Ohio Northern University
Former names
Northwestern Ohio Normal School (1871–1885)
Ohio Normal University (1885–1903)[1]
MottoEx diversitate vires (Latin)
Motto in English
"Out of diversity strength"
TypePrivate college
Established1871; 153 years ago (1871)
Religious affiliation
United Methodist Church
Academic affiliations
Endowment$160.3 million (2019)[2]
PresidentMelissa J. Baumann[3]
ProvostJuliet K. Hurtig[3]
Academic staff
Students3,088 (2017)
Undergraduates2,900 (2017)
Location, ,
United States
ColorsOrange, Black, White
NicknamePolar Bears
Sporting affiliations

Ohio Northern University (Ohio Northern or ONU) is a private college in Ada, Ohio. Founded by Henry Solomon Lehr in 1871, ONU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It offers over 60 programs to choose from across five colleges and is affiliated with the United Methodist Church.


Early years

An Ohio historical marker outlining the institution's history

Henry Solomon Lehr founded the Northwestern Ohio Normal School in August 1871. When the college's curriculum grew to include pharmacy, engineering, law and business programs, its name was changed to Ohio Normal University in 1885 and, eventually, in 1903, to Ohio Northern University. In 1899, it became affiliated with the United Methodist Church to reduce debt.[4]

Interwar and post-war education

Martin Luther King Jr. statue at Ohio Northern University

Before the Great Depression, more than one thousand students were typically enrolled at Ohio Northern every year. Both the Great Depression and the following World War II plunged the school into low enrollment, and the possibility of closure was considered. During World War II, enrollment reached a low of 156 students. Thanks to the G.I. Bill, Ohio Northern was able to bring enrollment back up to nine hundred students by 1946.

Throughout the 1960s, a number of ONU students and faculty/staff participated in the American Civil Rights Movement. ONU hosted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on January 11, 1968, four days before his 39th birthday and just three months before his assassination.[5] During his visit at ONU, King famously spoke regarding the myth that many immigrant and/or ethnic groups successfully pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, whereas African Americans were incapable of doing so.[6][7] ONU honored King and his speech on campus with the unveiling of a statue in his likeness on April 17, 2018.[8][9]

Later 20th century into today

Growth continued under Dr. DeBow Freed through the 1980s and 1990s with additions to the Taggart Law Library, Presser Hall, Dukes Memorial, Wilson Art Building, Biggs Engineering, Heterick Memorial Library, and Meyer Hall of Science, and the construction of the Freed Center for the Performing Arts and a new president's on-campus home. Under Dr. Kendall Baker, campus additions include Dicke Hall, an expansion of the Robertson-Evans Pharmacy building, the Dial-Roberson Stadium and the Mathile Center for the Natural Sciences. In 2008, Ohio Northern University built and opened The Inn at Ohio Northern University.[10] A new engineering building was opened in October 2019.[11]


Melissa J. Baumann is Ohio Northern University’s 12th president, and first female to serve in the role.

Past ONU presidents


Presser Hall, housing the music department of Ohio Northern University, with the Dukes and Lehr buildings in the background.

The institution comprises five colleges:

Prior to 1973, the law school was known as "the Warren G. Harding College of Law". It was renamed in honor of Claude W. Pettit, a judge and former dean of the college.[12]


A Polar Bears punter during a football game in 2022

ONU students participate in intercollegiate, intramural, and sports clubs in a variety of sports. The ONU Polar Bears compete in the NCAA Division III Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC). The men's volleyball team participates in the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association in the Great Midwest Men's Volleyball Conference.

National honors

NCAA Championship

NCAA Runner-up finishes

NCAA Final Four appearances

NCAA Elite Eight appearance

NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearances

Club Sport Championship

Notable alumni

This article's list of alumni may not follow Wikipedia's verifiability policy. Please improve this article by removing names that do not have independent reliable sources showing they merit inclusion in this article AND are alumni, or by incorporating the relevant publications into the body of the article through appropriate citations. (January 2024)


  1. ^ "Ohio Northern University". www.hmdb.org. The Historical Marker Database. Retrieved October 23, 2023.
  2. ^ As of June 30, 2019. "U.S. and Canadian 2019 NTSE Participating Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2019 Endowment Market Value, and Percentage Change in Market Value from FY18 to FY19 (Revised)". National Association of College and University Business Officers and TIAA. Retrieved September 20, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c "President". onu.edu. January 5, 2011. Retrieved July 9, 2022.
  4. ^ "Ohio Northern University". Ohio History Central. Retrieved October 6, 2020.
  5. ^ "Digital Repository of Dr. King's visit to ONU, including original audio file, press releases, and transcript of his speech". Archived from the original on May 28, 2010. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  6. ^ Publications, Eight Cities Media &. "Dr King's Message for Today". Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  7. ^ "The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute |". Mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  8. ^ "MLK statue to be dedicated at ONU - The Lima News". limaohio.com. April 13, 2018.
  9. ^ "Statue commemorates MLK's 1968 speech". Archived from the original on April 18, 2018.
  10. ^ "The Inn at Ohio Northern University". Retrieved July 6, 2010.
  11. ^ "dedication of new engineering building". Archived from the original on August 8, 2020. Retrieved October 6, 2020.
  12. ^ "History of the ONU Pettit College of Law". Archived from the original on September 2, 2006. Retrieved August 21, 2006.
  13. ^ "Home". Ohio Northern University. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  14. ^ "USA Today.com: Mount Union's 110-game regular season winning streak snapped". October 24, 2005. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
  15. ^ "D3hoops.com: 1993 Men's NCAA Tournament Results". Archived from the original on October 30, 2006. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  16. ^ "Athletics | Ohio Northern University" (PDF). onusports.com. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 17, 2008. Retrieved April 6, 2018.
  17. ^ "Season Review: Men's Soccer caps off record breaking season with run to NCAA III Tournament Championship". Onusports.com. January 16, 2013. Retrieved November 18, 2013.
  18. ^ "The 2001 Division III men's tournament". Archived from the original on October 30, 2006. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  19. ^ "Ohio Northern University". Retrieved February 18, 2017.[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ "Ohio Northern University | Ohio Northern University". www.onu.edu. Archived from the original on January 25, 2009.
  21. ^ "Little Big Man". January 12, 1998. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  22. ^ "Benjamin Brafman - Tag Story Index - USATODAY.com". content.usatoday.com. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  23. ^ "Ohio Attorney General - William J. Brown". Archived from the original on May 19, 2008. Retrieved August 27, 2008.
  24. ^ "John W. Grabiel". ebooksread.com. Retrieved August 23, 2012.

40°46′01″N 83°49′30″W / 40.7669°N 83.8249°W / 40.7669; -83.8249