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About BW


History of Baldwin Wallace University

Since its founding by Methodist businessman John Baldwin, Baldwin Wallace University has pursued the goals of offering a superior, personalized education that acts as a great leveling tool, fosters personal and professional excellence and prepares students as contributing, compassionate citizens. While BW's formal affiliation with the United Methodist Church ended in 2019, the historic connection to our Methodist founders is demonstrated through the values of respect, integrity and inclusion that are important threads in the fabric of the institution today.

Founded with a gift and open arms

Founded in 1845 with a gift from John Baldwin of "a five-acre campus, 30 village lots and 50 acres of land," Baldwin Wallace was among the first colleges in the nation to admit students without regard to race or gender. In fact, the institution's first graduate, Maria Poe, was female.

Baldwin, a wealthy quarry owner whose mother had been denied entry to an eastern university because she was a female, was joined by other business and civic leaders - James Wallace, Fletcher Hulet and Josiah Holbrook - as he launched Baldwin Institute, a school committed to education "regardless of race, gender, creed" or ability to pay. It became Baldwin University in 1856.

Baldwin University's earliest classes included nearly as many women as men, and students who could not afford an education were offered jobs to help cover the cost of tuition.

Merging, innovating and growing

With the increasing numbers of German emigrants relocating to Berea to work in the quarries, a German department was created at Baldwin University to teach their children. In the 1860s, neighboring German Wallace College grew out of that department. An early cooperative agreement allowed students to take courses in both schools.

By 1913, Baldwin University and German Wallace College merged to create Baldwin-Wallace College, combining resources to create greater financially stability and strength.

As the merged BW continued to grow in enrollment and stature, the university created opportunities for adult learners. During World War II, BW housed a Navy V-12 program on campus. After the war, BW recognized the challenges faced by these returning students, and became an innovator by offering night classes so that the veterans could hold a job and support a family while completing a college degree. In the 1970s, BW also was among the first to offer weekend degree programs for adult students.

A Conservatory is Born

In 1898, BW began a journey that would give birth to an internationally respected Conservatory of Music one of the few in the nation housed in a liberal arts institution. That year, during his junior year at German Wallace College, Albert Riemenschneider began teaching music. Upon his graduation in 1899, Riemenschneider was appointed head of the music department, a position he held until 1947.

In 1932, together with his wife, Selma, Riemenschneider founded a Baldwin Wallace Bach Festival, which continues to receive acclaim as the nation's oldest collegiate Bach Festival.

Renamed the Conservatory of Performing Arts in 2024, the Conservatory now offers the following degrees: Bachelor of Music (BM); Bachelor of Music Education (BME); Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA); and Bachelor of Arts (BA). View the full list of Conservatory majors.

Program evolution and a new name

In the mid-1970s, BW introduced thriving graduate programs in business and education, which now are among the largest in Ohio. More recently, BW added graduate programs in Physician Assistant, Speech Pathology and Leadership in Higher Education. At the undergraduate level, BW currently offers more than 85 major areas of study in seven academic schools and the Conservatory of Performing Arts, many of which are in pre-professional areas, including an accelerated Bachelor of Nursing degree and cutting edge programs in software engineering, neuroscience and sustainability.

In 2012, to more accurately reflect the expanded breadth of those undergraduate and graduate academic programs, Baldwin-Wallace College officially became Baldwin Wallace University.

Baldwin Wallace University Today

Today, Baldwin Wallace University has some 4,000 students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs on a 125-acre campus in Berea, Ohio and online.

While BW continues to innovate on many levels, the institution's community of learners is supported by enduring values of inclusion, support, engagement and excellence.The result is a distinctive student-centered experience that supports each individual in achieving his or her full potential in pursuit of big dreams, meaningful careers and an extraordinary life.