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 institutions.
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 Combined Normal and Industrial 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. There are four Colleges: Education; Engineering, Science, Technology, and Agriculture; Business; and Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Additionally, new academic programs have been added along with a School of Agricultural Education and Food Science, an 85,000 sq. ft., University Student Center, and five residence halls. The most recent residence hall opened in fall 2019 and is the University’s first 250-bed apartment-style facility. In summer 2020, the University celebrated the grand opening of the Botanical Garden, which will serve the campus and local communities by providing a space to engage in and observe the benefits of meditation and agricultural best practices.
Dr. Jack Thomas took office as the ninth president of Central State University on July 1, 2020, bringing decades of successful academic leadership.
President Thomas has laid out an ambitious agenda for his tenure as the ninth president at Central State University. The signature objectives of his presidency are as follows.
1. Continue to meet and enhance the 1890 Land-Grant mission
2. Increase enrollment (globally and in diversity)
3. Improve retention and graduation rates
4. Develop a marketing and rebranding campaign
5. Launch a multimillion-dollar capital campaign
6. Develop an Honors College to recruit high-achieving students
7. Increase degree offerings, offer graduate studies, and provide flexibility in course delivery
8. Build a new learning and living environment
9. Update the University strategic and master plans
As an 1890 Land-Grant Institution, Central State University is expanding Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Agriculture (STEM-Ag) academic programming, research, and education; developing partnerships within Ohio’s agricultural industry; enhancing facilities; and engaging local communities, all for the future growth and sustainability of the University.
Central State University embraces change, but one thing that has not changed is its continuing commitment to providing academic excellence for over 134 years, affordable education to residents of Ohio and beyond. Innovation is in our DNA.
Central State University Past/Present Presidents