Robert Overman (1888 - 1978)

As the first named faculty member, James Robert Overman joined nine others in 1914 to form the instructional staff at Bowling Green State Normal College. His initial appointment was in mathematics. Overman immediately found himself being asked to assume, in addition to his teaching load, such administrative responsibilities as Librarian and Registrar. These positions set a pattern that led increasingly to other tasks and subsequently to an administrative career.

Upon his arrival in 1914 Overman held a bachelor's degree in mathematics. During the next dozen years he acquired both a master's degree from Columbia University and a doctorate from the University of Michigan in mathematics. His graduate work was primarily in the area of mathematics education - a field in which he wrote ten textbooks while also teaching up to ten hours a semester. As the college grew, departments evolved and Overman thus became the first chair of the Department of Mathematics.

The legislative creation in 1929 of Bowling Green State University led to the formation of two colleges - Education and Liberal Arts. Overman was named as the first Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, a position he held for the next twenty two years. By 1951 Bowling Green had grown in size and had added a College of Business and a Graduate Program. Consequently, a further reorganization led to the creation of a chief academic officer - the Dean of Faculties (Provost). The position was filled by Dr. Overman.

In 1956, after serving the University for forty two years, Overman retired. At that point, the Board of Trustees named the new chemistry building Overman Hall and the University bestowed an honorary Doctor of Science degree upon him. [From 3, p 159: "A large addition to the Chemistry Building also was completed in 1960, and the entire building was named Overman Hall...."]

Article by Stuart Givens

  1. The James Robert Overman Collection at the BGSU library.
  2. Givens, Stuart R., The Falcon Soars : Bowling Green State University : the years of growing distinction,1963-1985, Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1986.
  3. Overman, James Robert, The History of Bowling Green State University, [1914-1963] Bowling Green University Press, 1967.