Founders’ Spotlight: Robert S. Oelman

Together with Stanley Allyn, and as his successor as CEO of NCR, Robert S. Oelman provided the leadership and vision for the development of Wright State University. Of all the early founders of the university, Robert was the one who developed a lifelong relationship with the university and the determination to oversee its development from a small branch campus to a large metropolitan university. He not only helped establish the university, he served as chair of WSU’s first Board of Trustees, where he served until stepping down in 1976.

It was Robert who argued that the Dayton Campus Project needed to be more than just a branch campus for The Ohio State University and Miami University; he argued this would underserve the needs of the Dayton community, which needed a state university of its own. He talked about the “rare and privileged” relationship between Wright State and the Dayton community, and the desire of each to see the other flourish and grow. In the dedication to Founding and Fulfillment: Wright State University 1964-1984, WSU President Emeritus Robert Kegerreis reflected on Mr. Oelman’s commitment to the university: “Bob Oelman’s vision, back in the 1950’s, was to provide quality education at a reasonable cost so as not to deny young people the chance to improve themselves. There is no one else in Wright State’s history who has Bob Oelman’s perspective on the university. Wright State grew out of his vision”. In 1967, the university’s new science building, and second building on the campus quadrangle, was named Oelman Hall in his honor.

You can find more photos of Robert S. Oelman in the University Archives collection, the Dayton Daily News Archive (MS-458, Box 1575, “Oelman, Robert S.”), and (through the end of the summer) in the “Founders’ Quad” exhibit on the first floor of Dunbar Library.

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