Mourning the Death of a University

UU entry

On April 30th I received an email from my alma mater Urbana University in Ohio announcing a “Partnership Agreement” between Urbana and Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio. I assumed it was some sort of articulation agreement concerning student transfer but as I was reading the upbeat PR piece the hammer came down:

“We welcome Urbana University into the Franklin family,” said Dr. David Decker, President, Franklin University. “The alignment of our two universities leverages the synergies of career-oriented and student focused approaches to create a foundation that positions Urbana to continue their mission to educate aspiring students.” At that moment it became clear, Franklin acquired Urbana.

I could go into the why it happened, who’s fault is it, etc. but that is a long story and possibly for another day but let me simply say this; Urbana College/University has struggled to survive at least my entire lifetime and possibly for its entire 164 history. In fact one of the things that I loved about Urbana was its stubbornness in its desire to survive; but age, lack of funds, and possibly losing its will to live finally took its toll.

The campus will survive and the students will simply get their degree from Franklin. Faculty and staff will no doubt be significantly cut and the alumni will no longer have a home.

For me and I am sure some others this is in some ways like losing a parent or a person you were very close to. Urbana was a place I transferred to in the summer of 69 after a less than spectacular start at the University of Dayton. I needed an environment of personal attention with small classes and a place where I could mature. I went through a great deal in my life from 69-75 and survived. I learned how to adapt, believe in myself, believe in others, and to be an absolute advocate of a Liberal Arts education. In many ways Urbana saved my life. When I left for a year+ in 72-73 when I could no longer financially afford college and needed to work full time, I promised myself I would try to find a way to go back and finish. In the spring of 74 I showed up at the admissions office (Bill Inskeep was the Director) and asked him if there was a way I could return even though I was flat broke. Bill looked at my file and the lack of financial resources and said, “promise me if you return you will finish and I will find a way to cover your tuition” (it certainly wasn’t for academic excellence!).

I returned that summer and he gave me a “paid internship” job in the admissions office. I adored the job and it’s the reason why I have worked in higher education and non-profit for 40 years. I made it through and graduated in the summer of 75 with a 2.93 GPA and found an admissions counselor job at Bellarmine College (now University) after being rejected by 102 other higher ed institutions. That didn’t matter, Bellarmine saw something in me that I gained at Urbana and I had a great 8 years before going into public television as a fund raiser for a struggling station.

Urbana made all that possible and I even served on its Board of Trustees in the mid to late 1980’s before I left the region to run PBS stations. Even during my time we were fighting to keep Urbana alive and somehow it survived until April 29, 2014.

Urbana, I mourn the death (or acquisition) of the institution who gave me a chance to succeed. I will miss you but you will never be forgotten. Thank You

Urbana Photo Ben and Dean