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August 03, 2018

The 1975-1976 Commemorative Year: CWRU’s 150th Anniversary

During the 1975-1976 academic year, CWRU celebrated its sesquicentennial, commemorating 150 years since the State of Ohio granted the charter to establish Western Reserve College in Hudson, Ohio on 2/7/1826. Since 1976 marked both the sesquicentennial, and the United States Bicentennial, the Board of Trustees designated the academic year 1975-1976 as the university’s “commemorative year.” In honor of the occasion, the CWRU community celebrated with a year-long series of events.

The festivities kicked off during the fall of 1975. On 10/19/1975, ceremonies celebrating the founding of Western Reserve College took place at Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio. Known as the “Hudson Pilgrimage,” this event included a walking tour of the Academy and historical sites in Hudson, a Glee Club musical performance, and a picnic. The Hudson Pilgrimage was followed by the Commemorative Year Opening Festival on 10/25/1975, which included a ceremony to dedicate the banners for CWRU’s Schools and Colleges that took place at Amasa Stone Chapel. The dedication ceremony consisted of classical music performances, the presentation of the bicentennial flag, an address on the evolution of the university given by Chancellor Emeritus, John Schoff Millis, the presentation of the banners, and an address by President Louis Toepfer.

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Dedication of the Banners

The recognition of the commemorative year was not exclusive to Cleveland. In honor of the sesquicentennial, President Toepfer invited several nationally prominent individuals in higher education and national affairs to assist the CWRU community in reflecting upon the university’s and the nation’s past and future by serving as guest lecturers. One such individual was James B. Reston, a well-known New York Times columnist, who was invited to serve as a visiting Sesquicentennial Professor from 11/10/1975 to 11/21/1975. In addition, part of the year’s celebrations included events for alumni and friends that were held in key cities across the country in order to highlight the role that CWRU played in American education for 150 years, not only in Ohio, but across the nation. One such event was a reception hosted by President Toepfer and his wife, Alice Toepfer, for all alumni and Congressional representatives in Washington D.C. at the United States Botanical Garden on 10/20/1975. Another event was a Sesquicentennial Weekend for alumni and friends that took place at The York Club in New York City from 11/14/1975 to 11/16/1975. The weekend included a dinner and dance on Friday night, and a symposium on Saturday and Sunday that was conducted by key faculty members, and focused on Science and Technology, Medicine, and The Renaissance Man. Other cities across the country that held similar events for CWRU alumni and friends included Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Akron, Youngstown, Canton, Toledo, Dayton, and Philadelphia.

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President Louis A. Toepfer

Activities and events in honor of the commemorative year continued into 1976, beginning with a Festival of Arts and Sciences that was held on campus in January and February. The festival featured lectures from prominent faculty members, a bicentennial exhibit at Mather Gallery, musical presentations, a winter dance program, art history programs, and a theatrical performance. The sesquicentennial celebration also included the recognition of Charter Day, to commemorate the day when the university was founded. Held on 2/15/1976, the Charter Day Convocation included brunch for the university governing boards and special guests, the presentation of the University medal and new University Fellows, and introduced the new history of CWRU. This important work was written by Professor Emeritus of History, C. H. Cramer, who delivered the keynote address for the convocation, entitled “Reflections on a Sesquicentennial.”

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Charter Day Convocation

Discussions regarding the creation of an official institutional history began after Federation in 1967. To that end, the first CWRU president, Robert Morse, outlined a project to write such a history, which was recommended by the University Chancellor and approved by the trustees. When he assumed the presidency in 1970, President Toepfer continued the project. In 1972, Secretary of the University Carolyn Neff and University Archivist Ruth Helmuth recommended that the history should be published to coincide with the university sesquicentennial, and they recommended Professor Cramer as the most suitable historian to complete this work. Throughout the early 1970s, President Toepfer actively supported Cramer’s efforts by encouraging professors from various departments across campus to use their knowledge of departmental histories to aid in his research. Carolyn Neff oversaw the project to completion in time for the sesquicentennial by serving as the administrative coordinator.

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Clarence H. "Red" Cramer

Commemorative year celebrations continued into the spring of 1976, beginning with a Festival of American Jazz in March, in which concerts were given by area colleges’ jazz bands. On 4/28/1976, Alice Toepfer hosted a walking tour of CWRU campus buildings, ranging from Adelbert to Gund Hall. The tour began at Amasa Stone Chapel, and included tea in the Mather Gallery, which housed an exhibit on the sesquicentennial that featured the University Print Club Collection and pieces of Victorian furniture from Guilford House.

In early May 1976, the spring term ended with the University Showcase, which included alumni reunions, departmental open houses, University Circle tours, an antique car show, a flea market, and the Hudson Relay. In addition to the traditional Hudson Relay, a new event, the first annual Western Reserve Marathon, took place on 5/9/1976, and was sponsored by CWRU in honor of its 150th birthday, in cooperation with Revco Drug Centers, Inc. The marathon was run over the challenging and historic Hudson Relay course, which stretches 26 miles and 385 yards between Hudson and Cleveland. It was also considered an official United States Bicentennial event, and was open to all amateur athletes who carried a valid AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) registration card and a current medical certificate. Everyone who finished the Western Reserve Marathon was given a souvenir award, and running shirts were provided to all official entrants.

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Hudson Relay, 1976

During the commemorative year, CWRU enrolled nearly 8,000 students in two undergraduate colleges, a graduate school, and seven professional schools: Applied Social Sciences, Dentistry, Law, Library Science, Management, Medicine, and Nursing. In order to continue to improve upon the university’s mission “to prepare its students for a life of learning and professional responsibility by advancing knowledge and understanding through scholarship and research,” CWRU took an important step in addressing the future in honor of the sesquicentennial by announcing a $215-million capital campaign in 1976, called the Resources campaign, to raise funds for endowment and operations support. By the end of its five-year timeline in 1981, one year after President Toepfer’s retirement, the campaign goal was reached, and slightly exceeded.

For more information about the sesquicentennial and commemorative year events, please consult the University Archives. In addition, the digital exhibit “180 Events from 180 Years” on the Archives' website provides a useful timeline of CWRU history, and was created to celebrate the 180th anniversary in 2006. We look forward to celebrating the university’s bicentennial in 2026!

Written by Julia Teran

Posted by hxy2 at August 3, 2018 03:35 PM

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