​The Story Behind the Name Change

The big news stories in 1989 were, as usual, disasters and world turmoil: an earthquake in the San Francisco Bay area killed ​67 people; the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, spilling 11 million gallons of oil; and Chinese students rallying for democracy in Tiananmen Square resulted in hundreds of deaths as the government cracked down. 

Twenty-five years ago also was a time of great hope in the future: after 28 years, the Berlin Wall was dismantled and democratic reforms were sweeping eastern Europe; the new prime minister in South Africa, F.W. De Klerk, began the process of removing apartheid; and the World Wide Web was created.


Amidst all this, Findlay College, which had been founded in 1882, became The University of Findlay.


Griffith ArchLike the world scene, Findlay College was facing external challenges. The number of graduating high school seniors was predicted to steadily decline over the next decade, greatly impacting recruitment of traditional students; international students preferred to enroll in American “universities” because in other countries “college” meant high school; and the national movement of technical schools becoming state community colleges threatened enrollment of students in traditional liberal arts colleges.


There also was much cause for optimism. Responding to a downturn in enrollment in the mid-1970s, Findlay College had been pushing the boundaries of a liberal arts education with successful, innovative programs. Findlay established an Intensive English Language Institute for international students; implemented the western equestrian studies and pre-veterinary medicine programs; acquired the Nuclear Medicine Institute; received several million dollars in federal aid to support bilingual, multicultural education programs; and launched the nation’s first bachelor’s degree in hazardous waste studies (which is now environment, health, safety, and sustainability).


As a result of these bold moves and others, Findlay College was doing well in the mid-1980s in recruiting traditional age students, as well as adults who participated in the Weekend College and evening division programs. Findlay even was sending professors to Lima, Ohio, to teach in growing prisoner education programs at Lima and Allen County Correctional Institutions. In fact, enrollment had risen to a historic high of 2,075 students in fall 1988, increasing from 1,408 in 1983.


Addressing how Findlay could become an even stronger institution and thrive in the future, despite the looming challenges, then-President Kenneth E. Zirkle, Ed.D., formed a strategic planning committee and named faculty member N. Susan Bakaitis, Ph.D., as chair. The initial proposal for changing the name from Findlay College to The University of Findlay was made as a part of the strategic planning process. The committee reflected a cross section of the school and administration, and supported the idea.


Members of the committee, who researched other institutions that had moved from college to university status, reported increased pride by alumni, students, faculty and friends; an improved marketing position in recruiting students, both domestic and international; greater student retention; and greater success in obtaining outside funding, as a result.


Following the board of trustees meeting on Oct. 28, 1988, Findlay released an announcement by Jack Harrington, chairman of the board, that the decision had been made for Findlay College to change its name to The University of Findlay, effective July 1, 1989. The change reflected Findlay’s growth in enrollment and increase in academic programm​ing, including the addition of its first modern graduate degree.

Front Lawn RenovationHonoring its history of being jointly founded by the Churches of God, General Conference, and the citizens of Findlay, a formal dedication of The University of Findlay was held on Aug. 8, 1989. The August date was selected so members of the Churches of God, who were attending its annual national Summer Seminar on campus, could participate, as well as representatives and citizens of the city.

The front lawn of Old Main was renovated and the Arch was moved 
back away from Main Street when Findlay College 
became The University of Findlay.


By changing its name and strategically setting a path for growth, Findlay altered its identity and its future. In 2014, The University of Findlay is celebrating 25 years of growth and achievements.


Academic Programs

The administration, faculty and staff worked diligently to implement other components of the strategic plan. Graduate degrees were created in quick succession: Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and Bilingual Education - 1989; Master of Arts in Education – 1992; Master of Business Administration – 1993; and Master of Science in Environmental, Safety and Health Management – 1994.


By 2000, business and environmental degree completion and graduate programs were offered online. In 2001, the MBA program was named one of 39 “Best of the Online Grad Programs” by U.S. World & News Report, and UF was named one of “America’s Most Wired Colleges” by Yahoo! Internet Life and Peterson’s.


Top Five largest Programs

Specialized programs were developed routinely over the past 25 years. Hospitality management, Japanese (language), forensic science, operations and logistics, law and the liberal arts, children’s book illustration, sport and event management, positron emission tomography/computerized tomography technology (PET/CT), equestrian studies – English riding, and animal science were among the new undergraduate offerings.


Seven more master’s degrees were added between 2000 and 2013. In 2006, a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree began, with the first doctoral students graduating in 2010. The physical therapy program transitioned to a doctoral program in 2008, and an online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) was added in 2013.


The pace of advancement has never slackened. The University of Findlay now offers 53 undergraduate majors, nine master’s degrees and three doctoral programs, which are organized into six colleges: Business; Education; Health Professions; Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences; Pharmacy; and Sciences.


Graduate Programs Added Since 1989

1989 – Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and Bilingual Education

1992 – Master of Education

1993 – Master of Business Administration

1994 – Master of Science in Environmental, Safety and Health Management

2000 – Master of Occupational Therapy

2000 – Master of Physical Therapy

2001 – Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (Discontinued in 2010)

2003 – Master of Athletic Training

2006 – Doctor of Pharmacy

2008 – Doctor Physical Therapy

2010 – Master of Physician Assistant

2011 – Master of Science in Health Informatics

2013 – Master of Arts in Rhetoric and Writing

2013 – Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Expanding Enrollment

The composition of the student body has changed dramatically in 25 years. In 1989, 440 new, full-time traditional students enrolled in the fall, compared to 750 new, incoming students in the fall of 2013 (most recent year available). Twenty-five years ago, 146 international students were on campus. In fall 2013, 336 international students were enrolled in undergraduate, graduate and the Intensive English Language programs. Total enrollment was 2,215 in fall 1989, compared with 3,668 in fall 2013.

