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History of the University

The history of Central State University, an 1890 Land-Grant Institution begins with our parent institution, Wilberforce University (WU), named in honor of the great abolitionist William Wilberforce.  Established in 1856 at Tawawa Springs, Ohio, WU is affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church and is one of the oldest Black-administered institutions of higher education in the nation.

In 1887, the Ohio General Assembly enacted legislation that created a Combined Normal and Industrial Department at Wilberforce University.  The objectives of this new state-sponsored department were to provide teacher training and vocational education, and to stabilize these programs by assuring a financial base similar to that of other state-supported institutions.

The statue establishing the Combined Normal and Industrial Department declared that the institution was “open to all applicants of good and moral character” thereby indicating no limitations as to race, color, sex, or creed.  It was clear, however, that the Department and its successors were designed to serve the educational needs of African-American students.

Although this Department operated as part of Wilberforce University in most respects, a separate board of trustees was appointed to govern the state-financed operations.  In 1941, the department expanded from a two- to a four-year program, and in 1947, it legally split from Wilberforce, becoming the College of Education and Industrial Arts at Wilberforce.  The name was changed in 1951 to Central State College, and in 1965, the institution achieved university status.  The University has grown steadily since its’ founding.  In recent years, it has added new academic programs, established a new College of Science and Engineering, constructed a new academic building, four new residence halls, and began the construction of a new University Center scheduled for completion in Fall 2015.

In February 2014, the 113th Congress of the United States designated Central State University an 1890 Land-Grant Institution. This designation is a distinct recognition for an Ohio institution of higher education, and Central State is one of two institutions to hold this distinction.  The major impetus of the designation is to provide access to education and to promote opportunities for students with interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Agriculture (STEM-A) integrated through all academic disciplines.

In tandem with progressive academic achievement, the University has embodied tenets of Service…Protocol…Civility®. Its faculty, staff, and students will provideservice to the institution, and various communities for the greater good; be guided by protocol and adherence to best practices in order to gain desired results; and actively demonstrate civility with the understanding that respect for each voice is essentia­l to a learned society.

Much more has changed at Central State University throughout its history.  However, one constant is the commitment to providing an excellent, affordable education to the residents of Ohio and beyond.


127 Years of Service and Excellence




Central State University Past/Present Presidents

  • Dr. Charles H. Wesley, 1947-1965
  • Dr. Harry E. Groves, 1965 to 1968
  • Dr. Herman R. Branson, 1968-1970
  • Dr. Lewis A. Jackson, 1970-1972
  • Dr. Lionel H. Newsom,1972-1985
  • Dr. Arthur E. Thomas '62, 1985-1995
  • John W. Garland '71,  1997-2012
  • Dr. Cynthia Jackson-Hammond, 2012-present