CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY (abbr. CWRU) is an independent research university located in UNIVERSITY CIRCLE. Classified as having very high research activity, selective admission, and a highly residential undergraduate population, more than half of its 11,800 students are in graduate and professional programs. It is comprised of eight colleges and schools: the College of Arts and Sciences; Case School of Engineering; the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing;  the School of Law; the School of Medicine; the School of Dental Medicine; the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences; and the Weatherhead School of Management. There is close cooperation in programs and research between CWRU and many other University Circle institutions, such as the CLEVELAND INSTITUTE OF MUSIC, the CLEVELAND INSTITUTE OF ART, the CLEVELAND CLINIC, UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS, the CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART, the WESTERN RESERVE HISTORICAL SOCIETY, the CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY and others.

CWRU developed into its current form as a process of convergence, joining together a number of independent entities over nearly 200 years, eventually co-locating in UNIVERSITY CIRCLE. The university name is a combination of the two primary component institutions, Western Reserve University and Case Institute of Technology.

The earliest of the ancestor institutions, Western Reserve College, was granted a charter by the Ohio General Assembly in 1826, specifying that the institution should be independent and not affiliated with a specific denomination. Along with an academy, it was located in Hudson, OH, near the center of the WESTERN RESERVE. The defining issue of the antebellum period was opposition to slavery, and both the college and the town were closely associated with ABOLITIONISM. First president Charles Backus Storrs fell ill after a long abolitionist speech in bad weather, and his death was eulogized by poet John Greenleaf Whittier. FREDERICK DOUGLASS delivered a commencement address in 1854 at the invitation of students. The first AFRICAN AMERICAN student recorded by CWRU was John Sykes Fayette, who enrolled at Western Reserve College in 1832, graduated in 1836 and again in 1837 with a divinity degree. He and others were personal acquaintances of local resident and abolitionist John Brown. After the Civil War, President Carroll Cutler opened the college to women. In his 1872 inaugural address, he declared, “if any woman thirsting for knowledge should seek it at this fountain, she should not be refused merely because she was a woman.” Western Reserve would remain coeducational until the move to Cleveland triggered a debate and the college split into coordinate colleges, one for men and one for women.

The Case School of Applied Science was founded in 1880 when LEONARD CASE, JR. allotted a portion of his estate for the institution's establishment. He and other wealthy young men of Cleveland spent many leisure hours sharing their interest in natural history, and formed a club called THE ARK. A fascination with science and its application to the future of humankind focused the mission of his gift; his dedication to the city that fostered his family’s wealth made the location Cleveland; and Case’s distaste for publicity meant the gift was not made public until after his death.

In the early 1880s a number of leading citizens worked to entice existing institutions of higher education and relocate to a designated area east of the city boundary at the time, now known as University Circle. Railroad magnate AMASA STONE donated over $500,000 to move Western Reserve College to Cleveland, and other contributors added upwards of $100,000 to purchase 43 acres for both it and the fledgling Case School of Applied Science so they could be located adjacent to one another. Stone’s gift was contingent on the Case School move, and that Western Reserve University's men's undergraduate college be named Adelbert College, after Stone's son, Adelbert, who drowned in 1865 while at Yale. The two institutions were both collaborators and rivals. The boundary between the two campuses was marked by a fence for many years as they shared a long thin stretch of land until their 1967 federation.

Despite Western Reserve University’s 1872 inclusion of women, the move to Cleveland triggered a reconsideration, and in 1884 the trustees of WRU excluded women from Adelbert College. In 1888, they established the College for Women as a coordinate college to the men’s college. One of its greatest benefactors resisted acknowledgment, but in 1932 the women’s college renamed in honor of FLORA STONE MATHER daughter of Amasa Stone. In addition to the liberal arts, the school offered courses in home economics and education, and over time afforded women students the ability to take courses at both Adelbert College and Case. Mather College retained its own identity, culture, school colors, and campus until after the federation, and folded into the larger Case Western Reserve University in 1972

In addition to the undergraduate colleges, a number of graduate and professional schools joined or developed as part of the gathering together. In 1890, the university consisted of 2 undergraduate colleges and a medical school. The Cleveland Medical College, founded in 1843, was then a department of Western Reserve College. Located at E. 9th St. and St. Clair, it led a virtually autonomous existence until brought under the control of the Board of Trustees and the university president in 1893.

