Honors Through the Ages

The Kent State University Honors College has been enriching the lives of thousands of students since 1933. 


1930s -1940s

Largely a thesis opportunity, our beginnings coincided with the establishment of the College of Arts & Sciences in what had been a normal school begun in 1910. Despite a war-time hiatus from 1942-48, 31 theses were completed during these two decades, most in arts and sciences with a few in education. Some graduates became international scholars, and at least two returned to Kent for their faculty careers.

  • First thesis student graduate: 1934
The thesis emphasis continued as the Kent State population swelled and new programs were added; all but these were in humanities, and 5 of the 13 thesis students returned later to become distinguished faculty members, one as Honors dean.

A turning-point decade for Kent State University, tremendous expansion of academic programs occurred with the addition of a number of doctoral degrees.

  • 1960: Honors became a program, fully available to all majors.
  • 1965: College status was achieved with the appointment of the first dean.
  • The number of thesis students increased to 91, and a large number of Honors versions of departmental courses began to be offered.
  • The first Honors scholarships were created.
  • Honors began to coordinate the high school early-admission program and Advanced Placement.

This decade started with the creation of the required foundational, two-semester sequence, Freshman Honors Colloquium, designed to replaced freshman English.

  • On May 4, 1970, the Honors dean took leadership in crowd control. One of the four slain students was an Honors freshman.
  • Following the shootings, Honors became the home of Experimental Programs, established to provide a large array of courses on social issues taught by volunteer faculty and community members (for about 15 years we were known as the Honors and Experimental College).
  • More special-topics courses in Honors were offered in addition to Honors courses in departments, and departments were asked to design Honors clusters for their majors. Honors took on coordination of the Guest of Honor University Artist/Lecture Series.
  • A major test competition for scholarships was held for a number of years (later abandoned).
  • The Creative Artist Award freshman scholarship was established.
  • KSU hosted one of the annual NCHC conferences and later, the Mid-East Honors Association conference. 
1980s - 1990s

The last two decades of the century saw continuous growth in the Honors population to over 1,300 and to five of the seven regional campuses. 

  • The 1980s placed the university's new general education program under the oversight of Honors. 
  • The scholarship budget and recruitment programs expanded greatly, and several endowed scholarships were created. Increasing numbers of Honors students majored in non-Arts & Sciences fields, and increasing numbers held part-time jobs.
  • Three study-abroad programs were developed, two remaining at present.
  • New curriculum options were introduced to provide flexibility to students.
  • Staff was expanded significantly, despite the loss of the assistant dean position in 1991, to handle the increasingly heavy advising load and program coordinating duties.
  • Honors became the home of the University Teaching Council.
  • For the first time Honors moved into a consolidated living-learning center--through a state Program Excellence Award--and matured to the point of satisfying the "Sixteen Characteristics of a Fully-Developed Honors Program."
  • Extensive efforts were made to re-connect with Honors alumni. The Honors College Alumni Chapter was formed and the Distinguished Honors Alumni Award was instituted. 
  • Celebrating 70 years of Honors education at Kent State University, the "Intellectual Frolic" was held, and a large group of students, alumni, and university friends gathered to hear outstanding speakers (Owen Lovejoy, John West, and Chuck Richie), view samples of work done by students and alumni, and renew old friendships.
  • Several special friends of the Honors College were recognized with awards of excellence for their stewardship, scholarship, and service (Gary and Cynthia Bengier, Ed Canda, and Jeff Whipple).
  • After more than three years of discussion and planning, the campus community celebrated the grand opening of the new Honors College facility in 2006. Located in the historic heart of the Kent State campus, the Honors College is situated at the juncture of the newly rebuilt Stopher and Johnson Residence Halls. This 10,500 square-foot facility contains classrooms, library/lounge areas, gallery space, an expanded central lobby, and advising offices. The Honors Complex  is a public commitment to the value the University places on the special undergraduate Honors experience.
  • The Honors College encourages the global learning associated with off-campus programs. The creation of The Honors Semester in Florence program is designed to offer challenging and engaging experiences at Kent State's historic 13th century Palazzo dei Cherchi in Florence, Italy.

In line with record numbers of enrollment at Kent State, the Honors College experienced a growth in its entering freshman class sizes, a change in curricular requirements for its students, and an increased emphasis on completion of the optional Senior Honors Thesis/Project.

  • Molly MacLagan was named the sixth Portz Scholar from Kent State University in 2010.
  • The Honors College changed its curricular requirements for students from 8 Honors experiences to 24 credit hours of Honors work.
  • With the work of dedicated and talented students, the Honors College launches the regional art and literary publication Brainchild.
  • In 2013, the Honors College admitted its largest freshman class ever with 419 students. With the support of the Office of Student Financial Aid, 100% of new freshmen were awarded an Honors College scholarship in 2013 and 2014.
  • Allison Moats was named the seventh Portz Scholar from Kent State University in 2014.