Miamian Fall '08 - Dr. Shriver’s Miami History Highlights


President Emeritus Phillip Shriver
Dr. Shriver during 1970 press conference.

Editor’s note: Even though Miami President Emeritus Phillip Shriver, historian extraordinaire, tried valiantly to whittle down 200-plus years of Miami University history, he found it impossible to carve out a top 10 list. In the print version of the Fall 2008 Miamian, I barely touched on a few of the 35 or so events he highlighted. However, I didn’t want you to miss out on his other gems, so this is the entire list that Dr. Shriver calls “some of the most historic highlights of Miami University.” Here, in Dr. Shriver’s own words, is the rest of the story. — Donna Boen ’83

1787, Northwest Ordinance:
In keeping with the terms of the Northwest Ordinance, it was stipulated that schools as a means of education shall forever be encouraged north and west of the Ohio River. A grant of land of 1 million acres was made by Congress to a New Jersey land company headed by a former congressman, John Cleve Symmes, in the valleys of the Great and Little Miami rivers named for the Miami Tribe, with the provision that a township of land would be set aside for the support of an academy or other institution of higher learning.

May 5, 1792, Act of Congress:
President George Washington signed into law an act of Congress affirming the setting aside of a township of land for the support of an academy or other institution of higher learning in the Symmes (or Miami) Purchase.

I remember when I first came to Miami some of the professors would say, “Oh, Miami University. That’s named from the rivers.” I said, “Wait a minute. Where did the rivers get their name?”

Feb. 17, 1809, Miami’s Charter:
The Act of Charter was passed by the Ohio General Assembly, establishing The Miami University in the Miami River valleys of southwestern Ohio.

1810, On Thy Hillcrest:
Though a three-man commission appointed by the Ohio General Assembly had originally recommended the town of Lebanon as the site of the new Miami University, the university board of trustees endorsed a recommendation of the college township’s first resident, Zachariah DeWitt. His log cabin still stands off Harker’s Run in the Valley of the Talawanda. His recommendation was the university be located on the hillcrest west of his cabin. It was there that they laid out a mile-square village, which they named “Oxford” after the world-renowned university in England.

July 6, 1824, Miami’s First President:
Miami trustees named the first president of Miami University, Robert Hamilton Bishop, a graduate of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, then serving as vice president of Transylvania College in Lexington, Ky.

Excellent president. He had a vision early on that Miami should be the Yale of the West. What he envisioned was a school of very high academic quality. He would adopt the Yale curriculum, the Yale academic standards. It was a liberal arts curriculum with a heavy emphasis on ancient languages and literature, Latin, Greek, Hebrew.

Our first two residence halls, now called Elliott (1828) and Stoddard (1835), were patterned after Yale’s oldest dormitory, Connecticut Hall. And they still stand today. From there on in it would be a red-brick Georgian colonial campus.

1824, First Science Professor:
They appointed John Witherspoon Scott, a Yale graduate, to be our first professor of science. So the curriculum, the buildings, even some of the faculty were Yale. He was the father of Carolyn Scott, who later married Benjamin Harrison. She was born where the Phi Delta Theta headquarters stands in Oxford today.

Nov. 1, 1824, First Day of Class:
Classes began at Miami in what would come to be called Old Main and later Harrison Hall. It was originally called Franklin Hall, but that didn’t stay. It very quickly became Old Main.

1826, First Graduation:
Miami graduated its first class, most members of which were former Transylvania students who had followed their beloved mentor, Dr. Bishop, to Miami. That’s why we had a graduating class in just a couple of years. I think about six graduated. The first enrollment was 20 total, juniors, sophomores, freshmen, and even pre-college.

1834-36, Schoolmaster to the Nation:
William Holmes McGuffeyMcGuffey ReaderWilliam Holmes McGuffey, a Miami professor who taught courses in moral philosophy and ancient languages and literature, prepared the first edition of the most celebrated and widely used schoolbooks in history, and that’s literally the history of the world, The McGuffey Readers, in a little brick house on Spring Street adjacent to the Miami campus. He would come to be called the “schoolmaster to the nation.” That is clearly one of the major, major historic milestones in Miami history.

