Ohio is known for many things — home to Cedar Point (the roller coaster capital of the world), being one of the eight Great Lakes states, home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, home to one of the largest zoos in the U.S., and much more. Throughout this great state, another noteworthy claim to fame includes universities with a rich background of academic excellence, especially when it comes to the history of Kent State University in Kent. 

In 1910, the foundation of the university began as a teacher-training school when State Rep. John Lowry wrote a bill that established funding for two schools dedicated to the professional development of teachers. One of the schools was called Kent State Normal School, which was located on farmland donated by William S. Kent, who was the son of Marvin Kent and the namesake of the city of Kent.

After enrollment expanded rapidly and other programs of study were introduced outside of the primary teacher education focus, including graduate courses, the school went through a series of name changes over the course of 25 years — from Kent State Normal College to Kent State College (1929) to Kent State University (1935). The first full academic year was in 1913 with 144 students, and enrollment grew to 1,600 the following year.

Fast forward to the present day, and impressive numbers reflect how Kent State has grown to become an outstanding educational beacon for students around the world:

  • More than 41,000 students are enrolled throughout the university’s eight campuses, including 3,000 international students from 100 countries.
  • Alumni encompass more than 251,000 people worldwide.
  • Kent State has more than 10,700 employees consisting of over 2,700 full- and part-time faculty; more than 3,000 staff members, and over 5,000 student employees.
  • More than 400 student clubs/organizations are available to join.

Part of Kent State’s history also includes an unfortunate incident that took place on May 4, 1970, when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a crowd that gathered to protest the Vietnam War, resulting in four students being killed and nine wounded. To honor the loss of students’ lives, The Center for Peaceful Change opened a year later to serve as a living memorial, which is now known as The Center for Applied Conflict Management. 

To learn more about what happened that day, a self-guided walking tour is available called “May 4, 1970: Someone to Tell the Story.” Go to the May 4 Visitors Center located in Taylor Hall or the circulation desk inside the university library and check out an iPod that has the documentary loaded on it, and you can follow the seven walking tour trail markers on campus. It’s important to note that The Ohio History Connection’s State Historic Preservation Office Awards recognized Kent State in 2018 with the Public Education and Awareness Award for the “important efforts to respect, interpret, foster greater public awareness and understanding, and preserve the history and site associated with the May 4, 1970, Kent State Shootings.”

An interesting fact about Kent State was it became the first university in the country to have a dedicated gluten-free dining hall on campus. Prentice Café was officially certified through the Gluten-Free Food Services Certification Program offered by The Gluten Intolerance Group — “a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering the gluten-free community through consumer support, advocacy and education.” Menu options include vegan or vegetarian options for students to enjoy.

Kent State also has a stand-out list of notable names who called the university home, including celebrities, musicians, athletes, etc. — Steve Harvey, Drew Carey, Michael Keaton, Arsenio Hall, Chrissie Hynde, James Harrison, and Dav Pilkey, just to name a few.

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