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Brief History of Oglethorpe University

Detailed History of Oglethorpe University

Oglethorpe Historical Timeline

Oglethorpe's 42-Bell Carillon

Honorary Degrees Awarded by Oglethorpe

Alma Mater

Notable Alumni


Chartered by the state of Georgia in 1835, the university commenced operations in 1838 with four faculty members and about 25 students at Midway, a small community near Milledgeville, then the capital of Georgia. Oglethorpe's most distinguished alumnus from the antebellum era was poet, critic and musician Sidney Lanier, who graduated in 1860. The university closed in 1862 due to the Civil War when its students were soldiers, its endowment was lost in Confederate bonds and its buildings were used for barracks and hospitals. In 1870, the institution was briefly relocated in Atlanta at the site of the present City Hall. At this time, Oglethorpe produced several educational innovations, expanding its curriculum to business and law courses and offering the first evening college classes in Georgia. However, in 1872, Oglethorpe closed its doors for a second time.

Oglethorpe University was re-chartered in 1913, and in 1915 the cornerstone to the new campus was laid at its present location on Peachtree Road in Atlanta. Dr. Thornwell Jacobs, who was the driving force behind the university's revival and who intended the new campus to be a "living memorial" to James Edward Oglethorpe, became the president for nearly three decades. During Jacobs' tenure, he launched several projects that brought national and international repute to Oglethorpe including finding the tomb of James and Elizabeth Oglethorpe in England; conferring honorary doctorates to recognize superior civic and scientific achievement to such notables as Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart; and developing the Crypt of Civilization, the first modern time capsule which is located on the campus and is not to be opened until the year 8113 A.D.

In 1944, Oglethorpe University began a new era under noted attorney and educator Dr. Philip Weltner. With a group of faculty associates, Dr. Weltner initiated an exciting approach to undergraduate education called the "Oglethorpe Idea." It involved one of the earliest efforts to develop a core curriculum, with the twin aims to "make a life and to make a living." The Oglethorpe core, which was applauded by The New York Times, aimed at a common learning experience for students with about one-half of every student's academic program consisting of courses in "Citizenship" and "Human Understanding." The core curriculum remains an integral part of an Oglethorpe education today.

As Oglethorpe University continues to grow, academically and materially, it is ever mindful of its distinguished heritage and will still remain, in the affectionate words of poet and alumnus Sidney Lanier, "a college of the heart."

Oglethorpe University is listed on Georgia's Registry of Historic Places.

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