The roots of Oberlin College reach back to 1833 when two young Yankee missionaries arrived at a stump-dotted clearing in the forests of northeast Ohio.
The Rev. John J. Shipherd and Philo P. Stewart, inspired by Alsatian pastor John Frederick Oberlin, resolved to found a college and colony on the western frontier "where they would train teachers and other Christian leaders for the boundless most desolate fields in the West." They shortly gained the support of Charles Grandison Finney, one of the 19th century's great revivalists. Finney's reputation attracted students to the College and colony, "bound together by a solemn covenant which pledged them to the plainest living and highest thinking," as well as financial support for the College and the town of Oberlin.
In the spring of 1833, the first settler, Peter Pindar Pease, built his log house at the center of Oberlin. That December, 29 men and 15 women students began classes in the Oberlin Collegiate Institute. Two years later circulars describing Oberlin noted that "youths are received as members, irrespective of color." As a result, by the turn of the century one-third of all African American graduates of predominantly white institutions in the United States had graduated from Oberlin.
In 1837, four young women matriculated for the regular college course. Three of the four graduated in 1841 and became the first women in America to receive AB degrees.
In 1850, by an Act of the Ohio Legislature, the Oberlin Collegiate Institute became Oberlin College. The change was in name only since collegiate instruction had been offered from 1834 when the original charter was granted.
The music division became part of the College in 1867, two years after its founding as a private school. The Graduate School of Theology, organized in 1835 as the theological division, was merged with the Divinity School of Vanderbilt University in 1966.
Present-day Oberlin College reflects its early dedication to high intellectual standards, liberal education, excellence in teaching, and social and moral commitment.
The town of Oberlin, Ohio (population 8,600), is 35 miles southwest of Cleveland and is easily accessible by car, plane, bus, or train.