When I grew up, my dad had copies of McGuffey Readers on his desk. Right in the 20th century. It was still in print. We have now over 130 million copies in print. Only the Holy Bible has had more copies printed than the McGuffey Readers.

So there’s no question that just pops right out at you. Schoolmaster to the nation.

Aug. 8, 1839, Founding of Beta Theta Pi:
John Ryan Knox and seven other Miami students founded the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. Though a chapter of Alpha Delta Phi had been established at Miami in 1833, the Betas were the first in a succession of fraternities to be founded at Miami, including Phi Delta Theta in 1848 and Sigma Chi in 1855, who, together with the Betas, made up the famed Miami Triad. Soon Miami would come to be called the Mother of Fraternities.

1840-41, Growing Pains:
Dr. Bishop had been dismissed in 1840. I could say he was dismissed twice. He was dismissed in ’40. Then they couldn’t find a person to take his place, so they asked him would he stay on for another year. He was dismissed again in ’41.

He was dismissed by the board of trustees, in part, because of his acceptance of fraternities at Miami.

That was one of the turning points. McGuffey was his adversary. John Witherspoon Scott was his friend. Scott kept arguing, “Let’s keep the fraternities.” McGuffey would say, “No, they’re secret societies. It’s wrong, it’s wrong.” Bishop was almost accused by some of being lax in student discipline. He was not quick to expel somebody because he’d done this or done that. McGuffey was a little more of a disciplinarian.

1841, Trying to Ban Fraternities:
Dr. Bishop was replaced by George Junkin, under whom in 1841 an anti-secret society resolution was adopted by the faculty on the urging of the board of trustees to get rid of the fraternities. Junkin, whose name is not anywhere on campus, left Miami in disgrace, went to Virginia Military Institute, and his daughter married Stonewall Jackson, later a Confederate general. He was pro-slavery, a very dictatorial individual.

Junkin was soon replaced by Erasmus MacMaster, who was not the stern disciplinarian. Nonetheless, he continued to give lip service to the anti-secret society resolution.

Snowball RebellionJan. 12-15, 1848, The Snowball Rebellion:
The Snowball Rebellion came during MacMaster’s tenure, and he it was who expelled every student who had participated in the rebellion.

We had been the fourth largest college in the country after Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth. And after he expelled all the students who participated in the rebellion, we were one of the smallest. We went from over 200 down to 68. Every fraternity member was expelled with the exception of two Betas who were seniors and who said, “No, we’re so close to graduation, we’re not going to do it.”

It had snowed a lot. It was a very deep snow, and it was at a temperature that enabled it to be packed.

On the initial night they rolled the snowballs up to the door of the Old Main building and left. The next morning, 5 o’clock, the janitor came, “Uh oh, we’re in trouble.“ Called the president. The president at the chapel meeting that morning, which all faculty and students had to attend, announced that every student who had been responsible for that was going to be expelled.

When I grew up, there was an old saying … “might as well get hung for a sheep as a lamb.” In other words, if it’s just a little problem, make it a big problem.

So the next night, those who had been involved, knowing they were going to get expelled anyway, got their fraternity brothers. “Come on, join us. Let’s do a real job.” So the next night, they not only rolled big snowballs — it continued to snow for two days — but they entered the building, broke into it, packed the main floor with snow reinforced by the entire winter’s wood fuel supply and benches and chairs and tables. In the night the temperature plunged, and it froze like a block of ice.

That was the real apex of the rebellion. The president had already said he was going to expel them, but now there were many more, and they thought, “Well, he can’t expel the whole student body.” But, by golly, the university closed, and they had trials for the next two weeks.

And every time a student would be expelled, he’d be carried off on the shoulders of his fellow students. They even hired a band — play the band, carry him off, he’s a hero.

They were all the way down to 68 students, and the trustees said, “Whoa, we can’t close the university.” They fired MacMaster and replaced him with William Anderson. And one of the first things William Anderson did as president was announce the anti-secret society resolution was void, and he accepted a bid into the new Phi Delta Theta fraternity. That was his gesture of friendship and with that the air of peace was restored.

