Chapter 4. A Period of Change, 1960s-1980s
In January 1959, a special committee of Toledo City Council met with the University of Toledo’s new president, William S. Carlson, to discuss the future funding of the university. The university’s allocation was taking more and more of the city’s meager budget, and students were also being asked to pay a larger share. Toledo residents had two particular gripes. In addition to funding the municipal university with their tax dollars, they had to pay state taxes to support the state universities. They were also supporting students living outside the city limits who attended UT.
While many in City Council wanted to see the university turned over to the state, the university’s Board of Directors preferred state financial assistance and retaining UT’s independence. Three bills introduced into the state legislature in 1959 proposed a per-student subsidy for the state’s three largest municipal universities: Akron, Cincinnati, and Toledo. The bills stalled in the face of opposition from presidents of the state institutions who felt any funding for the municipal universities would come from their pockets.
The financial crisis worsened. Tuition was increased again and salaries frozen. City Council agreed to place a 2-mill levy on the ballot on October 6, 1959, to raise $1.7 million a year for the university. UT launched a vigorous campaign in support of the levy, and it passed by just 144 votes.
With finances settled for a time, Dr. Carlson turned his attention to improving the academic standards of the university. He added research and scholarship to the job requirements of the faculty. In 1962 an honors program was instituted, and the first Ph.D. was awarded that year. The university bought several new parcels of land, adding access from Secor Road and space for a new men’s dormitory. The National Defense Education Act, passed in 1958, granted colleges $9 from the federal government for every dollar raised locally for scholarships. To help in fundraising, the Alumni Association created the non-profit University of Toledo Alumni Foundation. A new home for the president was acquired as a gift, and another gift of $1.4 million from the estate of Walter and Grace Snyder was used for a new building for the College of Education.
Not all of President Carlson’s plans succeeded, however. The city’s mayor, Michael Damas, began a campaign in 1961 to land a new state medical college in Toledo. A consultant’s report suggested that the institution should be built in association with, and on the campus of, the University of Toledo. But this plan was dealt a blow when former Toledoan Michael DiSalle lost his re-election bid for governor to James Rhodes. Rhodes abolished the commission responsible for higher education planning (which had viewed Toledo’s plan favorably) and created a new agency, the Ohio Board of Regents. Several critical miscommunications with the state and pressure from The Blade and its publisher, Paul Block, Jr., led the trustees of the medical college to select the site of the former state hospital for the institution rather than a site on the UT campus. Furthermore, the Medical College of Ohio at Toledo was established as an independent state university.
Another unsuccessful effort by Dr. Carlson concerned building a new home for the University Community and Technical College on the site of the Rossford Ordnance Depot. The depot was to be deactivated, and in 1962 Congressman Thomas Ludlow Ashley tried to negotiate a deal to sell the site to UT for the community college. The deal was blocked, however, by residents owning adjoining land parcels who opposed it. With this site unavailable, Dr. Carlson suggested building the new campus on Jesup Scott’s original land donation of 1872 at Nebraska and Parkside. The Toledo newspaper opposed the move because it was uncertain if this land was owned by the university or the city. The university took the matter of ownership to court and received clear title. With the help of additional tax money, construction began on a new Community and Technical College campus in 1967.
The ACT group, as the three municipal universities of Akron, Cincinnati, and Toledo were known, continued to press the state for financial assistance. Governor Rhodes agreed in 1965 to provide a state subsidy of $200 per student (despite opposition by the state universities). This was the beginning of state assistance for the University of Toledo.
On July 3 of that year, the Ohio General Assembly passed a bill providing for the most fundamental change in the university’s history. The bill incorporated the University of Toledo into the state’s system of higher education. UT’s Board of Directors unanimously endorsed the bill.
Effective July 1, 1967, the University of Toledo became a state university. State funding relieved the city of the burden of supporting a growing university, and provided capital improvement funds for new buildings. On the day of the ceremony marking transfer of ownership, groundbreaking was held for the Health Education Center and an addition to the Engineering-Science Building. Ritter Planetarium and Observatory (1968), the Law Center (1972), and a new library (1973) were soon to follow. Two other proposed building projects never happened, however. A music hall and auditorium between University Hall and the Student Union was rejected because its architecture was too modern. A proposal to put a dome over the Glass Bowl to allow its use for both basketball and football was rejected because of criticism from The Blade and from the students. The Blade and its publisher wanted the university to build a new sports facility downtown as part of the city’s revitalization efforts. The students did not want to pay additional fees to cover the Glass Bowl’s renovation, estimated at $8.5 million. The plan was dropped, and the stadium’s renovation was delayed until 1990.
Becoming a state university also produced administrative changes. The governing board, now called trustees, was appointed by the governor. To help administer the expanding institution, Dr. Carlson appointed a new group of vice presidents. And in 1968, the university was required to change from semesters to quarters in order to conform to the calendars of the other state universities.
Inspired by the election of President John F. Kennedy, college students in the 1960s awakened from the “Silent Generation” of political apathy. The Civil Rights movement led many to protest segregation and volunteer as “Freedom Riders.” But it was the Free Speech Movement that began at Berkeley, California, in 1964 that influenced a decade of student protests, including many at the University of Toledo.
UT officials were embarrassed in October 1964 when Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater tried to speak at the Field House and was drowned out by supporters of Democrat Lyndon Johnson. The event received national press coverage. On May 5, 1966, local members of the Students for a Democratic Society protested the military draft outside Dana Auditorium where male students were testing to qualify for draft deferments. A few days later, SDS members disrupted a ROTC Honors Day review. To avoid more protests, a committee of faculty and students produced the Joint Statement of Rights and Freedoms of Students as the basic policy governing student privileges. After the policy was approved by the Board of Trustees, students were given representation on committees that allocated student funds.
