Top photo shows the historic gateway to campus in the 1920s; bottom photo shows the new BGSU Alumni Gateway constructed in 2022

Founders Day Fast Facts 2023

Estimated Reading Time:  

When Bowling Green State University celebrates its Founders Day, the University will mark 113 years of existence as a public university for the public good. Here are some fast facts about the founding and the early years of BGSU.

  • In 1910, legislation was passed that called for two normal schools to be established in northern Ohio. One was in Kent, which became Kent State University, and the other was in Bowling Green and was named Bowling Green Normal School on Feb. 16, 1912.
  • The word “normal school” comes from the French term ecole normale, which in the 19th century was the term for an educational institution that was dedicated to the training of teachers.
  • Bowling Green was established in 1910 as a teacher training institution, but the first classes were held in 1914.
  • The name changed to Bowling Green State Normal College, and the word “college” was chosen on purpose, as the founders had no intent of remaining a two-year normal school. Bowling Green achieved university standing in 1935.
  • The first president, Homer Williams, preferred the name “Bowling Green State Teachers College.”
  • In 1911, the Ohio General Assembly appropriated $150,000 to be used to construct a college building (the Administration Building - now University Hall) and a dormitory (North Dormitory - now Williams Hall). That's equivalent to just over $4.8 million today.
  • The first two buildings on campus – University Hall and Williams Hall – were ready for use in 1915.
  • Student enrollment for the first year, 1914, totaled 304, with a faculty of 21.
  • The first bachelor's degrees in education were awarded in 1917, though the Ohio legislature didn’t actually give authority to do so until 1929. It was President Williams’ philosophy to act as if the school already was what it aspired to be and he supported awarding four-year degrees ahead of the legislation permission. Bowling Green granted 253 four-year degrees before 1929.
  • Also in 1929, the name was officially changed to Bowling Green State College. At this point, colleges of Liberal Arts and Education were established, with J. Robert Overman – the very first faculty member – named dean of the College of Liberal Arts.
  • By 1929, the college boasted 105 acres, seven college buildings, a heating plant, the president’s house, a small group of farm buildings and enrollment stood at more than 900.
  • The first fight song wasn’t “Ay Ziggy Zoomba.” Early students listened to Ernest G. Hesser’s “We Hail You, Dear Normal College.”
  • Music and choral groups were popular on campus from the very beginning, and BGSU has never been without music on campus, as the first existence of a music department dates back to 1914. The college offered special two-year courses in “public school music” that emphasized the general principles of teaching children’s music in schools.
  • The first organization was the Book and Motor, which remained active until 1965 when it was replaced by national honorary society Phi Kappa Phi.
  • In 1935, Bowling Green State College became Bowling Green State University. 

Related Stories

Media Contact | Michael Bratton | | 419-372-6349

Updated: 09/27/2023 02:54PM