By Hannah Dunbar
In 1989, Nintendo began selling its first GameBoy, the Galileo Spacecraft was launched by the NASA, and shoulder pads were the top trend in women’s fashion. Amid all of those events, a thoughtful decision was being made in Findlay, Ohio.
1989 was the year Findlay College changed its name to The University of Findlay.
According to UF’s advancement Web page, then-President Kenneth Zirkle, Ed.D., formed a planning committee to address how Findlay College could become stronger in the future. The first proposal submitted by members of the committee included a plan to change the name of the college. An article in The Courier said that at the same time, other colleges in the state were doing the same. Ashland College became Ashland University, Urbana College became the University of Urbana, and Steubenville College became the University of Steubenville.
The proposal to change the name was a decision supported by many students, community members, and alumni but finding a name was not as simple.
Deanna Spraw, director of the Wolfe Center for alumni, parents, and friends, said she believed that faculty and staff embraced the change with excitement and pride. But the concern was whether or not the name would be Findlay University or The University of Findlay.
“I remember being able to vote on whether or not we would be Findlay University or The University of Findlay,” said Julie McIntosh, dean and professor of the college of education and the first student class of The University of Findlay.
Findlay released an announcement in October 1988 that the decision had been made for Findlay College to officially change its name to The University of Findlay effective July 1, 1989. The first major project of the newly named university was to renovate the front lawn. A part of the renovation included paving a drive and sidewalks in front of Old Main as well as relocating the Arch.
The decision to change the name of the college established in 1882 was caused by several factors. UF’s advancement Web page said it was predicted that the number of graduating high school seniors would decline over the next decade. It was found that international students preferred to enroll in American “universities” because in other countries “college” meant high school.
A university is considered an institution of higher education and usually offers graduate degrees, according to The Courier. In addition, a university tends to have more variety and specialization in academic programs.
McIntosh said the name change allowed for more innovative opportunities at UF.
“The name change lead to the addition of several graduate programs on campus as well as the building initiative on the Cory Street Mall,” said McIntosh.
From 1990 to 1995, campus looked completely different, according to McIntosh. Within five years, North Cory Street was blocked off and turned into a gazebo with green spaces. Several parts of campus were closed off with the addition of new buildings, McIntosh said.
“It became more university-like,” said McIntosh.
Spraw agreed with McIntosh and said that the name change allowed the university to continue to develop programs that lead to master’s and Ph.D programs.
Although the new name transformed the atmosphere on campus, it was difficult for students to get used to the name. McIntosh said she felt she did not have a connection with The University of Findlay since she spent her entire college career as a Findlay College student. For a long time, McIntosh would say “Findlay College” when she actually meant “The University of Findlay.”
“At the time, I remember it being an adjustment, “said McIntosh. “I did not have an affiliation with The University of Findlay, so it took a while to get used to the name change.”
Spraw, director of the Wolfe Center for alumni, parents, and friends, said she is careful when speaking to alumni who graduated under Findlay College to refer to their time there as Findlay College. At the 2014 homecoming celerbation, UF celebrated 25 years of becoming a university. The homecoming T-shirts had both Findlay College and The University of Findlay names on them.
“Our alumni from the Findlay College days as well as alumni from The University of Findlay both loved getting that T-shirt,” said Spraw.
For some students, the name change allowed for a feeling of disconnect with the university. But that was not the case for Julia Yingling, director of health services and Cosiano Health Center and 1989 graduate of the last class of Findlay College. Yingling described the feeling as bittersweet.
“At first we couldn’t believe they were changing the name because the last four years we were here, we were Findlay College,” said Yingling.
Yingling said she found it nostalgic that she was the last class of Findlay College. Not only was she the last graduating class, but she was the last Findlay College homecoming queen as well.
Spraw’s experience with the name change is different than most students. Her undergraduate degree started under the name Findlay College and ended under the new name of The University of Findlay.
“The way I view it is I have the best of both,” said Spraw. “Being an Oiler is what I started and ended with and I am still proud to be one today.”