Capital University

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Capital University Kerns Religious Life Center.jpg
Kerns Religious Life Center at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio is shown here. The building was built between 1913 and 1915 to serve as the Rudolf Library. When the Blackmore Library was built in 1978, however, it became the Kerns Religious Life Center.

Capital University, located in Bexley, Ohio,  is the oldest university in Central Ohio.  Founded in 1830 and incorporated in 1850, it is one of the oldest and largest Lutheran affiliated universities in North America. 

In 1830, The German Theological Seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Ohio opened in Canton, Ohio with six students. Its purpose was to educate and train future ministers. All classes were taught in German.  The Seminary laid the vision and foundation for a university, known as Capital University, to be connected with it near Columbus, Ohio. 

In 1831, the Seminary moved to a small church on Third Street in Columbus.  Seeing the need for a larger space of their own, Wilhelm Schmidt, the pastor and the teacher of the seminary, moved his six seminary students to a building on S. High Street in 1832.

Over the next decade, students attending the seminary studied theology, languages, logic and psychology.  Eventually, there was a need for another professor, one who would be able to teach in English to the non-German speaking students.  Subjects of science and language would be added to the courses of study. By 1840, there were 36 students living at the seminary, 21 of whom were preparing for the ministry.  Some of the students were from out of town and lived in space in the upper floor, paying $1.25 per week for room, board and laundry.

 In 1842, those connected the seminary, considered again a vision they had in 1939; a vision to combine a seminary and a college in two separate buildings. The original constitution of the seminary stated that it was a German Institute to train men for ministry of the German Lutheran Church to promote education of Germans; now, the seminary was offering all men admission, whether English or German, Lutheran or non-Lutheran, including those not going into ministry.

The Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Ohio supported the plan to establish a regular college in connection with the already established theological seminary. The Synod Board said it would have separate faculty, separate financial support, different sciences and literary classes, and instruction much like other colleges in the state.

The plan was very agreeable by all.  The city of Columbus was very young and generous in support of the seminary, and at the same time, the seminary promised it would be a good asset to the capital city of Ohio.

In 1850, the Seminary trustees applied to the State legislature for a charter to organize a university.  On March 2, 1850, the charter, constitution and by-laws  passed creating “a corporation for the promotion of religion, learning and morality to be known as Capital University.â€�

The first term of the university opened Sept. 12, 1850 on a Town Street property bought by the seminary.  Reverend Dr. Willliam M. Reynolds served as the first president. In 1853, Capital University moved near Goodale Park and N. High Street on land given by board member, Dr. Goodale.  By the end of the first year, there were 9 freshmen, 3 sophomores and 13 seminary students.

Professor Lehmann became the next president of the university in 1857 and at this time saw a great need to move the growing university to a new location. Land was purchased on Main Street in Bexley, Ohio.  Here a professor noticed a boulder and decided it would be the cornerstone for Lehmann Hall, the first building to be erected.   In May, 1876, faculty and staff moved to the present day Capital University.  The university continued to grow. In 1918, women were admitted to the university.

In 2011, 3,550 undergraduate and graduate students attended the university with a faculty of almost 200 full-time and over 200 part-time members.

See Also