restricted access 6. Philander Chase and College Building in Ohio
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HOUGH UNIQUE in temperament and philosophy, Kenyon College founder Philander Chase (1775–1852) vividly represents the goals of early Ohio college builders and leaders. To Chase and his contemporaries, Ohio was part of the western frontier. By the 1820s, many Ohioans believed that they differed from people in other regions of the country, that Ohioans had distinctive needs and values and required institutions tailored to fit their situation. Accordingly, the colleges they built operated differently from colleges elsewhere. Philander Chase and others put the goals of Ohioans, such as preparing teachers for children and offering democratic access to education, into their calculations about how to structure their colleges. Thus these colleges became expressions of Ohio culture, a culture that over time heavily contributed to a regional culture of the Midwest. In the 1820s and 1830s, Ohio had a rapidly expanding population of settlers from eastern and southern states. These people, once they satisfied their basic needs for survival, built societal institutions they desired, such as churches, civic organizations, and schools, including colleges. Most commonly, to meet demands from Ohio citizens, state legislators chartered colleges as private institutions. And Ohioans vigorously started colleges; in fact, by 1860, the Ohio landscape was dotted by almost two dozen colleges, more than in any other state. In Ohio and many other states, church denominations took the lead. Typically, a religious denomination, such as the Presbyterians or Methodists, decided to begin a college for the benefit of the church. The college provided a place for young members of the denomination to learn with other students whose beliefs were similar ; some graduates became pastors of the denomination’s churches. 6 72 Philander Chase and College Building in Ohio KENNETH H. WHEELER  T vantne_3rd_chap6.qxd 11/4/2003 11:51 AM Page 72 Once it became known that a denomination wished to start a college , Ohio towns competed for the privilege of having the college located in their community and offered land, money, and sometimes an existing building to house the college. Just as modern Ohio cities encourage businesses to locate nearby in order to stimulate financial prosperity, nineteenth-century Ohioans believed that a college in their town elevated both the intellectual climate and their personal wealth through greater employment opportunities and higher land prices. Philander Chase was an instrumental figure in the development of Ohio colleges. He matured in New Hampshire and at Dartmouth College, from which he graduated in 1795. Three years later, after ordination by the Episcopal Church, Chase worked in New York, Louisiana, and Connecticut before he moved westward in 1817 to Ohio, where the Episcopal Church was tiny, represented by only eight small churches, or parishes. In 1819, Chase became the first Episcopal bishop of Ohio, overseeing the Episcopal Church within the state. Yet Chase had an interest in collegiate education before his Ohio days; in 1816 and 1817 he headed a movement to found an 73 PHILANDER CHASE FIG. 4 Philander Chase. Courtesy of Kenyon College. vantne_3rd_chap6.qxd 11/4/2003 11:51 AM Page 73 Episcopalian college in Connecticut. In Ohio, Chase also joined educational ventures. He served as president of a school in Cincinnati for a year and then ran a school for boys from his Worthington home in central Ohio. These endeavors, however, paled in comparison to Chase’s plan to found an Episcopalian seminary that would produce ministers for Ohio and other western churches. Given the difficulties and demands of early Ohio, along with the small number of Episcopalians , to establish such a school would take a gigantic effort. Above all else, Chase needed money to accomplish his goal, but when he asked eastern Episcopalians for funds, they claimed that western Episcopalians would be best served at eastern Episcopal seminaries . Most vigorous in opposition was Bishop John Henry Hobart of New York. Hobart and Chase already had clashed over theological issues. Hobart identified with a less evangelical wing of Episcopalianism than Chase, and Chase left his Connecticut pulpit for Ohio when Hobart became bishop of the Connecticut diocese. By the early 1820s, Hobart was the head of the New York diocese and oversaw Episcopalian Geneva College in New York. Hobart argued that there was no need for a seminary in Ohio, and that if there ever were a need that Geneva College would establish a branch there. Chase believed that Ohio needed colleges within its bounds immediately because travel east was quite expensive and time consuming, which made it difficult for Ohioans with little money to receive...


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