Wilberforce University

Wilberforce University

Wilberforce University, at Wilberforce, Ohio, near Xenia; African Methodist Episcopal; coeducational; chartered and opened 1856. Wilberforce provided one of the first opportunities for African Americans to pursue advanced academic training. In 1863 it absorbed Union Seminary (est. 1847). The university adopted a cooperative education program in 1964, whereby its students alternate periods of academic and professional work.
Wilberforce University is a private, coed, liberal arts historically African-American university located in Wilberforce, Ohio, that is affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and participates in the United Negro College Fund.

Planned by the Cincinnati, Ohio Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church to provide a "literary institution" (classical education) and teacher training for black youth, founders worked in partnership with founders from the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) to develop Wilberforce University. It was named for the 18th century English statesman and abolitionist William Wilberforce. The college also played a role in the Underground Railroad. The campus is located three miles from the county seat of Xenia, Ohio, and 21 miles from Dayton, Ohio and about the same distance to Cincinnati.

When the U.S. Civil War threatened the university's future, in 1863 the AME Church purchased the college, making it the first to be owned and operated by African Americans.


Cooperative Education

Wilberforce is one of two four-year institutions in the United States that require all students to participate in cooperative education to meet graduation requirements. The cooperative program places students in internships that provide practical experience in addition to academic training.

NASA SEMAA project

In October 2006, Wilberforce held the grand opening and dedication for the NASA Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy (SEMAA) and the associated Aerospace Education Laboratory (AEL). It was attended by Dr. Bernice G. Alston, deputy assistant administrator of NASA’s office of Education, and the Honorable David L. Hobson, state representative from Ohio’s 7th congressional district.

NASA’s program is designed to provide training in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to underprivileged students to support NASA’s future needs. There are 17 NASA SEMAA project sites through the United States. Through this partnership, Wilberforce will offer training sessions for students in grades K-12 during the academic year and during the summer. The AEL is computerized classroom that provided technology to students in grades 7-12 that supports the SEMAA training sessions.


Wilberforce University was developed in partnership between the Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Church, whose members worked to promote classical education and teacher training for black youth. Among the first 24 members of the Board of Trustees in 1855 were Bishop Daniel A. Payne, Rev. Lewis Woodson and Messrs. Ishmael Keith and Alfred Anderson, all of the AME Church. Also on the Board were Salmon P. Chase, then Governor of Ohio and a strong supporter of abolition, as well as a member of the Ohio State Legislature and other leaders in the white community. Chase was later Supreme Court Justice under President Lincoln.

To start the university, the Cincinnati Conference bought a hotel and property near Tanawa Springs, which had been a popular resort for people both from Cincinnati and the South. The college opened for classes in 1856, and by 1858 Rev. Richard S. Rust was selected as the first President. By 1860 the university had 200 students, a good portion of them natural sons of planters from the South. The outbreak of Civil War threatened the college's finances, as church resources were diverted, and no more paying students came from the South. The college closed temporarily in 1862 and the Methodist Church was unable to fully fund it.

In 1863 the African Methodist Episcopal Church made the decision to buy the university to keep it going. Founders were Bishop Daniel A. Payne, first President; Bishop James A. Shorter and Dr. John G. Mitchell. When an arsonist damaged some of the buildings by fire in 1865, Chief Justice Salmon Chase (appointed by President Lincoln) and Dr. Charles Avery from Pittsburgh each contributed $10,000 for rebuilding, and Mary E. Monroe contributed $4200. Congress approved $25,000 for the institution, and money was also raised privately from a wide range of donors.

Generations of leaders: teachers, ministers, doctors, and presidents of other colleges, and later men and women of all occupations, have been educated at the university. Growth of the university drove the need to build a new campus in 1967, located one mile away. In 1974, a tornado destroyed much of the city of Xenia and the old campus. It was part of the Super Outbreak tornado storm.

Its strong tradition led the university to establish the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center, which provides exhibits and outreach to the region. It also manages the Association of African American Museums to provide support especially to smaller museums. Other old campus buildings still in use include the Carnegie Library built in 1909 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Shorter Hall built in 1922, and the Charles Leander Hill Gymnasium, built in 1958.


On March 21, 2008 a compliance audit was completed by the United States Department of Education, Office of the Inspector General (OIG) focusing on the university's management of Title IV funds, as required by Federal law. For the two-year audit period (2004-2005, 2005-2006) the audit found:

  • Did not return $61,990 in unearned Title IV, HEA program funds;
  • Did not administer the Federal Work Study (FWS) program in accordance with the HEA and regulations, resulting in payment of $2,372,141 in wages that lacked adequate supporting documentation;
  • Disbursed $38,650 in Title IV, HEA program funds to ineligible students;
  • Did not notify students when Title IV, HEA program funds were credited to their accounts;
  • Did not return credit balances to students in a timely manner; and
  • Did not perform FFEL exit counseling.

The OIG found:

"The University did not comply with the Title IV, HEA program requirements because it was not administratively capable. During the audit period, the University experienced significant staff turnover and lacked sufficient financial aid staff, failed to develop and implement written policies and procedures, did not maintain all records needed to demonstrate compliance with the HEA and applicable regulations, and did not ensure sufficient communication between the financial aid office and all other institutional offices at the University."

Student activities

Athletic programs

Wilberforce is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and participates in the American Mideast Conference. The Bulldogs participate in the following intercollegiate sports: basketball (men's and women's), and cross country (men's and women's). Students also participate in the following intramural sports: basketball, softball, volleyball, flag football, and tennis.

NPHC Organizations

Notable alumni

See also

External links


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