Since its dedication in 1953 McBride Hall on Miami's east campus has been the home of some 6,000 freshman students. Perhaps a few of them remember the bronze tablet set into the brick wall of the north porch entrance.
Surveyor, Merchant, Architect,
Codifier of Laws, Map-Maker,
County Official and State
Legislator, Historian, and
Devoted Friend And Trustee
Of This University.
The name is fitting to the Miami campus for it was James McBride
who in 1814 assured inhabitants of the college lands that "on the
banks of the Four Mile has been planted the stake where the Miami
University will stand till time shall be no longer." At that time Miami
University was no more than a surveyor's stake in a tract of untrod
forest, and the resolute confidence of James McBride is heartening to
Born in southern Pennsylvania and taken to Kentucky where his father was killed by Indians, McBride at 18 years came to Hamilton, Ohio by flatboat and began a merchant trade on the Miami River. Five years later, a robust and versatile young man of 23 with little schooling but a wide-ranging mind, he served as secretary of the Miami trustees at their first meetings in Hamilton. The Miami valley was then a rich region--"Tickle the earth with a hoe and it laughs into harvest"--but a remote one. It could produce boundless crops of wheat, corn, tobacco, pork and wool, but its natural highway, the Ohio River, flowed west, away from the American market. The Ohio and the Mississippi carried the frontier harvest to New Orleans, where some of it was consumed and the rest was loaded into ships for the long voyage to Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York.
In the summer of 1812 James McBride and Joseph Hough of Hamilton formed a partnership to take a cargo of flour, whiskey and apples to New Orleans. After weeks of hauling planks and pegging them together, they had a flatboat ready. It was a floating box, 18 by 80 feet, deep enough to hold six tiers of barrels down the center under the peaked roof, five tiers elsewhere. Six feet of low-roofed deck at the stern made up their cabin, which soon reeked of apples, potatoes, frying pork and drying clothes. With their load aboard the partners pushed off from the Hamilton landing. Poled and paddled by hand-power the clumsy craft crept past the shoals, bends and bars of the Miami. It moved between big cooper shops and packing sheds at Cincinnati and swung into the Ohio's current. Weeks later the partners peddled cargo, a few barrels at a time, at landings on the Mississippi and sold the rest in New Orleans. It was a long trip to market, and they had a long trip home, riding horseback through the gloom of the Natchez Trace and over the hills of Kentucky. Next year, if the autumn rains were enough, they would float another flatboat and load another cargo of whiskey, pork and apples. Prosperity in the west rose and fell with the rivers.
In Hamilton resolute young McBride was elected sheriff, "the best office then in the gift of the people." He explored Indian mounds and recorded pioneer adventure. He gathered a remarkable library, 5,000 volumes, that was destroyed by fire, but his manuscripts were saved. His glowing account of Miami University in the wilderness of 1814 pictured "youth assembled from the various quarters of the world, to learn the arts and become acquainted with rhetoric and belles lettres. Astonishing change!"
Astonishing man, McBride. When the Hamilton Branch campus was established in 1968 its first structure might have been given the name already planted on the Oxford campus. It surely belongs there among the names of present civil leaders--Mosler, Rentschler, Parrish--whose support is memorialized by campus buildings. Another name gratefully inscribed there is that of Bernard Phelps, a Miami veteran who made history as the first director of this regional campus.
At Miami-Hamilton the average student age is 27, which provides motivation and clarifies objectives. "Partying" is rarely heard in campus conversation. About half the students are presently employed, with classes scheduled in the evening. They will complete their formal schooling with a two-year "Associate" degree in such fields as Business Technology. Engineering Technology, Computer Technology, and Nursing. The campus nickname Peck Tech comes from both the curriculum and the location on Peck Boulevard. Originally that outlying segment of Hamilton was called Peck's Addition; now with a ready pun students publish the weekly news sheet "Peck's Edition." Students who choose the more academic rather than technical courses are generally planning to transfer, as juniors, to the Oxford campus or another university for completion of a 4-year degree.
Serving the community at large, the Hamilton branch offers non-credit "continuing education" courses of cultural and recreational content. "Learning Ladders" does the same for children, with Saturday classes in gymnastics, art, literary appreciation and even computer games. Further community enrichment comes with an Artists Series that brings to Hamilton distinguished speakers, musicians and performers. If James McBride could now look in on the Hamilton branch he would repeat that "astonishing" exclamation.
Older than most Ohio community colleges, Miami University-Middletown dates back to the end of World War II and the "Serviceman's Readjustment Act of 1944," widely known as the GI Bill of Rights. While the tide of GI students poured onto the Oxford campus, Miami educators and concerned citizens of Middletown began a downtown center for military veterans who sought a college education. During the 1950s classes were held, under commuting faculty members from Oxford, in the Middletown High School on Girard Avenue. From that seed Miami University-Middletown grew into a truly community college that opened career doors to young men and women and contributed to the cultural life of Middletown. Along with vocational courses for part-time students MUM offered programs in household and fine arts and a series of lectures and recitals that appealed to the larger community. In the 1960s that community connection brought the gift of 141 of the most beautiful acres in all Ohio.
