In 1867, at the annual convention of the Universalist Church of the state of Ohio, the Committee on Education expressed an interest in founding a college compatible with Universalist religious principles. It was announced that the location would be given to those who could find an appropriate location and also supply $60,000 for the college. John R. Buchtel, a prominent Akron businessman and Universalist, promptly contributed $25,000 to the endowment fund and $6,000 to the building fund. This led other Akronites to donate, setting the goal and securing Akron as the location for Buchtel College, named after its greatest supporter. John R. Buchtel continued to be the college's most significant contributor, giving $500,000 over his lifetime, approximately equivalent to $16 million today. When the university opened in 1872 it was a single-building campus, housed in what is now known as "Old Buchtel." George Washington Crouse donated $10,000 of the $20,000 needed to build a new gymnasium, completed in 1888. It was named Crouse Gymnasium in his honor, and was known as "the finest gym west of the Alleghenies."
Tragedy struck the small college on December 20, 1899, when Old Buchtel burned to the ground. Insurance only covered $65,000 of the estimated $100,000 in loss. While new campus buildings were being constructed, the Crouse Gymnasium was divided into seven classrooms and served as the college until a new Buchtel Hall was opened in 1901. The new Buchtel Hall, which itself was gutted by fire in 1971, survives to this day but had some blackening on the exterior up until a 2011 restoration.
In 1907, the college shed its Universalist affiliation and became a non-denominational institution, in order to be able to receive funds from the Carnegie Foundation, which would not give funds to religiously affiliated schools. In 1913, Buchtel College trustees transferred the institution and its assets to the city of Akron, and Buchtel College became the Municipal University of Akron. At this time, the enrollment was 198 students. Tax money levied for the school and Akron's growing population led to strong growth for the university. Over the next several decades the university continued to add new buildings to accommodate its growing student population, acquiring more land through purchases and donations. In 1963, Governor Jim Rhodes approved the university as a state-assisted institution. Enrollment in 1964 was 10,000 students. In 1967, it fully became a state university, providing its current name as The University of Akron. In 2015, 25,117 students were enrolled at the University of Akron.
During the tenure of its 15th president, Luis M. Proenza, the University of Akron underwent a $627 million construction project, called "A New Landscape for Learning." A new football stadium, InfoCision Stadium-Summa Field, was also constructed on campus. The new stadium opened for its first game on September 12, 2009. The stadium replaced the Rubber Bowl, which is 3 miles (4.8 km) from campus and was built in 1940.
The university purchased the Quaker Square Crowne Plaza Hotel and shopping complex and uses it as a residence hall space. The university did a land-swap with the city of Akron so that the city may find a new downtown hotel. This means the University of Akron campus is made up of 82 buildings on 222 acres (0.90 km2) near downtown Akron with a total property value of $1.84 billion.
In 2015, the university removed over 200 positions as the result of a $6 million budget deficit. Subsequently, in May 2016, Moody’s Investors Service, downrated the university's bonds from stable to negative, because of low enrollment and high debts and pension burdens.
The tire and rubber industry and the University of Akron have an overlapping history. Historically, several rubber corporations, such as Goodyear, Firestone, and Goodrich, had their headquarters in Akron. In 1909, the world’s first courses in rubber chemistry were offered at the university. The university is also credited with featuring the first College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering in the world, which was founded in 1988.
The University of Akron offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees, ranging from certificate to doctoral programs. The largest college of the university is the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences. Bierce Library is the main campus library. It is named for Lucius Bierce, a Civil War era General, whose personal library constituted the first collection of the University Libraries.
The university offers about 200 undergraduate majors. In conjunction with the Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), the university offers an accelerated six-year, BS/MD program. The University of Akron is also the first and only university in the nation to offer a baccalaureate program in corrosion engineering.
The University of Akron Honors College students earn degrees from any of the four-year accredited colleges in the university while receiving special advisement and having the opportunity to live in the Honors Complex, a resident hall exclusively for honors students. The University announced on February 3, 2016 that the college was renamed in honor of Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams.
The University of Akron currently offers more than 105 graduate degrees to approximately 4,000 graduate students. The graduate schools at the University of Akron variously offer the Master's degree, PhD, J.D., and LL.M., among others. The Cleveland Clinic and University of Akron have formed the Integrated Bioscience Fellowship in Biomedicine. Fellowships will allow students to conduct cutting edge research at the University of Akron and the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute while pursuing a PhD in Integrated Bioscience. Recipients of Fellowships will be able to work with faculty at both institutions.
The University of Akron School of Law was founded in 1921 as Akron Law School and became affiliated with the University in 1959, becoming fully accredited by the American Bar Association in 1961. It has both day and evening full-time and part-time programs that lead to the J.D. and LL.M. The University of Akron School of Law is also one of only 22 institutions in America to offer the LL.M. in intellectual property, and one of two such programs in Ohio.
The University of Akron comprises the following colleges, schools, and campuses:Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences
College of Business Administration
LeBron James Family Foundation College of Education
College of Engineering
College of Health Professions, including the School of Nursing
School of Law
College of Polymer Science & Polymer Engineering
Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Honors College
The Graduate School
College of Applied Science and Technology (formerly Summit College, formerly the Community and Technical College)
The University of Akron is one of 161 institutions designated Best in the Midwest by the Princeton Review in its 2008 Best Colleges: Region-by-Region edition.
The College of Business Administration's undergraduate business program was recently ranked by BusinessWeek magazine as being the 93rd best program in the United States, placing it in the top 6th percentile of all 1,600 such business programs in the country.