Service learning

Today, there are more than 2,600 undergraduate students, with 1,200 students living in campus housing, ranging from residence halls to townhouses, cottages, apartments and special interest houses.


More than 1,000 students in graduate programs make up 28 percent of the student body, with many of them taking classes online. In addition, more than 1,200 high school students are enrolled in UF’s post-secondary options program.


Changes in the institution also are illustrated by the graduating classes. Using the commencement programs from 1989 and 2014 as a reference: a total of 278 degrees were awarded in 1989, compared to 924 in 2014.

Degrees Awarded ​1989 ​% of Total ​2014 ​% of Total
​Bachelor of Arts ​187 ​67% ​112 ​12%
​Bachelor of Science ​9 ​3% ​439 ​47%
​Associate of Arts ​82 ​30% ​34 ​3%
​Graduate Degrees ​0 ​0% ​358 ​38%
​Total 278​​ ​943 ​70% increase
(Unofficial totals using commencement program​ tallies)


Enlarging the Campus

The physical campus needed to grow to accommodate the expanding enrollment and the many programs requiring special facilities. After nearly two decades of the campus remaining static, the construction of the Phil Gardner Fitness Center in 1989 kicked off 25 years of expansion.


Brewer Building Construction

Construction on the Kenneth L. Frost Science Center

Between 1991 and 1999, the Kenneth L. Frost Science Center, the Virginia B. Gardner Fine Arts Pavilion, the Edward and Joyce Brewer Center for Health Sciences and the Ralph and Gladys Koehler Fitness and Recreation Complex were constructed on campus, and the All Hazards Training Center and the James L. Child Jr. Equestrian Complex (English riding and dressage) were developed off site.


Koehler Fitness and Recreation Complex Construction 
Construction on the Koehler Fitness and Recreation Complex

In 2001, the Dennis A. Zahler Townhouses provided the first new option in student living. The land for the Russ & Peg Armstrong Sports Complex on Blanchard Avenue was acquired in 2002, and opened with six professional-grade tennis courts in 2005.


In 2003, Winebrenner Theological Seminary (WTS) moved to a new building located at the corner of North Main and Frazer Streets, contiguous to campus. Although separate entities, Winebrenner and The University of Findlay share various academic and support services for greater efficiencies, and the WTS building was a significant addition to Findlay’s campus.


The University acquired the Winebrenner Village care facility in 2003, which became the UF Village. It was converted to residence rooms, administrative offices and facilities for the hospitality management major. The former Findlay campus of Owens Community College on Davis Street, purchased in 2006, was renovated to provide the largest square footage of instructional space since the construction of Old Main.


Existing buildings that received significant additions included: the Alumni Memorial Union, Henderson Dining Hall, Egner Center for the Performing Arts and the Virginia B. Gardner Fine Arts Pavilion addition in 2007 for the Mazza Museum. The Carrothers Home for the President was extensively remodeled with additions in 1990 and 2010.


The classrooms and offices on the second and third floors of Old Main received a makeover in 2012, along with the installation of air conditioning for the first time in its history.


New facilities included the Dr. C. Richard Beckett Animal Science Building in 2009 and the science addition to the Davis Street Building in 2012, the first new green construction utilizing geothermal heating and cooling and other energy-saving technologies.


In 1989, the main campus covered just 25 acres; in 2014, it totals 88 acres. Total acreage in 1989 for the main campus, training center and the western equestrian farm was 102 acres​; today it is 394 acres for the main campus and off-site properties, which include the Center for Animal Sciences (western equestrian and pre-veterinary medicine programs), the James L. Child Jr. Equestrian Complex (English equestrian programs), the All Hazards Training Center, Reick Center for Habitat Studies, Olive Street Wilderness Area and the Armstrong Sports Complex.



Findlay has been engaged in competitive sports throughout its history and has a loyal following of fans in the community, as well as students and alumni. For a mid-size institution, Findlay has an outstanding record. More than 600 students participate on athletic teams, which is nearly a quarter of the undergraduate student body.


During the past 25 years, The University of Findlay has transitioned from National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) competition, and from Division III to Division II, enabling UF to offer athletic scholarships.


Findlay has earned a number national championship crowns. In addition to the team championships, many Findlay athletes have earned national championship titles. Currently, Findlay fields 22 NCAA teams and five equestrian teams, which compete in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA), United States Eventing Association (USEA), and Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA). Competing regionally in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, UF has proved to be a formidable opponent, garnering numerous titles and accolades in regional play, as well.


Athletics: from NAIA to NCAA


Number of Sports Teams

1989 – 18 (NAIA - 10 men’s and 8 women’s)

2014 – 22 (NCAA - 12 men’s and 10 women’s; IHSA - 2 Equestrian)


National Championships

NAIA Football National Championships – 1992, 1995, 1997

NAIA Wrestling National Championship – 1995

NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship – 2009


English Equestrian
Equestrian National Championships

Western Equestrian – 2001, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010​, 2018, 2019​

English Equestrian – 2001

For Findlay, becoming a university has been a winning move. As an institution, it has thrived with the introduction of new programs, an increase in students and the expansion of campus and facilities.


25-year logoThe leadership of three presidents – Dr. Kenneth E. Zirkle, Dr. DeBow Freed and Dr. Katherine Fell, combined with the efforts of the members of the Board of Trustees, administrators, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, and support from the founding denomination and community members, has created a university that has become one of the largest private educational institutions​ in northwest Ohio.​​