On the northeastern edge of Middletown, originally the George M. Verity estate, including a deer park and golf course, these grounds became the campus of Miami University-Middletown. Under the executive direction of C. Eugene Bennett, Miami 1948, and the guidance of Dean Earl V. Thesken, the institution flourished. To its first buildings--Logan Johnston Hall, Gardiner-Harvey Library, Verity Student Center--(names from the paper and steel industries)--have been added the Finkleman Auditorium and the Thesken Hall of Science and Technology. Nature trails, gardens, terraces, and outdoor sculptures enhance the hill-and-dale setting. Secluded and serene, the atmosphere at MUM helps students to find their own identity and encourages personal relationships between students and faculty. It is perhaps the most friendly and certainly the most attractive community college in the land.
While MUM is out of sight and out of sound of Middletown's commerce and industry, the educational program is undeniably relevant. Most of the students are in 2-year programs that give training for the technological and service industries that promise to provide increasing employment in Ohio. The Nursing program at Middletown has enviable repute, along with technical courses ranging from computer technology and electrical engineering technology to Library media technique. Accounting and Business Management draw capacity registration there, as on the Oxford campus. Community enrichment comes from MUM lecture and artist appearances in the Dave Finkleman Auditorium that recently included a Chinese magic circus and a Nobel Prize physicist.
Verity is an enduring name in Middletown. It came there in 1900 when Middletown had 9,000 population, and it came to stay. George M. Verity, the son of an itinerant Methodist minister, attended High School in Georgetown, Ohio, and learned bookkeeping in a Cincinnati Business School, a Community College of its day. In the 1890s he worked for a company that made roofing from locally produced metal sheets. In 1900, at age 35, looking for a site for a steel mill, he chose Middletown with its canal and railroad connections. In a one-room slab building with a bicycle at the doorway and a horse and buggy at the hitching post he erected a sign: American Rolling Mill Company. The first furnace fires were lighted on a windy March day in 1901.
At this time the vast Carnegie, Morgan and Rockefeller interests were forging the giant United States Steel Corporation in Pittsburgh. Although he lacked the billion dollars of the Pittsburgh trust, George Verity had a revolutionary idea. He envisioned a technology that would bring together the whole process--from blast furnace and pig iron to sheet iron, galvanized iron, and electrical sheet steel in a single integrated plant. Having created the world's first continuous process steel mill, the company snugged up its name to Armco. In 1911 it filled its first overseas order in a business that would eventually reach around the world. Now, at closing hour in the MUM library an occasional student gets up from a reading desk and walks in the midnight dark with starts in his eyes--after reviewing the life and times of George M. Verity.
International business brings to Middletown some international character, evidenced by the unique festival that has become an annual celebration. The Middfest '81, marking the 10th anniversary of Armco's first overseas export, focused upon the relationship of Middletown to the city of Luxembourg, five thousand miles away. Iron and steel are the leading industry in both places, and an ethnic mix characterizes both populations. 70,000 To Middletown in the first week of October, 1981 came 10,000 visitors, drawn by an industrial and cultural exposition with music, dancing, costumes and cuisine from the thousand-year-old city on the River Alzette.
Miami University-Middletown was a collaborator in Middfest '81. A feeling of friendship and alliance between the two cities is based on shared values of liberty and freedom of the press, of worship, of trade and industry. An institution common to both cities is Miami University. Miami vice president John Dolibois was a native of Luxembourg who throughout an eventful career in America retained close ties with that country. While Middfest '81 was taking shape international news services reported his appointment as United States Ambassador to Luxembourg. His influence brought to Middletown civic and industrial leaders including the mayor of Luxembourg City. Music from Luxembourg included the Moselle Valley Brass Band in folk costume and the appearance of the Hon. Adrian Meisch, Ambassador to the United States; as a concert pianist he performed with the Middletown Symphony Orchestra. A leading Middletown attorney, Barry Levey, during a term as president of the Miami University Board of Trustees, was named Honorary Consul of Luxembourg in the State of Ohio.
While branching out in Butler County, Miami University was reaching into other lands and cultures. With expanding enrollment and curriculum it had become a cosmopolitan university. Faculty members held Fulbright professorships in countries from England and Scotland to Nigeria, Indonesia, Korea and Japan, while the Oxford campus listed students from nearly fifty nations. Under the trimester calendar hundreds of faculty and students spent mid-April to September in foreign travel, study and research. Miamians crossed paths in cities from London to Athens, from Copenhagen to Madrid. On the Oxford campus a broadened Anthropology program embraced studies of peoples and cultures in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East. In 1968 a Center of International Studies was created under direction of Charles B. Fahs, a veteran of the U. S. State Department. Summer language institutes were organized in France, Luxembourg, Italy and Taiwan. Meanwhile Miami faculty and staff families were developing a pioneering COSEP service. Founded in 1971 by Mrs. Dwight Baldwin this Community Service Program for Foreign Students builds bridges of friendship between people of Oxford and Miami graduates in distant lands.
