With roots reaching back to 1819, the University of Cincinnati has long been at the frontier of higher education in the Ohio Valley. While it has aspired to fulfill its mission to serve the public good, some residents, particularly those living near campus, have wondered how university decisions benefited the city at large. Long a municipal university, UC struggled to serve a broad diverse population, even as Cincinnati itself struggled in the late twentieth century. Through it all, the university has maintained its importance to the city and its alumni.
In Service to the City: A History of the University of Cincinnati, the first history of the university written in over fifty years, explores the evolving, complex relationship between UC and the city of Cincinnati. In Service to the City casts an unvarnished lens on the details of student demographics, faculty research, curricular changes, and athletic controversy to challenges associated with campus architecture and planning, neighborhood relations, regional and national consequences of urban decline, and the roles of municipal, state, and federal governments within American higher education.
Urban, environmental historian David Stradling traces UC’s story through starts and stops, growth and contraction. In the 1870s the institution began its transformation into a comprehensive, municipal university located in America’s thriving heartland. Expansion continued through mergers with Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and Cincinnati Medical College, among others. In 1977, University President Warren Bennis and Governor Jim Rhodes signed papers ending UC’s municipal status while securing its future as part of the state university system of Ohio.
UC maintains its strong relationship with Cincinnati, pioneering countless community and regionally oriented programs, from its expanding co-op education system, the first in the nation, to the Niehoff Urban Studio. Stradling describes the social and political activism of UC students and faculty—front and center in the civil rights and women’s rights movements, as well as the public health and environmental movements. Often they struggled to change the culture within their own institution, which at times appeared conservative or reactionary.
Drawing on archival research, Stradling recounts in lively prose and through dozens of illustrations, two-hundred years of UC history, setting the story in the context of changes within higher education in the United States. With the cost of higher education on the minds of legislators and the public, questions first posed by Daniel Drake in 1819 upon the founding of Cincinnati College remain relevant. Who should the college serve? What and how should students learn? How can we pay for it? In Service to the City encourages readers to consider how the University of Cincinnati—with a history so entwined with its city—can balance its urban-serving tradition with its aspiration to be a leader global research university.
Introduction Ch. 1 A Frontier Institution: The College Edifice in the Commercial City Ch. 2 Shall It All Be in One Place? Building a University of Cincinnati Ch. 3 To the Woods: An Urban University Moves Away from Urban Problems Ch. 4 A Progressive Institution: The University in the Age of Reform Ch. 5 In the Service of the Nation: The University in War and Depression Ch. 6 Growing Pains and Opportunities: An Expanding Campus and Mission Ch. 7 A University at War with Itself: Campus Unrest in the 1960s Ch. 8 A University Without Walls: The Urban Crisis and the End of the Municipal University Ch. 9 Toward a Third Century: Competing on the National and International Stage Epilogue: We Will Be in Cincinnati
David Stradling is the Associate Dean for Humanities and Zane L. Miller Professor of Urban History at the University of Cincinnati. He is the author of several books, including Where the River burned: Carl Stokes and the Struggle to Save Cleveland (2015), which he wrote with Richard Stradling, and Making Mountains: New York City and the Catskills (2007). He lives in Clifton, Ohio where he and Jodie Zultowsky raised two daughters.