Kent State University at Stark’s presence in the Canton community dates to the founding of the University in 1910, when President McGillvrey saw the value of extension offerings and began them in Canton. Those offerings continued sporadically through World War II. The continuous presence of Kent State University in Stark County began in 1946, with the creation of the “Canton Division” at McKinley High School. A few years later, after a failed attempt for a levy to create a metropolitan university for Canton, Kent State University established a University Center, and classes were expanded to Timken and Lehman High Schools. Even with classes available days and evenings, there was still a pressing need for a larger, more permanent home for Kent State’s rapidly growing University Center.
In the early ‘60s, state and federal legislation made it possible for communities to develop a permanent campus by raising a portion of the development costs. In 1965, a citizens’ committee began a fundraising effort, which eventually provided the requisite funding to build a permanent campus for the Kent State University operation. A site selection committee, after considering more than 20 locations, selected the current site west of Interstate 77 in Jackson Township. The 200-acre tract of land, which had been farmed for many years by Leo A. Frank and John Wyles, was purchased and construction of the first campus building, now known as Main Hall, began on January 7, 1966.
Throughout the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, Kent State Stark’s role and mission in Stark County was to offer freshman- and sophomore-level courses of Kent State University’s baccalaureate majors. In addition, Kent State Stark was established by the Ohio Board of Regents as a “residence credit center.” This enabled Kent State Stark to offer selected junior, senior and graduate courses, in response to identified community needs. To support growth of the student body, which totaled more than 2,500 by 1970, the legislature approved funding for the Health and Physical Education and Fine and Professional Arts buildings. In 1976, a new Library was constructed on campus. By 1980, Kent State Stark had grown from one building “out in the country” to a campus at the edge of a rapidly developing community.
Kent State Stark experienced a significant period of growth in the 1990s. Campus growth and maturation, together with changing state and local needs, enabled Kent State Stark to expand its course offerings beyond the first two years of some academic majors into complete baccalaureate degree programs in business, English, history, general studies, middle childhood education, management and industrial studies, industrial technology and justice studies. In 1999 – following 10 years of steady enrollment growth – the campus community dedicated the new East Wing of Main Hall. The East Wing, which features state-of-the-art science and computer laboratories, was necessary to accommodate the increased demand for courses in biology, chemistry and computer applications. The new Physical Education Building (now called the Recreation & Wellness Center), with facilities for individual, as well as group fitness activities, opened in 2000. The former Health and Physical Education Building, after extensive renovation, became the Professional Education and Conference Center. This facility (now called The University Center), which supports professional development and contract training programs, enables the campus to bring national and international speakers to the community. Fall 2004 saw the opening of the Campus Center, offering a dining facility and campus bookstore. It also houses the Office of Student Life, the Academic Success Center, the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation Counseling Center and Interfaith Campus Ministries.
Today, Kent State Stark, serving more than 6,000 students annually, offers the core courses for Kent State’s more than 250 bachelor’s degrees, and offers all courses required for 18 complete baccalaureate degree programs, the master of business administration, the M.A. or M.Ed in curriculum and instruction and the master of arts in mathematics for secondary teachers. The second largest regional campus in Ohio, Kent State Stark is a dynamic institution that is meeting the educational needs of its students and the community.
As Stark County’s public university, Kent State Stark is proud to be part of the University System of Ohio, providing affordable, quality higher education opportunities for all Ohioans.