During the presidency (1890-1921) of CHARLES F. THWING, WRU established additional schools: the law, dental, and graduate schools, in 1892; the library school, 1904 (closed in 1986); the pharmacy school, 1908 (closed in 1949); and the School of Applied Social Sciences, 1916. Architecture and teacher education were added later and then discontinued. The LAW school enrolled its first class in 1892, among them its first AFRICAN AMERICAN student. It was one of the first schools to adopt the case method of study initiated at Harvard Law School. The school's higher-than-required standards quickly put it among the country's best, and an endowment came in 1893 from a bequest by the widow of FRANKLIN T. BACKUS. It was also among the first schools to be accredited by the American Bar Association (1923). The Dental School was a department of the Medical School until 1906, when, because of financial difficulties, it was sold to a private operator, Henry M. Brown. In 1916 the university repurchased the school and invested in equipment and personnel, regaining the Dental Educational Council's top rating in 1922. The Graduate School of the university initially faced such a dearth of students that in 1921 it was closed. In 1926 the school reopened with ELBERT JAY BENTON as dean and it flourished.

The Library School was founded by WM. HOWARD BRETT, head of the CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY and the school's first dean. Despite a $100,000 endowment from Andrew Carnegie, the school faced deficits annually, but managed to survive. After World War II, Dean JESSE HAUK SHERA brought national recognition to the school, especially in the area of documentation and through its doctoral program, but declining enrollment led to the school's closing in 1986. The School of Applied Social Sciences was founded at a time when the concept of social work as a profession was questioned. Twice the Board of Trustees considered closing it down, but its future was secured after World War II, when Dean LEONARD W. MAYO raised endowment funds and erected a new building for the school. The Dept. of Architecture evolved from the Cleveland School of Architecture, incorporated in 1924 with ABRAM GARFIELD as president. CHARLES MORRIS and CHARLES S. SCHNEIDER were important Cleveland architects associated with the school. In 1929 the architecture school became a department of WRU, until its closing in 1972. In 1928 WRU formed a school of education and implemented programs that built on the work of previous normal schools (see TEACHER EDUCATION) but ceased as a school of WRU in 1945.

At the Case School, no formal graduate school was established until 1955, although the first doctorate had been conferred in 1939. Except for several women who studied special programs during WORLD WAR II, the school would not be truly coeducational until 1960.

Although they did not formally combine until 1967, there was collaboration and suggestions of conjoining Western Reserve and Case beginning as early as the 1880s. Perhaps the most famous collaboration was the 1887 MICHELSON-MORELY EXPERIMENT, jointly led by physicist ALBERT MICHELSON of Case and chemist EDWARD MORELY of Western Reserve. The most direct outside pressure for organizational joining prior to 1967 came after a 1925 Cleveland Foundation Commission report recommended an “Enlarged University.” Although this did not lead to a consolidation, it did result in the creation of Cleveland College, a downtown center that was initially sponsored by both institutions before reverting to WRU oversight. It was dedicated to noncredit adult education and evening credit courses for part-time students. The Depression ended the large growth of the extension school located in a downtown building at E. 20th and EUCLID AVE. By 1929, when the school moved to PUBLIC SQUARE, the student body of Cleveland College had quadrupled to 6,000, but success came to a halt along with the nation's economy. Despite a brief postwar revival due to the GI Bill. By 1953 the veterans were gone, and the university decided to move the school to University Circle, where the faculties of Adelbert, Mather, and Cleveland College merged into one body.

In 1947 the Case School of Applied Science changed its name to Case Institute of Technology to better reflect the institution's rank and independence. The school expanded dramatically after World War II under President T. KEITH GLENNAN; (1947-66). In 1948 Case established a Div. of Humanities & Social Science, the first among engineering schools. Research grants and contracts increased and became the school's largest source of operating income.

