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Oberlin College

Oberlin College is a private liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio, noteworthy for having been the first American institution of higher learning to regularly admit female and black students in addition to white males.


70 N Professor St
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Additional Information

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Campus Housing
Mikado Yellow Cardinal
North Coast

College History


Both the college and the town of Oberlin were founded in northern Ohio in 1833 by a pair of Presbyterian ministers, John Jay Shipherd and Philo P. Stewart. The ministers named their project after Jean-Fr�d�ric Oberlin, an Alsatian minister whom they both admired. Oberlin attained prominence because of the influence of its second president, the evangelist Charles Finney, after whom one of the College's chapels and performance spaces is named. Asa Mahan (1800�1889) served as Oberlin's first president from 1835�1850. Oberlin Collegiate Institute (as it was originally called) was built on 500 acres (2.0 km2) of land specifically donated by the previous owners, Titus Street, founder of Streetsboro, Ohio and Samuel Hughes, who lived in Connecticut. Shipherd and Stewart's vision was for both a religious community and school. For a more detailed history of the founding of the town and the college, see Oberlin, Ohio. Oberlin has long been associated with progressive causes. Its founders bragged that "Oberlin is peculiar in that which is good." Oberlin was the first college in the United States to regularly admit African-American students, beginning in 1835. Oberlin College's role as an educator of African-American students prior to the Civil War and thereafter is historically significant. Peters Hall, the Oberlin Administration Building, in 1909. In 1844, Oberlin College graduated its first black student, George B. Vashon, who became one of the founding professors at Howard University and the first black lawyer admitted to the Bar in New York State. The African Americans of Oberlin and those attending Oberlin College "have experienced intense challenges and immense accomplishments since their joint founding in 1833. Its African American and other students of color have used education and activism to influence the college, the town, and beyond. Their efforts have helped Oberlin remain committed to its values of freedom, social justice, and service." It is also the oldest continuously operating coeducational institution, since having admitted four women in 1837. These four women, who were the first to enter as full students, were Mary Kellogg (Fairchild), Mary Caroline Rudd, Mary Hosford, and Elizabeth Prall. All but Kellogg graduated. Mary Jane Patterson graduated in 1862 as the first black woman to earn a B.A. degree. The college was listed as a National Historic Landmark on December 21, 1965, for its significance in admitting African Americans and women. The college had some difficult beginnings, and Keep and William Dawes were sent to England to raise funds for the college in 1839�40. One historian called Oberlin "the town that started the Civil War" due to its reputation as a hotbed of abolitionism. Oberlin was a key stop along the Underground Railroad. In 1858, both students and faculty were involved in the controversial Oberlin-Wellington Rescue of a fugitive slave, which received national press coverage. Two participants in this raid, Lewis Sheridan Leary and John Anthony Copeland, along with another Oberlin resident, Shields Green, also participated in John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry. This heritage was commemorated on campus by the 1977 installation of sculptor Cameron Armstrong's "Underground Railroad Monument" (a railroad track rising from the ground toward the sky) and monuments to the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue and the Harper's Ferry Raid. Oberlin College was also prominent in sending Christian missionaries abroad. In 1881, students at Oberlin formed the Oberlin Band to journey as a group to remote Shanxi province in China. A total of 30 members of the Oberlin Band worked in Shanxi as missionaries over the next two decades. Ten died of disease and in 1900, fifteen of the Oberlin missionaries, including wives and children, were killed by Boxers or Chinese government soldiers during the Boxer Rebellion. The Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association, an independent foundation, was formed in their memory. The Association, with offices on campus, sponsors Oberlin graduates to teach in China, India, and Japan. It also hosts scholars and artists from Asia to spend time on the Oberlin campus. Peters Hall, home of the language departments, in 2010. Mount Oberlin in Glacier National Park was named after the college. Oberlin's school colors are cardinal red and mikado yellow, often casually referred to as "crimson and gold." Those colors were formally designated for the college by a faculty committee in 1889 and were drawn from the family coat of arms of John Frederick Oberlin. They remain in the official registry of school colors maintained by the American Council on Education.

College Specialty


In keeping with Oberlin College's tradition as a liberal arts college, the Physics and Astronomy Department strives to provide a curriculum that can give its majors a thorough grounding in the basic principles and methods of physics, with opportunities for independent research; offer a range of courses on topics in physics and astronomy that are particularly appropriate for students of the humanities and social sciences; provide the physics training required by students majoring in other disciplines; encourage original research by faculty and students and the improvement of pedagogical methods; and provide a supportive work environment for students, staff, and faculty.



Robert Millikan (B.A. 1891), Nobel laureate (Physics, 1923) "for his work on the elementary charge of electricity and on the photoelectric effect" Roger Wolcott Sperry (B.A. English 1935, M.A. psychology 1937), neurobiologist who studied split-brain research, Nobel laureate (Medicine, 1981), "for his discoveries concerning the functional specialization of the cerebral hemispheres"



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