UA's College of Engineering is the 3rd fastest growing college of its kind, and its Cooperative Education program is the 2nd oldest engineering co-op program in America.
Engineering students met a real-world challenge in April 2008 by placing first in the Micro Class unmanned aerial vehicle competition sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers and again in 2014 by placing first in the Advanced Class, also setting a competition record for closest to the target.
In 2007 the University of Akron produced $6.33 million through technology licensing, more than all other Ohio public universities. This licensing amount gives Akron a ranking of seventh in the nation among public and private U.S. universities without medical schools. When normalized with respect to research expenditures, UA ranks No. 1 in the country. A 2007 report supported by the National Science Foundation identified UA as one of 10 exemplars for technology transfer, commercialization and industry partnership.
The University of Akron's athletic teams are known as the "Zips," originally short for "Zippers," overshoes with zippers made in the 1920s and 1930s. The university's mascot is "Zippy," a kangaroo. Zippy is one of eight female college mascots in the United States. Zippy won the title of Capital One National Mascot of the Year in 2007.
Akron facilities include InfoCision Stadium – Summa Field, the James A. Rhodes Arena, and the FirstEnergy Stadium-Cub Cadet Field.
In football, Akron's major rivalry is with Kent State University. In 2005, the Akron Zips football team won their first MAC championship, allowing them to compete for the Motor City Bowl, Akron's first Division I-A bowl game appearance where they lost to the University of Memphis.
In soccer, the Akron Zips men's soccer team, ranked number one throughout the 2009 regular season, went undefeated, making it to the NCAA Men's Division I Soccer Championship. The following season they secured the 2010 "College Cup" against the University of Louisville. This was the first NCAA national team championship won by the University of Akron.
In 2009, the men's basketball team won the MAC Tournament title, defeating Buffalo in Cleveland at the Quicken Loans Arena 65–53, thus qualifying Akron for its first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 1986 and first as a MAC member. In 2010, the team reached the MAC Tournament Championship game for the fourth straight year, but lost in overtime. The Zips played in the postseason CBI tournament where they lost to Wisconsin–Green Bay 70–66.
The University of Akron is home to more than twenty fraternities and sororities. The Kappa Kappa Gamma Women's Sorority is the oldest continuous sorority chapter on the campus, and was locally founded in 1877. The Lone Star Fraternity (Pi Kappa Epsilon) is the oldest local fraternity in the United States, and the only chapter in existence. Lone Star Fraternity was founded by W.V.N. Yates on February 22, 1882. The 130th anniversary was celebrated in 2012. Alpha Delta Pi was founded on the University of Akron's campus as "Sigma Delta Theta" in 1920 and at the time it was the oldest local sorority on campus. Sigma Delta Theta later became the Beta Tau chapter of Alpha Delta Pi in 1938. In regards to the fraternities on campus, the Ohio Epsilon chapter of Phi Delta Theta currently serves as the oldest continuous Greek Letter Organization on campus, having been founded in 1875.
Former Akron mayor and Ohio Congressman Thomas C. Sawyer attended undergraduate and graduate school there. United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit federal judge Deborah L. Cook received her Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctor degrees from the university. Current Ohio congresswoman Betty Sutton received her Juris Doctor from the university as well. Former Republican National Committee chairman Ray C. Bliss graduated from Akron in 1935. The university's Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics is named for him.
Minerva councilman Phil Davison earned a bachelor's degree in sociology, a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in public administration, and a master's degree in communication from the University of Akron. Davison unsuccessfully sought to become Stark County treasurer, however ultimately was not elected due to his notorious speech to the Stark County Republican Party Executive Committee.
Former Akron Zips football players Chase Blackburn, Charlie Frye, Domenik Hixon, Dwight Smith, and Jason Taylor have each gone on to find success in the National Football League. Blackburn and Hixon were members of the 2008 Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, while Smith won a Super Bowl Ring with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003. Taylor was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 and was named the NFL's Man of the Year in 2007.
Former Akron Zips baseball players Mike Birkbeck and Mark Malaska have gone on to find success in Major League Baseball. Birkbeck played for the Milwaukee Brewers from 1986 to 1989 and the New York Mets in 1992 and 1995. Malaska played for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2003 and was a member of the 2004 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox.
Former Akron Zips Soccer Players in the MLS (23) include Colorado Rapids (1): Dillon Serna (2012); Columbus Crew (2): Chad Barson (2009–12), Wil Trapp (2011-12); D.C. United (2): Perry Kitchen (2010), Chris Korb (2008–10); Houston Dynamo (1): Kofi Sarkodie (2008–10); Montreal Impact (2): Evan Bush (2005–08), Sinisa Ubiparipovic (2004-06); New England Revolution (1): Scott Caldwell (2009–12); New York Red Bulls (1): Eric Stevenson (2009–13); Philadelphia Union (2): Robbie Derschang (2012–13), Aodhan Quinn (2011-13); Portland Timbers (6): Bryan Gallego (2011–13), David Meves (2009–12), Darlington Nagbe (2008–10), Michael Nanchoff (2007–10), Steve Zakuani (2007–08), Ben Zemanski (2006-09); Seattle Sounders (2): Blair Gavin (2007–09), DeAndre Yedlin (2011-12); Sporting Kansas City (2): Reinaldo Brenes (2010–13), Teal Bunbury (2008-09); Vancouver Whitecaps (1): Darren Mattocks (2010–11).
Former Akron Zips Track and Field Athlete, Shawn Barber, went professional in 2015, signing with Nike, after winning the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Men's Pole Vault.