JOHN S. MILLIS assumed the presidency of WRU in 1949, hoping to strengthen the unity of its confederation of schools. He initiated the founding of the Univ. Circle Development Foundation, the predecessor of UNIVERSITY CIRCLE, INC. (UCI). He strengthened ties with long-time neighbor Case Institute, and by 1960 the schools shared health service, athletic facilities, and their geology and astronomy departments. In 1964 Millis and Glennan agreed to a consolidation of their institutions and initiated the process that led to the formation of Case Western Reserve Univ. in 1967. A byproduct of the federation of Case and Reserve was the new Weatherhead School of Management, formed from the various business departments within each institution and named in recognition of a $3 million grant from the Weatherhead Foundation in 1980. In 1972 the original 3 undergraduate schools of WRU, Adelbert, and Mather, as well as Cleveland College, were combined into Western Reserve College as a subunit of CWRU.

In 1986 the CWRU Community Laboratory established the CLEVELAND FREENET Community Computer System, a free public computer network which allowed dial-in users Internet access. The Freenet was the first of its kind and helped inspire an international trend. CWRU continued as the sponsor of the Freenet until September 30, 1999. CWRU in 1989 became the first campus in the world to use fiber optics to create a computer network linking all campus buildings, including residence halls.

Since the 1990s CWRU's physical environment has seen many renovations and new building projects. Under the administration of Agnar Pytte, the University successfully campaigned for a $400 million endowment. Nearly destroyed by fire in the summer of 1991, the Adelbert College administration building was renovated and then rededicated in 1993. Newly erected structures include the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences (1990), the Richard F. Celeste Biomedical Research Bldg. (1993), the Kent Hale Smith Engineering and Science Bldg. (1993), the George S. Dively Executive Education Center (1994), the Kelvin Smith Library (1995), the Veale Convocation, Athletic, and Recreation Center (1997), the Agnar Pytte Center for Science Education and Research (2001), and the Weatherhead School of Management's Frank Gehry-designed Peter B. Lewis Building (2002). In 1999, David H. Auston was named president as CWRU's total annual funding through grants and private donations surpassed $75.3 million. As the 1990s came to a close, the university enrolled approximately 9,500 students and employed over 4,800 faculty and staff.

The eyes of the world were focused on CWRU in the first decade of the new millennium. In 2004, the university hosted the vice-presidential debate between John Edwards and Richard Cheney. From 2001 to 2002 James W. Wagner served as CWRU interim president during which the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University was created. During Edward M. Hundert’s tenure as university president (2002-2006), CWRU opened The Village at 115, its first new student housing in over three decades. As the first decade of the 2000s came to a close, the once separate institutions of Case and Western Reserve were more unified than ever. A symbol of this unification was the creation of the Alumni Association of Case Western Reserve. Gregory Eastwood, who served as interim president in 2006, was the first recipient of the Case Western Reserve University Distinguished Alumni Award.

In the 2010s, CWRU has continued to be one of the nation's top universities. Current CWRU president Barbara R. Snyder assumed the presidency in 2007, becoming the first female president in the university's history. Under her leadership, undergraduate applications increased significantly and the university set fundraising records. The Tinkham Veale University Center opened its doors to students in 2014. Known affectionately as "The Tink," the architecturally distinct (designed by Perkins + Will) student center was built as a symbolic bridge to the east and west sides of campus. As of 2019, the university enrolled approximately 10,700 students and employed over 6,200 faculty and staff. The percentage of international students (undergraduate, graduate, and professional) totaled 17% according to the Center for International Affairs. These enrollment and employment figures represented 91 countries, confirming CWRU's status as a global influencer.

Updated by Janice Gerda



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Baznik, Richard E. Beyond the Fence: A Social History of Case Western Reserve University (2014). 

Cramer, C. H. Case Western Reserve University: A History of the University 1826-1976 (1976)

Cutler, Carroll. A History of Western Reserve College: During Its First Half Century, 1826-1876 (1876)

Case Western Reserve University, 2018-2019 CWRU General Bulletin (2018)

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