The Beginning

Atwood Hall

Atwood Hall

Throughout its 143-year history, the University of Rio Grande has recorded significant accomplishments including academic achievement and new buildings that provide instructional space for more than 2000 students. Rio Grande remains committed to meeting the educational needs of southern Ohio and to helping the people of the region to improve their lives. However, the institution now attracts many of its students from a global market in contrast to its beginnings in 1876 when only local residents attended Rio Grande. The story began when the Reverend Ira Haning, a Freewill Baptist minister, persuaded Nehemiah and Permelia Atwood, affluent residents and entrepreneurs, to use their wealth to establish a college. Following Nehemiah’s death in 1869, the responsibility for making this dream a reality fell to his wife Permelia. In 1873, Permelia Ridgeway Atwood established an endowment and deeded 10 acres of land for Rio Grande College, which officially opened on September 13, 1876

Years of Change

In its earliest years, Rio Grande provided leadership in preparing teachers and Baptist ministers. By 1915, Rio Grande’s major focus had shifted to teacher training, which continued as a virtually singular interest for nearly 60 years. The affiliation with the Baptists formally ended in the early 1950’s. During the same time period, the farm adjacent to the campus which was owned by the college (students worked there to produce dairy products), was sold to provide much-needed operating funds for the institution. A young businessman, Bob Evans, was the buyer. Bevo Francis Also in the early 1950’s, a bold new energy exploded on Rio Grande’s campus in the form of Bevo Francis, a legendary basketball player, who put Rio Grande on the map when he scored 113 points in a single game against Hillsdale College.


In 1969, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools approved Rio Grande’s Accreditation. The Davis Library was constructed and dedicated three years before the first accreditation; the library was instrumental in winning accreditation. Expansion From 1977 to 2007, Rio Grande’s campus expanded to include several new buildings and a variety of academic programs. In 1989, Rio Grande College was renamed the University of Rio Grande in recognition of its expanding curriculum. Some of the new degree programs added to the University’s curriculum in the last few years include interactive media, graphic design, radiologic technology, diagnostic medical sonography and respiratory therapy. From 1996 to 1998, with tremendous community support and local assistance, Rio Grande established the Madog Center for Welsh Studies on campus (1996) and the Meigs Center in Middleport (1998). In 2001, the faculty led in making changes in academic requirements for all students (the General Education curriculum) and in converting to a semester system. Although Rio now includes a variety of new cyberspace options for learning, with distance-learning courses through the Internet, the goal of the institution remains the same as Permelia Atwood envisioned. Personalized attention to students continues to be the heart and soul of Rio Grande.

Past Presidents

Ransom Dunn



Albanus Avery Moulton



John Merrill Davis



Simeon H. Bing



Horace T. Houf



Willard W. Bartlett



William A. Lewis



R. Lloyd Pobst



F. W. McDermott



Charles E. Davis



Paul R. Lyne



Alphus R. Christensen



Paul D. Hines



Thomas J. Quick



Paul C. Hayes



Clodus R. Smith



Paul C. Hayes



Barry M. Dorsey



Gregory S. Sojka



Donald P. Wood

Jan.-Sept., 2009


Barbara Gellman-Danley

Oct. 2009-July 2014

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