I have confidence in the issue of your efforts to establish here a literary institution of an elevated character, liberal in its character and Catholic in its aims, devoted to no interest or party narrower than that of our Country and the World.
--Dr. Joel Harvey Linsley
Marietta’s first president
We may use different words today to describe Marietta College’s vocation, but our calling has never strayed from its earliest focus. The purpose of the university, the Rev. Dr. Manasseh Cutler, one of the earliest founders of the area, said was "to interest youth in all the various branches of the liberal arts and sciences, to promote good education, piety, religion, and morality."
Our beginnings were humble. One building, five faculty and a handful of students. The first faculty of the College consisted of five men—four who were associated with the institution before the charter. The fifth was the Rev. Joel Harvey Linsley, who was also Marietta’s first president. The other faculty members were Henry Smith (Professor of Languages), D. Howe Allen (Professor of Mathematics), Milo P. Jewett (Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory and Principal of the Teachers’ Department), and Samuel Maxwell (Principal of the Preparatory Department). These men were referred to as tutors, not professors.
Today, Marietta College has more than 100 members of the faculty who teach classes in one or more of the 40–plus majors that are offered. Some of those programs would have never been considered in the 19th century. Today, Petroleum Engineering, Leadership and Athletic Training are just a few of the signature programs taught at Marietta. The College retains a link to its liberal arts beginnings with a strong focus on the sciences and arts. And we teach in state–of–the–art classrooms in the Rickey Science Center, Anderson Hancock Planetarium and McDonough Center for Business and Leadership.
According to the Arthur G. Beach history, A Pioneer College, the work required of Marietta’s students was logical and the principles high. The Rev. William W. Jordan 1879 said, "It was an experience in plain living and high thinking to be a student at Marietta College. While Marietta could afford to be poor she could not afford to be dishonest. Her standard was never lowered to attract a large constituency. … There was a high standard in the curriculum, and a high level of life and character held before us. It was a period of idealism."
Those stringent criteria remain in place today. With more than 1,400 students, a Marietta College scholar has the opportunity to work one–on–one with a professor on an undergraduate research project as part of the Investigative Studies Program, study abroad in China, Australia or Brazil, just to name a few locations, or get involved in one of the more than 100 clubs and organizations. According to the McGrew history, "Two student literary societies formed in the late 1830s were quite influential in advancing scholarship and intellectualism on the campus." The two societies were Alpha Kappa and Psi Gamma. According to the Beach history, they were "the center of college life and interest." Beach says enthusiasm in these societies waned in the later 1800s and had all but faded away in the first decade of the 20th century.
Our commitment to the highest levels of academic pursuits is evident by our lineage. Marietta is one of only 276 colleges and universities in the United States able to meet the national standards of excellence necessary to form a Phi Beta Kappa chapter. Marietta’s chapter, founded in 1860, is the 16th oldest in the nation. Similar to the first inductees, Marietta still follows the strict requirements for induction. In 2009, 12 seniors were inducted and signed the same register that has been used since the beginning. Not only is Phi Beta Kappa the most prestigious undergraduate honors organization in the country, it is also the oldest, being founded at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., in 1776. From its inception, Phi Beta Kappa's purpose was to celebrate and perpetuate the liberal arts.
The College also exerted great pride in its library collection, reaching 27,000 volumes in 1878, the most of any library in Ohio and 17th most in the nation. Today, Legacy Library, which opened in January 2009, has more than 245,000 books and bound periodicals, 16,000 electronic books and 140,000 microforms.
In 1838, Marietta College welcomed its first graduates—Abraham Blakely, John T. Cotton, Samuel Hall and Hubbard Lawrence. Since then generations of students have had their lives transformed by their experiences at the College and through the relationships they have forged on campus. The world we live in today has been altered a great deal since the original charter, but the faculty and administration remain steadfast in their belief that Marietta’s method of educating young adults—combining the values of the liberal arts with real–world perspectives—remains as valid, necessary and revolutionary as it was 175 years ago.
"It really is quite interesting to go back to the anniversary addresses of past presidents and see how the themes of scholarship, student support and the advancement of both the liberal arts and preparation for professions were identified upon the founding of the College and affirmed repeatedly throughout our history," said Marietta President Dr. Jean Scott. "As we celebrate the 175th anniversary, it seems particularly fitting that we hold those fundamentals closer than ever, celebrate their enduring impact upon the lives of our students and the ultimate benefits they hold for generations to come."