McMicken College of Arts & SciencesMcMicken College of Arts & SciencesUniversity of Cincinnati

McMicken College of Arts & Sciences


College History

The liberal arts tradition within the University of Cincinnati traces its beginning to October 1873, when afternoon classes in college subjects for 50 students were held in Woodward High School. The Academic Department, as it was called, offered classes in mathematics, chemistry and natural philosophy, Latin and Greek, French, and German.

The next year, five permanent faculty members were hired to teach full-time. By 1875, the Academic Department was fully established and classes were held in the new university building located on the McMicken estate. Three courses of study were available to students: the classical course leading to the BA degree, the scientific course leading to the BS degree, and the civil engineering course, leading to the degree of civil engineer. Instruction was free to residents of Cincinnati.

In 1877, the first degree of the University was conferred; at the first commencement exercises in June 1878, four men and one woman received the Bachelor of Arts degree, one man received the Bachelor of Science, and one man from Brazil received the degree of Civil Engineer. These events signified that the cherished dream of Charles McMicken was, at last, becoming a reality.

In the next few decades, more faculty were hired and more students enrolled as the public gained confidence in the new university. Under the leadership of President Howard Ayers, a complete reorganization of the Academic Department occurred in 1899 with few of the original faculty members remaining on staff; various documents indicate that the reorganization was needed to improve morale. The new professors, later known as the "Old Guard," were well-received by the general public and the students, and a productive harmonious period in the history of the college followed.

In 1904, the name of the Academic Department was changed to the McMicken College of Liberal Arts to commemorate the name of the man who gave a substantial amount of his estate to establish the school. Graduate work was encouraged by President Ayers and the first Doctor of Philosophy degree was added to the curriculum. By 1906, under President Charles Dabney, the interest in graduate study resulted in the creation of the Graduate School, with the faculty recruited from the Liberal Arts. Dr. Dabney firmly believed that good instruction in the arts and sciences was maintained only where the teachers were encouraged to conduct higher studies and research.

Early in the 1900s, the identity and mission of the College of Liberal Arts was strengthened. The purpose of the College as stated by the faculty was "to provide opportunity for study in subjects of recognized cultural value and to develop the power of independent thought and expression." In 1921, the honors course was established to challenge students to more intensive study. As a result, the scholarship and faculty in the Liberal Arts began to attract national recognition, including awards of the Rhodes Scholarship and Guggenheim Fellowships.

Following the years of the Depression and World War II, the College entered a period of expansion as the number of students increased quickly.

In 1953, the name was changed to McMicken College of Arts and Sciences and the curriculum was completely revised. Students now could choose programs leading either to a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree. To meet the demands of a larger student body and a fast-changing world, the courses have continued to be revised and entire departments, such as Communications, have developed. Faculty in each of the three divisions -- the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities -- continue to revise the educational programs of the college to help prepare students for the 21st century.

Current enrollment figures total 5,000 undergraduates, 2,000 graduates, and more than 400 faculty members in McMicken College of Arts and Sciences. In addition to being the largest college on campus, McMicken College also lays claim to receiving recognition for the quality of its programs. Among the honors are the Eminent Scholar and Academic Challenge Awards from the State of Ohio.

About Charles McMicken

Charles McMicken

Charles McMicken

Born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in 1782, Charles McMicken was raised on the family farm in the pattern of most pioneer youth, learning the lessons of hard work, economy, and skills such as surveying. The incident that led to his journey to Cincinnati began when he was plowing a field and turned up a bumblebee nest. He was stung; the horses ran away and were injured by the plow. Both his father and his older brother blamed him for the accident, which Charles believed was unavoidable. Feeling unjustly blamed, he decided to leave home and was offered his choice of a horse, saddle and bridle, or $100 in cash. He chose the horse and set out to seek his fortune at age 21.

In the spring of 1803, he arrived in Cincinnati, sold the horse, and began work as a clerk in the general merchandise business of John Smith, United States senator from Ohio. Soon, McMicken was ready to trade on his own behalf and left for New Orleans with two flatboats of flour. Unfortunately, his boats sunk just north of the city and he lost his investment. He then sought work as a clerk in a store inNew Orleans. Following the old lessons of hard work and economy, McMicken began to prosper. By 1837, he turned his attention away from business and began to invest in real estate.

