For some of us, school seems like it was forever ago, but what if you actually went to a school that was over a hundred years old! If you’re a resident of Ohio, you may find yourself driving past the oldest elementary schools, high schools, and colleges in the world. Today, we will discover some of the oldest schools in Ohio and talk about when they began, what makes them so special, the famous alumni who came from the schools, and other facts you won’t believe.
Oldest Schools in Ohio – Elementary
At the time of this writing, there are 3,507 elementary schools in Ohio. When compared to the rest of the United States, Ohio is 7th as far as total schools. The state is 8th when it comes to student enrollment. Let’s talk about some of the oldest elementary schools.
Grand River Academy
One of the oldest schools in Ohio is Grand River Academy, which is a private elementary school founded in 1831. This all-boys school is located in Austinburg, Ohio. The school is for boys that are in grades 8 – 12 and those who can benefit from an academic and social boarding school environment.
The school started in 1831 by a group of elders at the Austinburg Congregational Church. The idea was that it would be for young people who were preparing for ministerial vocations. At this point, it’s more of a traditional private school.
There are many notable alumni of the institution, including many politicians that now represent many different states. Among the alumni are:
- Clarence Allen – U.S. Representative from Utah
- Julius Borrows – U.S. Senator from Michigan
- Theodore Burton – U.S. Senator from Ohio
- Albert Gallatin Egbert – U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania
- Alphonso Hart – U.S. Representative from Ohio
- Elbert Lampson – Lieutenant Governor of Ohio
Bishop Flaget School
For $7,000 a year, your child can attend the second oldest private elementary school in Ohio: Bishop Flaget School. This is a Catholic church that strives to set students up for success later in life. Founded way back in 1837, it’s one of the oldest schools in Ohio. It’s located in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Oldest Schools in Ohio – High School
As of 2023, there are 1,360 high schools located in Ohio, with 1,152 of them being public and 208 private institutions. The state is 8th when it comes to enrollment. Many of the schools below have been in operation for close to 200 years.
Elyria High School
Topping the list of the oldest schools in Ohio in the high school category is Elyria High School, which opened its doors in 1830. Located in Elyra, Ohio, the school holds the distinction of being the oldest chartered high school located west of the Allegheny Mountains. The school took a hit in 2007, when most of the buildings on campus were knocked down, but the school still remains open. The buildings were restored in 2014.
There are many notable alumni of Elyria High School, including many athletes and entertainers. Some of the alumni include:
- Tianna Madison – 3-time Olympic gold medalist
- Walter Rock – Football player for Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers.
- Danny Noble – Pro football player
- Chase Farris – Pro football player
- Arthur Garford – Inventor of the padded bicycle seat
- Vic Janowicz – Football player and winner of the Heisman Trophy
- James Kirkwood – Author
- Chad Szeliga – Drummer from the band Breaking Benjamin
- Les Miles – Kansas University Jayhawks football coach
Woodward High School
Located in the Bond Hill neighborhood of Cincinnati Ohio, Woodward High School is not only one of the oldest schools in Ohio, but it is also one of the oldest schools in the United States. The school was first started in the Over-the-Rhine area of Cincinnati by William Woodward and his spouse, Abigail Cutter, as a way of providing free education for poor students. The school’s so old that there’s an urban myth that Abigail haunts the building until this day.
As a fun fact, the school only consisted of two buildings until 1874, when graduate and former President William Howard Taft laid the groundwork for a third building. Also, the school has a connection to the Underground Railroad. That’s because school founder William Woodward also built a home there, and it’s where Levi Coffin hid more than one hundred slaves as they made their way to Canada. In 1953, the school was moved to the Bond Hill location where it sits today.
