Centennial marks founding, not start of classes

Becky Tener and Becky Tener

The University is celebrating its centennial this year when classes began 96 years ago.

“We celebrate now because 1910 is when Bowling Green State University came into being,” the Centennial Celebration Co-chair Larry Weiss said. “May 19, 1910, is when the state passed legislation to create two new normal schools, one in northeast Ohio [Kent State University] and one in northwest Ohio.”

Weiss said Bowling Green was selected to be the northwestern Ohio site Nov. 10, 1910. After the location was chosen, he said, the state had to find faculty staff and students for the school, and even after classes began in 1914, there still weren’t any buildings on campus until a year later.

Celebrating on the dates universities were founded or chartered is a usual practice. Like BGSU, universities all over Ohio have celebrated their anniversaries in conjunction with the dates the state passed legislation for their creation.

According to the Ohio State University Web site, their legislation was passed in 1870 and they celebrated their centennial in 1970.

Ohio University was established in 1804, and according to their Web site, the first students came in 1808, and OU celebrated its bicentennial in 2004. Miami University was chartered in 1809, but classes didn’t officially start until 1824 and they just finished their bicentennial celebration in 2009, according to their Web site.

Tom Neumann, associate vice president for University Communications and Marketing at Kent State University, said KSU is also celebrating the date legislation passed in 2010, like BGSU.

“Just like Bowling Green, we’ve been celebrating with all sorts of events throughout 2010 … but we have decided to celebrate for the academic year, so we began in the fall [of 2009] with our Homecoming celebration,” Neumann said.

Like BGSU, KSU did not begin classes in 1910. Classes began in 1912 and they are celebrating the passing of legislation.

“Kent has always celebrated aligning with the 1910 founding,” he said. “We did it 50 years ago and we’re doing it now.”

Dean of Students Jill Carr said the University is celebrating the centennial now and will not celebrate at this magnitude again in four years.

“Perhaps in four years, we will have a media push to recognize the 100 years since the start of classes, but not a full blown celebration,” she said.

Carr said the commitment to celebrate this year was carefully thought out and one Centennial Celebration will be enough.

“This time is very important and I think we’ve dealt with it wisely. We’ve been very mindful and good stewards of the state’s dollars and respectful of tight resources,” Carr said. “I think we’ve created a celebration that is tasteful and not overdone.”

Weiss said the Centennial Celebration is meant to commemorate the University from the beginning even before classes began.

“It’s why they celebrated in 1960 the 50th anniversary, 1985 we celebrated the 75th anniversary. 1910 is the date Bowling Green came into existence as a school and that’s what we’re celebrating,” Weiss said.