The University's Beginnings
Ohio State's roots go back to 1870, when the Ohio General Assembly established the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College. The new college was made possible through the provisions of the Land-Grant Act, signed by President Lincoln on July 2, 1862. This legislation revolutionized the nation's approach to higher education, bringing a college degree within reach of all high school graduates.
The college's curriculum was a matter of dispute among politicians, the public, and educators. One faction, the "narrow gauge" group, held that the college should devote itself solely to the teaching of agriculture and mechanical arts. The "broad gauge" faction wanted a wider program that featured English and ancient and foreign languages as well. Joseph Sullivant, a member of the first Board of Trustees, pushed the "broad gauge" idea through the Board of Trustees, where it passed by a margin of 8-7. His legacy endures; Ohio State continues to offer a broad-based, liberal arts education and a diverse range of study. Classes began at the new college on September 17, 1873. Twenty-four students met at the old Neil farm just two miles north of Columbus. In 1878 the college's name was changed to The Ohio State University.