About BW


John Baldwin, founder

Couples during the 1890s rendezvoused along the Rocky River at a favorite place called "The Rocks"

History of Baldwin Wallace University

When founded in 1845 with a gift from John Baldwin of “a five-acre campus, 30 village lots and 50 acres of land,” Baldwin Wallace was among the first colleges to admit students without regard to race or gender. In fact, the institution’s first graduate, Maria Poe, was female.

Since 1845, Baldwin Wallace University has continued to pursue the dreams of its founders to make education the great leveling tool to prepare students as contributing, compassionate citizens while encouraging the pursuits of personal and professional excellence.  Its historic relationship with the United Methodist Church remains an important thread in the fabric of the institution.

John Baldwin, the wealthy quarry owner, whose mother had been denied entry to an eastern university because she was a female, was joined by other business and civic leaders—James Wallace, Fletcher Hulet and Josiah Holbrook—and an institution committed to education “regardless of race, gender, creed” or ability to pay was launched as Baldwin Institute. It became Baldwin University in 1856.

Baldwin University’s earliest classes included nearly as many women as men. Additionally, students who could not afford an education were offered jobs to help cover the cost of tuition.

With the increasing numbers of German emigrants relocating to Berea to work in the quarries, a German department was created at Baldwin University to teach their children. In the 1860s, neighboring German Wallace College grew out of that department. Both schools allowed students enrolled in one institute and take courses in the other without penalty.

By 1913, Baldwin University and German Wallace College merged to create Baldwin-Wallace College. Combining the resources of both institutions allowed Baldwin-Wallace College to emerge as a financially stable institute.

While Baldwin continued to grow in enrollment and stature, the university also created opportunities for adult learners. During World War II, BW housed a Navy V-12 program on campus. After the war, BW recognized the challenges faced by these returning students, and became an innovator by offering night classes so that the veterans could hold a job and support a family while completing a college degree. In the 1970s, BW also was among the first to offer weekend degree programs for adult students.

In 1898, BW began a journey that would lead it to becoming one of the few liberal arts-based institutions in the nation with an internationally respected Conservatory of Music. That year, during his junior year at German Wallace College, Albert Riemenschneider began teaching music. Upon his graduation in 1899, he was appointed full-time instructor and head of the music department, a position he held until 1947. In 1932, together with his wife, Selma, he founded a Baldwin Wallace Bach Festival, which continues to receive critical acclaim as the nation’s oldest collegiate Bach festival.

In the mid-1970s, BW introduced thriving graduate programs in business and education, which now are among the largest in Ohio.

To more accurately reflect BW’s current structure, the breadth of the academic programs and expanding focus of the undergraduate and graduate programs in 2012, Baldwin-Wallace College returned to its early designation by officially becoming Baldwin Wallace University.

While BW continues to innovate on many levels—introducing Ohio’s first undergraduate of graduate programs in disciplines such as neuroscience, software engineering, sustainability and others; making geo-exchange technology and other clean energy an integral part of campus life; or endowing one of the nation’s first chairs in corporate ethics—the institution continues as a community of learners in which the highest priority is placed on intentional excellence, extraordinary engagement and holistic support.

The result continues to provide a distinctive student-centered experience that supports each individual in achieving his or her full potential in pursuit of meaningful careers and an extraordinary life.

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