In that international atmosphere, it seemed Miami University should launch a foreign study program somewhere in Europe. By background and personal experience, John Dolibois was uniquely fitted to direct its inception and development, with ready collaboration of Miami colleagues. From the start, he had counsel and support from Provost Charles B. Wilson. A Miami graduate of 1926, Dr. Wilson had become head of the History Department at Colgate University, where he directed annual conferences on American Foreign Policy with invited scholars and panelists from many countries. As Miami's provost, and acting president during the interim of the Millett and Shriver tenures, he drew on that Colgate experience in the shaping of an International Studies program at Miami.
Other locations were pondered and discussed: Copenhagen, Vienna, Brussels, Heidelberg, Lille, Aix-en-Provence. If his thoughts kept reverting to Luxembourg, John Dolibois hesitated to urge a setting where he had such personal ties. But in 1965, on a brief visit with relatives in Luxembourg, he found practical concerns outweighing the emotional attraction there. The least expensive Atlantic crossing was by Icelandic Air Line, which flew a regular schedule New York-Reykjavik-Luxembourg. In its central location, Luxembourg was but an hour's flight to a dozen European capitols. Its bi-lingual culture and its political influence as economic seat of the European Coal and Steel Community and of the European Common Market were making it a crossroads. The six tall spires of Radio Luxembourg broadcast in several languages to much of Europe. Before his visit ended, Dolibois made overtures to certain officials and educators, finding a ready interest in the prospect of a European Study Center there. On return to the Oxford base, he conveyed that interest and his own increasing conviction to Provost Wilson, who wholeheartedly concurred.
In theses years, a number of American universities were announcing cooperative programs with foreign institutions; the usual arrangement consisted of a group of American students enrolled for a summer course, or for one or two terms, primarily in foreign language study. The Miami proposal was independent and autonomous, with its own curriculum, academic facilities, and faculty. It would enable students to live, study and travel abroad while continuing to earn Miami credits under guidance of Miami faculty in courses enriched by the collaboration of European scholars. Indeed, it was an attractive program, but was it a luxury beyond Ohio's means?
With realistic and tactful strategy, Dolibois went directly to the governor, who already had given his blessing to a huge rubber and plastics complex built in Luxembourg by the Goodyear Company of Akron and had created an Ohio Economic Commission in Belgium. Governor Rhodes responded heartily to the Dolibois concept. Without delay, he appointed a commission to consider the establishing of a Luxembourg Center for Miami University. As its chairman he named John Dolibois.
In April of 1967, Dolibois led the members on a tour of observation. For a few busy days, they explored Luxembourg City and its spring-rife countryside. After conferences with Luxembourg officials and the Ministry of Education, they were received at the U.S. Embassy by the ambassador, Mrs. Patricia Harris; a few seasons later, Mrs. Harris was a Miami guest in the Murstein Alumni Center. Following that exploration, President Shriver named a Miami committee, comprising Professor Dwight Smith of History, Vice President Robert Etheridge for Student Affairs, and John Dolibois, to confer with the Luxembourg Ministry of Education. Immediate results were the locating of potential classroom space in Luxembourg City and planned individual student lodging with Luxembourg families--an important part of the "international experience." In these discussions, the Miami committee had invaluable counsel from Dr. Leslie S. Brady, a Miami graduate and former teacher who had become Cultural Attache of the U.S. Embassy in Paris. Back in Oxford, the committee of four was enlarged to a planning committee under direction of Professor J. R. Breitenbucher of the German Department. In frequent and lengthy meetings, this body worked out details of logistics, curriculum and staffing. It proposed Dr. Warren Mason as director of the center.
Inauguration had been aimed for September 1969, but, with the obstacles behind them, the committee moved the date to 1968. A building on Rue Goethe in the lower city was adapted to classroom use. A reference library was assembled, with plans for its expansion. Six Miami faculty were settling into Luxembourg lodgings when the first students arrived, wide-eyed, in the rugged spectacular city. On a bright September day in 1968, the Luxembourg Center opened with a simple ceremony. It was honored by the presence of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg.
Throughout the planning and implementing of this distant branch, Miami alumni support had kept it from financial foundering and provided scholarship aid for deserving students. Whatever their personal circumstance, the students shared a common experience in and beyond the classroom and library. All had time for travel, for mid-winter ski trips, spring tramping, and educational jaunts to London, Brussels, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Rome, Vienna. By the time of its tenth anniversary, in 1978, the Luxembourg Center had its own alumni association, approaching a thousand members. It included some foreign students, even a few from Luxembourg itself, and students from about one half of the United States.