This statue honors local business leader John Buchtel, the leader of an effort to create a college at this location under the auspices of the Ohio Universalist Convention. The college offered religious training and a liberal arts education for members of the Universalist Church, but also sought to train future leaders of industry. As the institution grew, its emphasis on preparing local students for successful careers led to its gradual transformation. By 1913, Buchtel College had become the University of Akron, a municipally-supported institution that grew from less than 200 students in 1913 to 10,000 students by the late 1960s. In 1967, the university became part of Ohio's state-supported system of colleges and universities. Today, the University of Akron has more than 80 buildings on 218 acres and offers more than 300 undergraduate programs and has more than 23,000 students.
John and Elizabeth Buchtel donated $31,000 to build the college that would bear their name. This sum represented over half of the original cost to build the early college, while John Buchtel donated much of his time to overseeing many aspects of the college's operation. The cornerstone for the first campus building was laid in 1871. Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune and one of the most influential men of the late 19th century, spoke at the ceremony celebrating the start of the college's construction.
Buchtel College was closely tied with the community and
Universalist Church for its first few decades, but became a private, non-denominational school in 1907. In
1913, the trustees transferred the college and its assets to the city of Akron
thanks in part to their own financial challenges, but also as part of the city's recognition that the college could help its commercial development. The University of Akron was assisted
by city tax funds for the next 50 years, and enrollment grew from 198 to nearly ten thousand during these years.
The University's growth was related to the growth of the regional rubber industry. The university became the first in the world to offer a degree program in rubber chemistry-an essential commodity for both civilian industry and the military. Expansion followed World War II and Akron went from a municipal
to state university in 1967. In 1988, the University debuted the world’s first
College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering – now the largest academic
program of its kind in the world.
By 2000, the University had added 22 new buildings, made
many major additions or renovations and added 34 acres of green space. UA
remains a public university focused on innovation, entrepreneurship, and
investment in community and economic growth.