We have a president now at Centre College in Danville, Ky., who used to be my assistant, John Roush MEd ’73 PhD ’79. John is head of the college that got many of our expellees. They got kicked out of Miami, they went down to Centre College, and organized a Beta Theta Pi fraternity down there and other fraternities.

Once the air of good feeling returned, it took only a couple of years to go back over 220 students, a larger enrollment than we’d had before the rebellion.

1861-1865, the Civil War:
Miami’s role in the Civil War was a major one: 10 Union generals, three Confederate generals, two of the three ranking Union admirals, two members of Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet, a member of Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s cabinet were all out of Miami backgrounds.

When the war began, five of the 33 states of the Union: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Mississippi — four Union, one Confederate — were headed by governors who were Miami graduates. Stop and think … “Wow.” And two of Abraham Lincoln’s 10 cabinet members … Miamians.

Oxford, too, contributed to the Civil War. Not a Miami student, but a female named Charlotte “Lottie” Moon who became one of the most celebrated Confederate spies in the Civil War. The Lottie Moon House still stands on High Street.

Very successful. The most celebrated of the instances was when she rode in a carriage next to President Abraham Lincoln. He was talking with his Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, about strategy for the war, and she was pretending to sleep.

Charlotte “Lottie” MoonShe posed as Lady Hull — a British citizen, and she faked a strong British accent — who needed to get to the warm springs of Virginia to treat her, I imagine you call it rheumatism today. She appealed and they said, “Oh, sure, we’re going down to meet with some of our officers. The president’s going down tomorrow. You can ride with him.” So she rode with the president and heard all about his war strategy while she pretended to be sound asleep.

She eventually got caught trying to leave Ohio to go into Kentucky, a slave state, to, theoretically, see an injured son down in Lexington; actually to communicate some more secrets of the war to Confederate representatives.

When she was getting ready to cross the Ohio River, a new private thought there was something fishy about her pass, and he brought her to see the general, Ambrose E. Burnside. Well, she had once been courted by Burnside so when she came up into his office … oh, my heavens. She pretended she didn’t know him. She had a very strong Irish accent at that point, and she feigned this Irish accent until Ambrose finally said, “Lottie, I know who you are.”

Well, he could have had her shot as a spy, but his compassion for her because he’d been in love with her at one time was such that he ordered her sent to the Burnet House in Cincinnati if she would agree at that point that her spying days were over. She did and she was there for the rest of the war.

The Civil War is just an amazing chapter for tiny Oxford and a small university, making such a major impact on the conduct of the war. You say, “Wow, how can one college have that kind of an impact?” That to me is one of the very major historic moments in Miami’s past.

1873, Old Miami Closes:
With most of its students serving in the Civil War, Miami lost most of its income from tuition and fees and thus could not pay its bills. In 1873 Old Miami had to close its doors, becoming one of 412 American colleges and universities forced to close because of the war. When the war began there were 516. When it was over, there were 104.

Only a handful had admitted women and since these were male students going off to fight, enrollment went down to practically nothing.

They fought and fought to keep Miami going. Scrounging here, getting a loan there, getting a donation from somebody else, but they finally had to admit, “We just can’t pay these bills. They’re just overwhelming.”

1885, New Miami:
With its debts finally paid, primarily through alumni contributions, and with the beginning of state financial assistance, New Miami opened its doors. It was the first time the state of Ohio came to our assistance. Although we were a, quote, publicly assisted university, the public assistance was a township of land, from which we got $7,200 a year.

When I came to Miami, I used to still have to go to the treasurer’s office and pay a dollar bill once a year as my part.

The first president of New Miami was Robert White McFarland. He’d been a mathematics professor at the Old Miami. The enrollment was small and the curriculum was very much the same, still a classical, liberal arts curriculum.

President McFarland's daughter, among first five women admitted to Miami.

1887, Women Admitted:
The first five female students were admitted to Miami. The first to be signed up was Frances “Fannie” McFarland, the daughter of the president. Now you know why the break (from an all-male school) was finally made. The president said, “My daughter’s going to go here.” And she came.