In Cincinnati, his first purchase was the northeast corner of Third and Main Streets in 1835. He continued to buy land in Cincinnati, eventually owning land valued at $500,000. In 1840, he purchased the property to be known as the McMicken homestead on McMicken Avenue, where he lived during the later years of his life. During these years he also bought land in Louisiana, Texas, Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois, and elsewhere.

A quiet, reserved man who kept his affairs to himself, McMicken confided in no one the extent of his business holdings. He remained single and lived in Cincinnati part of the year, sharing his home with his nephew Andrew, and his family. Winters he spent in New Orleans and the summers at eastern resorts. He had numerous philanthropic interests that he quietly supported. In March 1858, about 10 days after he returned to Cincinnati from New Orleans, he became ill with a violent chill which developed into pneumonia and led to his death at 75. He was buried in Spring Grove Cemetery; the funeral notice in the newspaper indicated his estate was valued at more than $1 million back in 1858.

McMicken's will, carefully prepared in 39 sections, disclosed the central focus of his life: his strong desire to ensure that young people have the opportunity to benefit from a quality college education. He left the bulk of his estate to the city of Cincinnati, in trust forever, to establish an educational institution.

Historians speculate that the desire to found a college was McMicken's lifelong dream and one close friend recalled where McMicken indicated that he had worked since early manhood for its accomplishment. McMicken may have been inspired by the activity to create a college in the pioneer city of Cincinnati about the time he first arrived on horseback in 1803. These early attempts failed, McMicken moved to New Orleans, but the dream may have been formed at this time.

Two weeks after McMicken's will was probated, the City began the necessary steps to accept the bequest. A variety of circumstances delayed further activities: the will was contested, some of the property was dilapidated and needed repair to ensure regular income, and the outbreak of the Civil War brought on inflation and increased the cost of living. The event which had the greatest impact on the founding of the university was the contesting of the will in both New Orleans and Cincinnati by nieces and nephews of McMicken, who had received bequests in small sums.

The Supreme Court of Louisiana ruled against the City of Cincinnati, stating that both the real estate and personal property of McMicken held in New Orleans could not pass to a foreign corporation. The loss of anticipated revenue from the Louisiana property reduced the size of the trust and, therefore, the annual revenue available to support the university.

The United States Supreme Court, in 1861, ruled in favor of the City of Cincinnati in the second challenge to the terms of the will, which ensured that a college would be established. In December of 1859, the Common Council had passed a city ordinance which provided for the establishment of a university for the free education, in separate colleges, of the young men and women of Cincinnati. The McMicken University was the chosen name of the school, to be located on the site of the McMicken homestead. Now that the legal battles were over, the planning for the university continued.

Mick and Mack, the stone lions

Mick and Mack, the two stone lions which adorn the entrance of McMicken Hall, were a gift to the University of Cincinnati in 1904.

The statues were originally the property of Jacob Hoffner, a 19th-century Cincinnati businessman who made his fortune in real estate. Hoffner was an inveterate traveler and on his trips to Europe (13 in all), he often brought back statuary to decorate his estate. Located on the corner of Hamilton Avenue and Blue Rock in Cincinnati's Cumminsville neighborhood, the Hoffner estate was six acres of formal gardens, greenhouses, and lily ponds.

Mick and Mack

Mick and Mack

When Hoffner died in 1894, he bequeathed his property to the City of Cincinnati with the wish that a park be made of it. Taxes, litigation and years later, the estate was leveled by the city for a playground. In 1904, the University received a letter from the Board of Public Service of City Council offering the lions to UC if arrangements were made to have the statues picked up before demolition. The University of Cincinnati accepted the gift on March 21, 1904, and decided to place the lions at the entrance of old McMicken.

The Hoffner lions are copies of statuary at the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence, Italy. Of those two lions, one decorated the House of the Medici in Rome and the second, a copy of the first, was made in 1600 by Flaminio Vacca of Rome. These two lions face each other, which is how the McMicken lions were first placed. The position was changed so the lions face away from each other and appear as "sentinels." The lions were removed in the late 1940s when old McMicken hall was razed and then returned to their posts when the current building was completed in 1950.

Over the decades, the lions have been painted by students from rival universities before athletic events, most often by Miami University students who painted them red before the traditional Thanksgiving Day football game. The lions have also figured in numerous campus pranks. In the 1920s, for example, two freshman women were sentenced to brush the lions' teeth as punishment for not wearing the required white middies every Friday.

Mick and Mack figure prominently throughout the history of the college and the university. Most recently, the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Association adopted Mick and Mack as mascots of the organization.