The protests by UT students were peaceful compared to other universities. Theater students waged a sit-in in May 1967 to protest the allocation of space in Doermann Theater to the Student Records Office. In April 1968, dormitory students started a “food riot” over the quality of food served to them. Students opposed to the war in Vietnam again disrupted the ROTC Awards Day ceremony on May 7, 1969, and this time four were arrested.
The following week a group confronted President Carlson and demanded that ROTC be abolished on campus, and several students stormed his office a few days later. One student was arrested for this action. On October 15, 1969, over a thousand UT students and faculty participated in the national Vietnam moratorium by marching from campus to Gesu Church for memorial services for the war dead.
Student protests reached a crisis stage on May 4, 1970, when members of the Ohio National Guard killed four students protesting the Vietnam War at Kent State University. That afternoon, the UT Student Senate met and requested a moratorium on classes as a memorial to the slain students and to provide time for students to hold workshops to discuss the event. The next afternoon, newspaper columnist Carl Rowan, who had been scheduled to speak as part of the University Convocations series, spoke outside at a large rally, where he was joined by several student leaders and Dr. Carlson. The Faculty Senate passed a resolution deploring the violence at Kent State and asked that the moratorium be continued for the rest of the week. The week ended with a candlelight procession, and the campus remained peaceful.
However, tensions rose again on May 15 when a shooting at Jackson State University in Mississippi killed two black students. To protest what the students felt was a lack of sympathy by Dr. Carlson for the death of these students, black students blocked the entrance to University Hall on Monday, May 18. President Carlson met with a group of these students, and agreed to hire more black faculty and graduate assistants and start a Black Studies program.
The events of the first few weeks in May 1970 ended peacefully with a student referendum on May 20-21. An overwhelming majority favored returning to normal business. They also asked that the Army Reserve be removed from campus (but favored ROTC remaining), and asked that a letter be sent to President Richard Nixon stating their views on the war in Vietnam.
Immediately after the Kent State shooting, Governor James Rhodes set up a series of committees to study the issue of campus unrest in Ohio. Among the outcomes of this commission was the request for a code of conduct for students and faculty at state universities and improvements in campus security.
UT marked its centennial in 1972 with a year of celebrations. Ohio license plates were issued in blue and gold to commemorate the event. Plans were made for a major capital campaign called the Centennial Fund Drive to serve as a lasting legacy to the year. Dr. Carlson received an honorary degree at a formal convocation in the Field House. And The Tower Builders: The Centennial History of The University of Toledo, by Frank R. Hickerson, was published.
President Carlson announced his intention to retire in 1972. Dr. Glen R. Driscoll, chancellor of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, was selected as his successor. Dr. Driscoll oversaw further expansion of the university’s physical plant with the additions to the Student Union (1972) and the Law Center (1978), and several new buildings including the Center for Performing Arts (1976), Centennial Hall (1976), the Center for Continuing Education (1978), and Stranahan Hall (1984). When Dr. Driscoll retired in 1985, the continuing education building was named for him. Plans were also made for a new downtown complex of classrooms and meeting rooms, part of downtown Toledo’s revitalization efforts. Construction began on UT’s SeaGate Centre campus in 1985.
The late 1970s saw the university undertake its most important beautification project, Centennial Mall. Traffic was diverted from the middle of campus, and the parking lots and army barracks between University Hall and the Student Union were demolished. These eye-sores were replaced with a 9-acre landscaped mall which was dedicated as part of the Homecoming festivities in 1980. In 1981, the university celebrated 50 years of the Bancroft Street campus.
The 1980s were a time of record enrollment growth. Between 1979 and 1989, UT was the fastest growing state university in Ohio, with the student population increasing from 18,000 to over 24,000. These enrollment gains were made in spite of periodic economic recessions that hit northwest Ohio particularly hard.
Because UT was located in an urban setting, Dr. Driscoll sought to develop ways that the university could contribute to its surrounding community. He founded the Urban Affairs Center, the Management Center, and the Catharine S. Eberly Center for Women in an effort to serve the government, businesses, and needy populations of northwest Ohio. The community gave back to the university too with an increase in private giving which placed UT in the top 100 public universities in the nation for fundraising.
In March 1984, Dr. Driscoll announced that he would retire the following spring. Dr. James D. McComas, president of Mississippi State University, was selected to replace Dr. Driscoll following a national search. He was formally inaugurated at a ceremony in October 1985.
Dr. McComas continued the expansion of the university’s facilities. McMaster Hall (1987) was completed, and plans were made for the Student Recreation Center (1990), the Larimer Athletic Complex (1990), the Greek Village (1990), and renovations to the Glass Bowl Stadium (1990) during his tenure. The university purchased land from Owens-Illinois for a new building for the College of Engineering. A new master plan unveiled in March 1987 provided guidance for future campus development. Some of the building projects were controversial, however, especially among the faculty. The university sold bonds to cover the cost of many of the projects, and some faculty expressed concern about the burden of the debt on the future of the institution.
In addition to new buildings, Dr. McComas tried to improve relations between the university and the community by promoting UT in the press. To stress academic excellence, Dr. McComas established the Presidential Scholars program, and began efforts to attract more National Merit Scholars. His tenure at UT was brief, however, as he resigned in 1988 to become president of Virginia Polytechnic University. John Stoepler, dean of the College of Law, was named interim president while the search began for a replacement.