There are many notable alumni of Woodward High School, including:
- Karen Ackerman – Author
- Marty Callner – Music video director
- Harry Shokler – Artist
- Daryl Boston – MLB player
- Leon Durham – MLB player
- John Jackson – Football player
- Antwan Peek – Linebacker for the Cleveland Browns
- Clem Turner – Runningback for Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals
- Mark Mallory – Mayor of Cincinnati
- Lafayette Mosher – Oregon State Senator
Ravenna High School
The newest of the oldest high schools in Ohio is Ravenna High School, which was founded in 1858 in Ravenna, Ohio. Before the school received its own building, class was held in a grocery store on West Main Street. A year later, it moved to the Union School building on Chestnut Street. Today, the campus is close to 70 acres and includes a 5,000-person stadium, an eight-lane running track, eight tennis courts, and a baseball and softball court.
There are many notable alumni of Ravenna High School, including:
- David Busch – Best-selling author
- William Day – Former Supreme Court Justice
- Al Hodge – Producer of the show The Lone Ranger
- Peggy King – Former television personality
- Jeff West – American football punter
- Don Nottingham – Football player for the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Colts.
Oldest Colleges In Ohio
There are many great older colleges in Ohio, and they have been educating men and women for the past 200+ years. Currently, there are 50 four-year private universities, 23 two-year community colleges, 24 branch campuses, and 14 four-year public universities. Here are some of the oldest universities in Ohio.
Started in 1803, Ohio University is the state’s oldest college and one of the overall oldest schools in Ohio. In fact, this school is so ancient that it was the first university to be chartered via an act of Congress. It was chartered way back in 1787, but it was moved to the area in 1802.
The school has evolved throughout the years. In 1868, women were first admitted to the school. The school has grown by leaps and bounds since then. Today, the university is a massive campus that’s made up of nine undergraduate colleges, a graduate school, a school of medicine, and a public affairs school. The school is also home to many research centers, honors colleges, and many traditions that have carried on over the years. The college is also famous for its celebrated football and basketball programs.
There are many famous alumni of Ohio University. A few of them include:
- Pete Abele – Member of U.S. House of Representatives
- Albert David Baumhart, Jr. – Member of U.S. House of Representatives
- Peter King – Sports journalist
- Dwight Lauderdale – TV anchor
- Richard Dean Anderson – Actor
- Logan Paul – Youtuber
- Adam Russell – MLB player
- Roger Ailes – former President, Fox News
- Joe Roberts – former NBA player
- Gary Trent – former NBA player
Don’t let the name deceive you. The second oldest college in Ohio is Miami University, established in 1809. This is a public research university that’s located in Oxford, Ohio. This is the 10th oldest public university in America. In more cases than none, Miami University provides a literal arts education with more than 120 undergraduate programs available.
Miami University began when President George Washington signed an Act of Congress to start a college in the Miami Valley. The university was being constructed during the early part of the 18th century, but it had to halt during the historic War of 1812. When it first opened, there were 20 students, two faculty members, and a Bishop. The curriculum at that time included lessons on Latin, Greek, Algebra, Roman history, and Geography. The only degree you could get then was a Bachelor of Arts.
The university had to close its doors before reopening as New Miami in 1885. By 1923, there were 1,500 students, and by the 1930s, it was 2,200 students. There are many notable alumni that received their education at Miami University, including:
- Frederic Allen – The Chief Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court
- Charles Anderson – The 27th Governor of Ohio
- Courtney Combs – Member of Ohio House of Representatives
- Jennifer Brunner – Current Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio
- John Alexander Anderson – Kansas Congressman
- Benjamin Lee – Theoretical physicist
- Rebecca Budig – Actress
- Nick Lachey- Pop musician
- Austin Kleon – Artist
- Chris Wideman – NHL player
- Ben Roethlisberger – Two-time NFL Super Bowl winner
University of Cincinnati
Next on our list of the oldest schools in Ohio is the University of Cincinnati, which started way back in 1819. Originally known as Cincinnati College, it’s the oldest educational institution in that state with a massive annual enrollment of over 44,000 students. This is also the second-largest university in Ohio. The university has four major campuses, 14 constituent colleges, and one of the leading teaching hospitals in the country.
The origins of the University of Cincinnati go back to 1819 when local benefactor Daniel Drake started the Medical College of Ohio. The land was donated by William Lytle and the school was in operation for six years before it had to close due to financial difficulties. By 1893, the college was again going strong. The university became a state institution in 1977, following an act of the Ohio legislature.
