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BW at 175: Offering an Extraordinary Education to All Since 1845

Have you heard? BW celebrated a big birthday this academic year, turning 175 years old!

Looking back across Baldwin Wallace University's 175-year-old history, one thing is clear: the distinctive values that made BW stand out in 1845 continue to drive the University's success today - even during a global pandemic.

'Do good and get good'

BW founder John BaldwinThe power of a diverse and determined community has been there from the beginning.

Inspired by his mother's Ivy League college rejection, BW founder John Baldwin made it his mission to defy the widely accepted idea in early 1800s America that college was reserved for white, wealthy men.

Baldwin's vision for inclusive education came to life on November 10, 1845 - 20 years prior to the end of the Civil War - when he founded the Baldwin Institute.

His new college preparatory school was open to all who "desired to do good and get good" regardless of race, gender or creed.

Breaking Down Barriers

View of then-Baldwin University's "North Campus" in 1914, which includes buildings integrated into the Malicky Center and what is now known as Wheeler Hall.According to BW history professor Dr. Indira Gesink, only three colleges in the country at the time admitted both women and men, and only one also admitted African American students.

In 1850, a woman, Maria Myra Poe, became the Baldwin Institute's very first graduate. Baldwin University's first known black graduate, the Rev. Dr. Daniel Webster Shaw, was born a slave in Louisiana and earned a BA as valedictorian for the Class of 1883.

In those early years, BW also broke down economic barriers and instilled values of diligence and service by establishing early work-study programs on campus and in the community. It was a formula that would stand the test of time.

Strong and confident community

2019 Community Day, Bold and Gold FestivalThe determined men and women who blazed BW's early trails practiced other enduring values like resilience, innovation and community - all now firmly woven into BW's DNA.

Through the decades, the BW faculty, staff and students, together with unwavering support from alumni, friends and neighbors, have forged a successful path forward under any circumstance.

That's been true from the 1913 merger with German Wallace College that made two colleges stronger together to BW's can-do, must-do approach to the current pandemic.

Celebrating by doing the work

photo of a student social distancing during fall 2020 semesterPre-COVID-19, BW looked forward to a 2020-21 academic year filled with 175th anniversary celebrations. Instead of marking BW's historic milestone with special events, though, staff and faculty shifted to a laser-focus on providing a safe, meaningful, on-campus experience for our students.

As we stop now to consider BW's trailblazing origin story, it's clear we have been celebrating all along this year as we have lived out treasured founding values in the midst of the pandemic. Once again, we have demonstrated the resolve, resilience and confidence that fueled our founders.

Even as these values sustain the welcoming and extraordinary learning community that BW is today, they are already powering the bold future we envision for the years to come.

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