Ohio Northern’s ambitious, pioneering attitude has been alive since the very beginning. The school started with a single person and a single idea. With the help of the community, Henry Solomon Lehr founded the Northwestern Ohio Normal School in 1871. When the college’s curriculum grew to include pharmacy, engineering, law and business programs, its name was changed to Ohio Normal University and, eventually, in 1903, Ohio Northern University.
From Yesterday to Today
Many of the hallmarks ONU is known for today are rooted in our past. Adjusting the curriculum and programs to fit today’s needs; providing a diverse, well-rounded education; immersing students in hands-on learning – these are all values that have stood the test of time.
Into the Future
Because there was (and is) an ONU, the world will never be the same. From government to business to entertainment to scientific discovery, ONU has left traces of influence in so many different ways. In the future, we will continue this legacy while forging new paths into new frontiers. The new space race, the age of sustainable development, the continued effort for diversity, equity and inclusion – these are just a few examples.
There should be a school patterned to the needs of the common people, and it must recognize God in all its teachings."
Henry Solomon Lehr, founder Ohio Northern University
Gallery of Notable Figures
Read about the notable individuals who left a indelible mark on ONU–and the world–through their contributions and accomplishments over the course of ONU’s history.
From a small, regional teacher’s college to an esteemed institution of higher education, the evolution of Ohio Northern University has been marked by both success and struggle. Every milestone has played a role in making the University what it is today. We treasure our rich history and will continue writing the story of Ohio Northern to honor those who came before us.
Becoming Polar Bears
In 1923, the University established the Polar Bear as the school’s official mascot. Throughout the years, there have been several iterations of the mascot – who now goes by the name Klondike. Read the fun history of ONU’s mascot, written in 2023 when Klondike celebrated its 100th birthday.
“Heart of an Ideal” is a cinematic celebration of Ohio Northern University’s founding and its 150+ years of success in preparing students to positively impact the world. The film showcases how founder Henry Solomon Lehr established a clear vision and enduring values that have lived on at Ohio Northern. Defining moments in the life of ONU are chronicled, weaving the University’s story through presidential eras following Dr. Lehr’s, and presenting more than a century and a half of growth, trial, triumph and change. Included are interviews and footage not seen in nearly 50 years.