And the second one to sign up was Daisy McCullough, later remembered as the benefactor of the Oxford hospital, now called McCullough-Hyde.

Dr. Hepburn, Andrew Dousa Hepburn, fought coeducation. He was the last president of Old Miami, he was on the faculty of the New Miami, and he and McFarland almost came to blows. In fact, Hepburn said, “Over my dead body, are we going to have women.”

McFarland left. Hepburn stayed, and he became the dean of the College of Arts and Science, and the women stayed. He didn’t win, but it was very, very controversial.

November 1888, Benjamin Harrison:
Benjamin Harrison, a member of the Miami Class of 1852, is elected the 23rd president of the United States.

Dec. 8, 1888, First Football Game in Ohio:
With the new Miami president, Ethelbert Dudley Warfield, and a predominantly East Coast faculty serving as players along with the students, Miami hosted the first football game played in Ohio, against the University of Cincinnati. Miami’s president, who had played at Princeton and brought the sport from Princeton, was referee. That’s something you can’t even conceive of today, a president of a university being a referee. The score was 0-0.

That was momentous, the first football game at any level played in Ohio … high school, college, professional.

1892, Benjamin Harrison and Whitelaw Reid:
Benjamin Harrison selected Whitelaw Reid, Miami Class of 1855 and the editor and publisher of the New York Tribune, to be his running mate in his bid for re-election. It marked the only time in American political history that a major party’s candidates for president and vice president were both graduates of the same university.

1902, the Last of 10 Clergy Presidents:
Our first nine presidents were all Presbyterian ministers. Not until Jim Garland, our 20th president, did we finally have 10 non-clergy presidents as well as 10 clergymen presidents — nine Presbyterian ministers, one Methodist (Guy Potter Benton).

No question that clergymen as presidents made a difference. We were the first public university to have a department of religion in the United States. When we had our Sesquicentennial in 1959, what did we do? We built a chapel.

If you read the entire section of the Northwest Ordinance, it would say “… religion, morality, and knowledge being central to good government and the happiness of mankind. Schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” So that was upfront, right there in the ordinance that organized the territory north and west of the Ohio River.

It was a mandate. We had compulsory chapel for years. When I came to Miami, we were still having meetings of the students in Hall Auditorium. We didn’t call them chapel meetings, but they were out of the chapel experience.

1902, School of Education:
With a single academic division, the College of Liberal Arts, through the 19th century, a second academic division was begun, a Normal School (School of Education) for teacher preparation.

We had had only a handful of women. Suddenly we had 70 and most of these were enrolled in the Normal School. By the end of the Guy Potter Benton administration, he was president when we got the School of Education started, the women were almost at the same level as the men in number. It was that dramatic of an impact.

Nellie Craig
Nellie Craig, Miami's first African-American graduate.

Also in 1902, among the female students was Nellie Craig, the first African-American student to graduate from Miami.

And the first sorority was started at Miami, Delta Zeta.

1927, School of Business Administration was established.

1928, School of Fine Arts was begun.

1948, Miami’s Graduate School opens.

1950 to the present, Cradle of Coaches:
With Miami graduates and/or coaches gaining national recognition, particularly in the sport of football — including such men as Paul Brown, Paul Deitzel, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Weeb Ewbank, Ara Parseghian, Carmen Cosa, John Pont, Terry Hoeppner, Bill Mallory, Randy Walker, and many more — Miami came to be known as the Cradle of Coaches, a name devised by Bob Kurz, Miami Class of 1958.

1954, John Millett’s Common Curriculum:
President John D. Millett, who came to Miami from Columbia University, introduced the Common Curriculum, which he had known at Columbia. It was his plan that all students, irrespective of the academic division of their major, would take core courses in the humanities, the sciences, and the social sciences in their freshmen and sophomore years.

He was a disciplinarian, he was very forceful. His personality was brusque and to the point, but he was a fine man. He accomplished a lot.

1966, Miami Middletown and 1968, Miami Hamilton:
With Dr. Millett becoming chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, new Miami President Phillip R. Shriver brought to completion the first regional branch campus in Ohio, Miami University Middletown, and in ’68 a second branch campus was opened, Miami University Hamilton. We’re celebrating that 40th anniversary this September.

