OWU's History

Ohio Wesleyan University was established with community support in 1842, when the Rev. Adam Poe, pastor of Delaware’s William Street Church, encouraged the citizens of Delaware to raise funds to purchase a building and establish a university “of the highest order” in central Ohio.

Together, 172 citizens raised a $10,000 contribution to help purchase the former Mansion House Hotel, now known as Elliott Hall. The University's official charter was granted from the Ohio Legislature on March 7, 1842. 

Ohio Wesleyan has been acquiring traditions since 1844, when the College of Liberal Arts opened its doors with an enrollment of 29 male students taught by three professors. 

In 1853, the Ohio Wesleyan Female College, an independent institution, was established in Delaware and four years later moved into the new Monnett Hall. In 1877, the Female College and the University merged, and during the 1977-78 academic year, Ohio Wesleyan celebrated 100 years of coeducation.


The beginning of each school year is marked with a Convocation ceremony. Held during Orientation, Convocation is one of only two times when the entire first-year student class comes together in one place (the other time being Commencement). During the Convocation ceremony, which professors attend in full academic regalia, speeches are given by campus leaders, and talented first-year students are featured.

At the beginning of each academic year, Ohio Wesleyan also holds a Day on the JAY celebration when the entire campus—students, faculty, and staff—come together for for food and fun. Weather permitting, the event is held outdoors on the JAYwalk  (formally known as the James A. Young Memorial Walkway). A second Day on the JAY is held at the end of spring semester to bring everyone together one more time before the academic year ends. 

At Ohio Wesleyan, Homecoming & Family Weekend provides a joyous opportunity for alumni to return to campus and for parents/families to visit their students. Activities include the annual football game, the crowning of the King and Queen, and performances or exhibits by campus talent. 

The Ohio Wesleyan Greek (fraternity/sorority) community has many of its own traditions, but two of its biggest traditions are Greek Week and Recruitment. Greek Week is held during fall semester and features Olympic-style events and more. Fraternity and sorority recruitment is a year-long process, but freshmen have a formal opportunity at the start of spring semester to explore all of the Greek-lettered organizations.  At the end of the process, students may choose to join a fraternity and sorority by accepting a formal bid that may be offered to them.  After acceptance of a bid, each chapter begins its own new member education program.

The Ohio Wesleyan President’s Club hosts the annual President’s Ball during a weekend in early December. This formal dance, held annually since 1985, features music by the campus jazz band, as well as by a disc jockey. Students, staff, and faculty dress to the nines to attend this event and dance the night away.

A newer campus tradition is the Midnight Breakfast, held during final exam week in both the fall and spring semesters. The campus dining room in Smith Hall is kept open until the wee hours of the morning, where students gather to study, chat, and have their professors serve them meals.

Spring semester concludes each year with Commencement and Baccalaureate. Commencement  is preceded by a Baccalaureate celebration planned by members of the senior class to celebrate their spiritual and educational journeys. The traditional Commencement ceremony takes on the south side of Merrick Hall, incorporating its picture-perfect patio and lawn. In case of rain, Commencement is held in Branch Rickey Arena. At the conclusion of graduation, the bell in the tower of University Hall is rung to mark the close of another academic year.

The weekend after Commencement is for alumni, and approximately 1,000 people return for class reunions and other traditional activities. Classes holding their 25th (Silver Key) and 50th (Golden Key) reunions are especially honored at this time.