About Oakland City University
The Oakland City University Story
by Dr. Randy Mills, Professor of Social Science at Oakland City University
In June of 1885, the Educational Board of General Baptists organized and then gained a charter from the state of Indiana to operate a college at Oakland City. However, because of a lack of funds, the first building, a two-story brick structure housing the administration and classrooms, was not complete until 1891 - the same year Oakland City College actually opened its doors for classes. In those early days the school was called "the college on the hill."
By the mid 1920s, the school had reached a zenith for the first half of the century. There were now several college buildings gracing the grounds including: an expanded administration building, Wheatley Hall, a women's dorm, a field house, Memorial Gym, which housed a library in the basement, Cronbach Hall, a building used for agricultural and industrial arts classes, and a two-story brick building called the president's house. Beside the normal, liberal arts and theological school, the college had added a large industrial and agricultural department to respond to the vocational needs of the rural area which it served.
Sports teams of the 1920s, included basketball, baseball, football, and track. Teams regularly played Indiana State, Evansville College, University of Louisville, and Ball State. By the mid 1920s a legion of clubs could also be found on campus. Among them were the YMCA, YWCA, Phi Alpha Literary Society, Germanae Literacy Society, Athenian Literacy and debating team, a standard debating team, the ETOSCA club, the Dramatic League, the French Club, the German Club, the Glee Club, the college orchestra, and the college band. Enrollment during these prosperous times often broached 1000 students a semester.
Sadly, this comfortable world came to a screeching halt in 1930 with the coming of the Great Depression. Grimly the school held on with faculty and staff often forgoing paychecks in order to keep the school running. The end of World War II and the GI Bill saw a resurgence in enrollment and by the mid 1960s the "college on the hill" experienced an upswing comparable to the 1920s. Several new buildings now crowned the campus including four dormitories, a new library, Brengle Hall, a science building, and Stinson Hall, a classroom building containing an auditorium.
But the good times would not last. The winding down of the war in Vietnam wrought a substantial drop in enrollment. By the fall term of 1973, the college found itself with an overabundance of empty dorm rooms. Fortunately, the sponsoring denomination, the General Baptist, rallied around the school by making an intense effort to raise funds to keep the school open. They also made an important decision of hiring a retiring Marine Colonel and General Baptist minister, James Murray, as the new college president. Dr. Murray's success was nothing short of miraculous. In the 1990s the college moved to university status under Dr. Murray's leadership. Presently the school has an enrollment of 2000 and has seen the construction of six new buildings in the last few years. Today, the university stands fully accredited and offers five graduate degrees and over forty undergraduate programs.