the United States Department of Education, Office of the Inspector General (OIG) focusing on the university's management of Title IV funds, as required by Federal law. For the two-year audit period (2004-2005, 2005-2006) the audit found:[6]

  • Did not return $61,990 in unearned Title IV, HEA program funds;
  • Did not administer the Federal Work Study (FWS) program in accordance with the HEA and regulations, resulting in payment of $2,372,141 in wages that lacked adequate supporting documentation;
  • Disbursed $38,650 in Title IV, HEA program funds to ineligible students;
  • Did not notify students when Title IV, HEA program funds were credited to their accounts;
  • Did not return credit balances to students in a timely manner; and
  • Did not perform FFEL exit counseling.

The OIG found:

"The University did not comply with the Title IV, HEA program requirements because it was not administratively capable. During the audit period, the University experienced significant staff turnover and lacked sufficient financial aid staff, failed to develop and implement written policies and procedures, did not maintain all records needed to demonstrate compliance with the HEA and applicable regulations, and did not ensure sufficient communication between the financial aid office and all other institutional offices at the University."

Student activities

Athletic programs

Wilberforce is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and participates in the American Mideast Conference. The Bulldogs participate in the following intercollegiate sports: basketball (men's and women's), and cross country (men's and women's). Students also participate in the following intramural sports: basketball, softball, volleyball, flag football, and tennis.

NPHC Organizations

Notable alumni

Name Class year Notability Reference
Victoria Gray Adams pioneering civil rights activist
Regina M. Anderson playwright, librarian, and member of the Harlem Renaissance
Myron (Tiny) Bradshaw American jazz and rhythm and blues bandleader, singer, pianist, and drummer
Hallie Quinn Brown an educator, writer and activist
Floyd H. Flake U.S. Congressman, Wilberforce-President
James H. McGee a city commissioner and first African-American mayor of Dayton, Ohio
George Russell an American jazz composer and theorist
William Grant Still composer and conductor: the first African American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have one of his symphonies performed by a leading orchestra, and the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company
Ossian Sweet an African-American doctor notable for self-defense in 1925 of his newly purchased Detroit home against a white mob's attempting to force him out of the neighborhood.
Ben Webster American jazz musician
William Julius Wilson American sociologist and Harvard professor
John R. Fox American soldier, recipient of the Medal of Honor

See also

External links


Coordinates: 39°42′36″N 83°52′46″W / 39.709894°N 83.87936°W / 39.709894; -83.87936


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