1968, Luxembourg Campus:
With impetus from John E. Dolibois, Miami Class of 1942, serving as vice president for development and alumni affairs, a European center for Miami faculty and students was opened in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Dolibois, a native Luxembourger, would later become United States ambassador to Luxembourg in 1981.

1969, Start of Doctoral Programs:
Though master’s degrees had been awarded as early as 1830 and a graduate school had been established in 1948, it was not until 1969 that Miami launched its first independent doctoral programs in 10 departments.

Sit-in at Rowan Hall April 1970

1970, Vietnam War Protests:
Anti-Vietnam War protests reached their zenith in the spring of 1970 when the ROTC offices and classrooms in Rowan Hall were occupied in a sit-in on April 15. After the Kent State shootings in May, 720 American universities closed. Miami was one of them. We closed for a week. When we reopened, it was with a plan for pass or fail grades to replace letter grades for students who opted for that alternative.

It was something you lived day by day, night by night. We had students from campuses that were closed coming to our campus, camping out in tent cities at the edge of campus, north and south. Many of them from Antioch College, and they were out to close other schools.

We had seven fires one night on campus. I received a number of death threats, and I even had a Molotov cocktail left on the front porch of Lewis Place.

It was a very difficult time, but I would say that we had a lot of cooperation from students and faculty. We closed and when we reopened, we had 930 students with the faculty standing guard in our buildings so if any fires did break out, we could get an almost instantaneous response.

Their objective at Miami was to close down the ROTC and the Air Force and the Navy as a military presence on the campus, and my argument was … far better to have the military on a civilian campus where they’re interacting with students with varying opinions day after day than to put them exclusively in a West Point or Annapolis or out in Colorado, the Air Force Academy, where all they do is talk to each other.

The flush-in was one of the events that spring. The flush-in was a terrible, terrible experience. Never forget Bill Beck calling when they had the flush-in. He said, “Dr. Shriver”… he always called me Phil, but this time Dr. Shriver … “the water in my basement is up to the piano keys.” That water was suddenly dumped on the town. When they all flushed, it had to go somewhere, pipes couldn’t carry it away. And the town immediately reacted. “This has gone far enough.” Enough is enough, so it boomeranged.

After that experience in the spring of ’70, we moved the ROTC down to Millett Hall. It was no longer in the center of the campus and not quite as visible as it had been before.

1974, School of Interdisciplinary Studies:
At one time Oxford had five colleges. With the closing of Western College in 1974 only Miami remained. Western College became part of Miami and the School of Interdisciplinary Studies was launched on this campus. That, too, has now come to a close.

1985, a Public Ivy:
In the presidency of Paul G. Pearson, Miami was named one of only eight state-assisted universities in the nation to rival the eight private Ivy League colleges in academic standards and reputation. This came in a book titled The Public Ivys written by Richard Moll, director of admissions at the University of California at Berkeley.

That was a major honor. I remember for a time, Miami students would buy T-shirts that had “Public Ivy” on them. That was a big deal.

April 9, 2005, For Love and Honor:
Then I come down to the present. The largest campaign to raise endowment funds in Miami’s history is publicly launched by President James C. Garland, known as the For Love and Honor campaign. Its initial goal was to raise $350 million by December 2007.

Sept. 13, 2006, Campaign Goal Increased:
President David C. Hodge raised the goal of the campaign to $500 million and extended it to become part of Miami’s Bicentennial celebration.

Feb. 17, 2009, Bicentennial:
Miami University celebrates the Bicentennial of the Act of Charter by which it was established by the Ohio General Assembly.


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Contact Donna Boen '83 MTSC '96, editor of Miamian, at or 513-529-7592.


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Miamian, Miami University's alumni magazine, highlights alumni, student, faculty, and staff involvement with the University, updating readers on campus news and events, arts, sports, and alumni news. Miami's primary communication link with alumni and close friends of the University, the magazine sets out to inform and entertain while generating a sense of knowledge and involvement with Miami University. Miamian is published three times a year.