Another claim to fame of the University of Cincinnati is the desire to go green. As one of only 286 “green colleges” in the country, the school enjoys a bike-share program and an expanded recycling program. The school has a rating of the 196th best university in the world. Notable alumni of the university include:
- Frank Austin – Celebrity interior designer
- Theda Bara – Silent film actress
- David Bell – Author
- Chris Wanstrath – Co-founder of GitHub
- Skeeter Barnes – MLB player
- Zach Day – MLB pitcher
- Josh Harrison – MLB player
- Travis Kelce – NFL tight end
- Jason Kelce – NFL center
- Roland West – Basketball player
- Curtis Young – NFL
Located in Gambier, Ohio, Kenyon college is a private liberal arts college that was founded in 1824. It’s an accredited college by the Higher Learning Commission. Though it’s famous, this is a smaller 1,000-acre college that’s set in a rural area and it's in the middle of seven different natural ecosystems. At this point, there’s over 1,700 students enrolled.
This college was first started by Bishop Philander Chase when he realized that there was a lack of institutions for training clergy. After receiving donations from his countrymen in England, he was able to start the college, and it began in 1824. This university is home to one of the most important literary publications in existence, The Kenyon Review, which has had many famous writers, including Peter Taylor, Robert Lowell, and Flannery O'Connor, among others.
In order to attend Kenyon College, students must take classes in four divisions: humanities, fine arts, social sciences, and natural sciences. It’s not easy to get into Kenyon college, as the admissions process is known to be “selective.” However, alumni of the school do include:
- 3 U.S. Supreme Court Justice – Stanley Matthews, David Davis, and William Rehnquist.
- Rutherford B. Hayes – U.S. President
- William H. Gass – Novelist
- Paul Newman – Actor
- Jonathan Winters – Comedian
- Zack Space – U.S. Congressman
- James Arlington Wright – Poet
- Bill Watterson – Creator of Calvin and Hobbes cartoon
- E.L. Doctorow – Novelist
College sports enthusiasts have likely heard of Xavier University. However, many don’t realize that it’s one of the oldest schools in Ohio, and that it was started way back in 1831. Xavier is a private Jesuit university located in Cincinnati, Ohio. It is the sixth-oldest Catholic university in America. This is a small to medium-sized institution that has an enrollment of almost 5,000 students. Students there can get a liberal education, but they can also learn about the Jesuit tradition.
The school was first founded in 1831 in downtown Cincinnati and it was started as a men’s college. In those early days, the institution was called The Athenaeum. In 1840, the college was taken over by the Society of Jesus, and they changed the name to Xavier, after Saint Francis Xavier. The college started admitting women in 1969, and the school has continued to change and evolve since that time.
Notable alumni from Xavier University include:
- Jim Bunning – U.S. Senator from Kentucky
- Derrick Brown – NBA Player
- Donald D. Clancy – Congressman
- Derek Strong – NBA Player
- Richard Romanus – Actor
- Nora McInerny – Writer
- Jason Kokrak – Professional golfer
The oldest coeducational liberal arts college in America is Oberlin College, which was founded in 1833. Located in Oberlin, Ohio, this university has always been ahead of the curve, as the school was one of the first to admit women and African Americans. The administrators of the college continue the trend by being one of the friendliest colleges for LGBT students, as reported by The Princeton Review
The college was founded by John Jay Shipherd and was built on 500 acres. The college offers more than 50 majors, and it’s famous for supporting student activism.
Notable alumni of the school include:
- George Walker – Composer
- Lena Dunham – Actress
- Bill Irwin – Actor
- Gregory Mosher – Tony Award Winner
- Marc Cohn – Grammy Award Winner
- John McClure – Record producer
This is just a sampling of the oldest schools in Ohio, and these rich institutions are a part of the fabric of this amazing state. There are many other older schools and universities in Ohio, so research them online, and you may find a place where your kids can attend, or you can visit for your further education.