The University is situated in a large metropolitan area. The campus, although centrally located within the City of Akron, features park-like pedestrian areas. Students have easy access to retail outlets, transportation, and churches. The University of Akron is located between East Market Street and East Exchange Street on the east side of the downtown area. Akron is easily reached by automobile from major national east-west routes (Interstates 80, 90, 76, and the Ohio Turnpike) and north south routes (Interstates 71 and 77), all of which link Akron to the surrounding states and regions. For airline passengers, limousine service is available from the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport located to the north and the Akron-Canton Regional Airport, located to the south.
The connection between The University of Akron and its surrounding community has been a recurring theme in its history. The institution was founded as a small denominational college in 1870 and has grown to its current standing as a major, metropolitan, state-assisted university. It is significant that the efforts, energy, and financial support of an Akron manufacturer of farm equipment, John R. Buchtel, were instrumental in persuading the Ohio Universalist Convention to build its college on a hill overlooking the town that stretched along the Ohio Canal. The grateful trustees responded by naming the school Buchtel College. It is also significant that during its first four decades, the struggling institution was repeatedly aided in its efforts to survive by various local entrepreneurs who pioneered and prospered in such industries as cereals, clay products, matches, and rubber. Buchtel College’s emphasis on local rather than denominational interests became increasingly clear, and by 1913 those strong ties and the school’s financial situation caused its trustees to transfer the institution and its assets to the city. For the next 50 years, The Municipal University of Akron received its principal support from city tax funds and swelled from an enrollment of 198 to nearly 10,000. The growth of the college paralleled the remarkable expansion of the community itself. From 1910 to 1920, Akron was the fastest-growing city in the country, evolving from a thriving canal town of 70,000 to a major manufacturing center of 208,000, thanks in large part to a boom in local factories that bore names such as Goodyear, Firestone, Goodrich, and others. The age of the automobile — and the demand for inflatable rubber tires — changed the complexion of Akron forever. Changes within the Municipal University’s curriculum reflected the strong interrelationship of town and gown. In 1914 a College of Engineering began instruction, and other professional schools followed: Education (1921), Business Administration (1953), Law (1959), Community and Technical College (now Summit College) (1964), Fine and Applied Arts (1967) (In December 2008, the programs in the college became part of two distinct units: the College of Creative and Professional Arts, and the College of Health Sciences and Human Services. In 2012, the programs in the colleges moved to the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences and newly created College of Health Professions.), Nursing (1967) (in 2012, Nursing joined programs from the College of Health Sciences and Human Services to form the College of Health Professions) and Wayne College (1972).
Considering the institution’s location in the heart of a burgeoning rubber industry, it seemed only appropriate that the world’s first courses in rubber chemistry would be offered at Buchtel College, in 1909. From those first classes in Professor Charles W. Knight’s laboratory would evolve the world’s first College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering (1988). During World War II, University of Akron researchers helped fill a critical need in the U.S. war effort by contributing to the development of synthetic rubber. The University’s polymer programs have produced some of the world’s most able scientists and engineers, and today attract millions of dollars annually in research support, as well as top graduate students from around the world. Research, innovation, and creativity actively take many forms at the University — in the sciences, and in the arts and humanities. Today, University faculty study ways of matching workers with jobs to maximize performance; develop new ways to synthesize fuel; write and produce plays, write poetry, choreograph dance works; explore improved methods of tumor detection; evaluate water quality in northeast Ohio; provide speech and hearing therapy to hundreds of clients; aid the free enterprise system by sharing the latest in business practices with new and established companies alike; provide health care in community clinics; and study political campaign financing and reform. Faculty are awarded patents each year for their work on new technologies and products. The University of Akron’s continuing and central commitment to the liberal arts is signified by the perpetuation of the institution’s original name in the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences. The University has a long tradition of serving the needs of part-time and full-time students through day and evening classes, and it attracts traditional and nontraditional students of all economic, social, and ethnic backgrounds. The University seeks to recruit and retain students of diverse backgrounds.
The University’s first doctoral degree was, appropriately enough, awarded in polymer chemistry in 1959, but master’s degrees were granted as early as 1882. The University of Akron now offers 17 doctoral degree programs and seven law degree programs as well as more than 100 master’s degree programs and options. The University offers undergraduate students a choice of more than 200 majors and areas of study leading to associate and bachelor’s degrees. Hundreds of noncredit continuing education courses, certificate programs and specialized training opportunities are available for individuals and organizations.
In 1963 the receipt of state tax monies made the University a state-assisted municipal university, and on July 1, 1967, The University of Akron officially became a state university. Today, 28,771 students from 47 states and 80 countries are enrolled in its 9 degree-granting units. The Princeton Review listed The University of Akron among the “Best in the Midwest” in its 2010 edition of Best Colleges: Region by Region. Its College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering is the nation’s largest academic polymer program. The University excels in many other areas, including global business, organizational psychology, educational technology, marketing, dance, intellectual property law and nursing. Alumni of the University number more than 151,000 and include scientists, engineers, artists, lawyers, educators, nurses, writers, business people, and other professionals at work in every state and throughout the world. The 218-acre Akron campus, with 88 buildings, is within walking distance of downtown Akron and is located in a metropolitan area of 2.8 million people. The University’s presence in Northeast Ohio provides numerous opportunities in recreation, major collegiate, amateur, and professional sports, concerts, cultural events, and commerce, all within easy driving distance and many accessible via public transportation. Arts venues on campus include Daum and Sandefur theatres, Guzzetta Recital Hall, the Emily Davis Gallery, and E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall, the flagship performance venue for the region. The critically acclaimed Akron Symphony Orchestra, Tuesday Musical and UA Steel Drum Band perform at Thomas Hall. The University joined the Mid-American Conference in 1991 and participates on the NCAA Division I level in 19 sports. The University’s ongoing, major campus renovation campaign that began in 2000, the “New Landscape for Learning,” has added 20 new facilities, 18 major additions or renovations and 34 acres of green space. For more than 142 years, The University of Akron has been an active participant in Akron’s renaissance of commercial and artistic endeavor, a leader in the metropolitan area’s intellectual and professional advancement, a center for internationally lauded research efforts and a source of enrichment, education, and vitality for Northeast Ohio. Our history is a long and proud one — yet at The University of Akron, our eyes are on the future, for our students, our faculty and staff, our community, and our world.