Our History


History of Central State University

Central State University's history begins with our parent institution, Wilberforce University, named in honor of the great abolitionist William Wilberforce. Established at Tawawa Springs, Ohio, in 1856, it is affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) 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 institution.

The statute 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.

Charles H. Wesley, who had been president of Wilberforce before the split in 1947, served as Central State's first president. His tenure lasted for almost two decades. Other presidents include:

  • Dr. Lewis A. Jackson, acting president during part of 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, 1985-1995
  • Dr. Herman B. Smith, interim president, 1995-1996
  • Dr. George Ayer, Executive Management Team, 1996-1997
  • John W. Garland, Esq., 1997-2012
  • Dr. Cynthia Jackson-Hammond, 2012-present

The University has grown steadily since its founding, though it suffered a serious setback in April 1974, when a tornado demolished almost 70 percent of Central State's facilities. The twister did not destroy the University's will to survive, however. Students were back on campus less than two weeks later, studying in makeshift classrooms, and a massive rebuilding effort began.

Today, the University is once again engaged in rebuilding, after weathering a storm of a different type — political turmoil and financial instability — in the 1990s. Under the administration of President John W. Garland, the University has renewed itself, emerging as a stronger institution on all fronts, from academics to administrative affairs and fiscal management, from student services and enrollment to campus facilities.

Much has changed at Central State University throughout its 150-year history. But one thing has not: a continuing commitment to providing an excellent, affordable education to all qualified persons.