As Wright State University closes out its first five decades, the school is trying to recapture what made it a vital part of the Dayton region in the first place
The university, which became an independent institution in 1967, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this weekend with a special slate of homecoming events. More than 35 events were planned to celebrate the special homecoming weekend.
The anniversary has led the university’s leaders to ponder what the school needs to become as it enters its second half-century and the inspiration for Wright State’s future could come from its past.
“Wright State was filling in a lot of needs that the community had had for a long time,” said Chris Wydman, archivist and records manager at the WSU library. “I think that was definitely on the mind of the legislature when the university was approved to begin with.”
Wright State’s milestone comes as the school attempts to turn the corner on the scandals and financial problems that have plagued it for the last two years. More than $30.8 million was cut from Wright State’s annual budget in June and the school faces multiple investigations for possible H-1B visa misuse.
But, WSU’s leaders are encouraging the campus to be open about past issues so as to avoid them over the next 50 years.
“Recognizing, understanding and discussing it will only help us as we set a bold course for the next 50 years,” president Cheryl Schrader said in September.
Schrader, who became Wright State’s first woman president in July, has called for the university to focus on what it does well. She has taken up the motto that Wright State can no longer be all things to everyone, echoing the school’s original intent.
“Every day convinces me of the grand potential this university has to be the institution Ohio needs it to be,” Schrader said.
Focusing on the needs of the community is “what always gave Wright State its strength” Wydman said, only now that concept needs to be applied “more globally.” To do that, Schrader began developing a new strategic plan for Wright State and will release preliminary details next year.
The plan could be pivotal for the university that started out as just one building and as a joint branch of Ohio State University and Miami University in 1964.
Ironically, Wright State now competes for students with the two colleges that fostered its creation in the first place.
While colleges often name buildings after some of their best leaders, Wright State took a somewhat different approach. WSU named one campus building after former Miami president John Millet and another after former OSU president Novice Fawcett, a subtle clue to the school’s history.
“It really did develop in a very sort of unique, distinctive way,” Wydman said. “Without them, I’m not sure this would have happened.”