It Was 2020 a Century Earlier

A pandemic is killing millions of people in the United States and around the world. As an outbreak hits Ohio Wesleyan, fraternity houses are commandeered for care and recovery, and the campus is forced to shut down for a month. Even the president becomes ill. When they return, students are asked to social distance and follow health guidelines. And it’s so difficult to study.

In many strange ways, 2020 was an echo of 1918. Here are excerpts from several articles in the Ohio Wesleyan Transcript, published after OWU reopened from its “influenza vacation.”

November 13, 1918

Prexy Hoffman Suffers From Flu

Among the first to suffer from the influenza during the recent epidemic was President J.H. Hoffman. Although at no time was his condition alarming, yet he was confined to his home and held away from his duties for two weeks. The re-opening of the classes found the President in the best of health and fast to his tasks.

November 18, 1918

Student Hospital With Full Equipment Is Success

The newly finished Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house on North Washington street was commandeered by the (University Hospital) Association, and turned into an efficient hospital which could care for from ten to twenty-five patients. The necessary equipment and supplies to give the men the very best attention were obtained, and the complete recovery of all the patients that were admitted may be attributed to the thorough and careful management of the authorities in charge. Although many of the other S.A.T.C. (Student Army Training Corps) schools lost from one to eight men during the epidemic, Ohio Wesleyan goes on record as not having lost a man. As convalescing hospitals both the Phi Delta Theta and Sigma Chi houses have been used.

Recess Caused by Influenza Makes Much Confusion

The usual confusion of an opening term was the general impression of affairs around Ohio Wesleyan Wednesday of last week, as the students resumed their work after an involuntary recess of about a month. However, the disruption caused by Spanish influenza came so early in the school year that the work may be easily continued or begun again according to the instructor’s wishes.

The influenza epidemic was nationwide, and very few of the colleges were not closed, either by local or state orders. Ohio Wesleyan was closed previously to the order from the Ohio Board of Health, which commanded that all colleges and schools in cities having three thousand or more population should be discontinued until the disease was checked sufficiently to warrant their continuation without the possibility of contagion.

During the vacation nearly all of the students except the S.A.T.C. men went to their homes, but Monnett Hall remained open for the fifty women who remained. It has been estimated by the authorities that the recess may prove to contain more bad features than the real loss of time in the regular work, and that many students in the various colleges will not return, owing to the demand of the industries for employees.

The student soldiers, although not attending classes of the University, continued their drill and practice of military movements. Their work in war courses also continued. But this all means a renewed effort to cover lost ground in the school work. The faculty entertain hopes that this may be accomplished before the close of the semester, so that credit may be given for the semester’s work.

The foot ball team was not affected much by the vacation, as far as training goes, as most of the men were in the S.A.T.C. and were here to continue practice…

December 4, 1918


It is a duty to ourselves and to our friends to strictly observe these rules for health laid down for us. To be careless as to our living, and to think ourselves immune from this very serious plague, is running a great risk. If we do our part to ward off this contagion, we are helping ourselves and Humanity to a great extent…We can do a great deal to limit the number of influenza victims at Ohio Wesleyan and incidentally aid in preventing our University from closing for a second time this semester.

Precautions Issued Against Influenza

Instructors are asked to see:

  1. That windows and doors are open sufficiently for good ventilation during class periods, and that students be advised to wear extra wraps if necessary.
  2. That students sit several seats apart in class, if the seating capacity of the room permits.

Janitors are instructed to see that all class rooms are thoroughly aired before the first period in the morning, during the noon period, and at night after the last class.

Any student who feels physically indisposed as a result of chills, temperature, bad cough, sore throat, headache, loss of appetite, etc., should report immediately to the medical adviser at a college hospital.

December 11, 1918


One of the hardest things to do this semester is study. The “flu” vacation, the S.A.T.C., the unsettled conditions about the campus—all come in for their share of the blame…

But, as Prexy says, “the test of a man is to press steadily onward to his goal in the face of adverse circumstances.” If the studying comes a little harder now, the result will mean all the more to us in the future.