When seven Brothers of Christian Instruction stood in a farmer's field at the corner of North Market and Easton in North Canton, Ohio, they formed a vision — to turn 50 acres of alfalfa into a college campus.
The Brothers had come to Ohio from Alfred, Maine, at the invitation of the Bishop of the Youngstown Catholic Diocese at the time, who wanted both a Catholic college and staffing for the diocese’s next high school. The international order of the Brothers of Christian Instruction is an educational organization founded in France with a mission of bringing values-based education to all who seek it, and the Brother’s vision to establish Walsh lay on a foundation of faith, courage and selfless hard work. Their vision was finally realized on November 17, 1960, when the then Walsh College welcomed its incoming class of 67 “gentlemen.” The school was named after Bishop Emmet Walsh, with Brother Thomas Farrell serving as the first president.
That first year, the university faced challenges. Construction delays and final charter approval by the Ohio Board of Regents forced a late start for classes, and students were required to double up on their credit hours to complete the fall semester on time. The only faculty were the seven founding Brothers and staff support at the time came from just two people – a full-time custodian and a part-time secretary. There were only two structures on the otherwise bare campus. The parking lot flooded whenever it rained, and boards were used to cover muddy walkways. Through the hard work and perseverance of the students, Brothers, staff, and community, Walsh College slowly began to take shape and thrive.
It’s been nearly 60 years since Walsh first opened its doors, and since then the university has expanded to a 136-acre main campus that is home to nearly 3,000 students from 40 states and 40 countries, and more than 100 academic programs, including undergraduate majors and minors and nine graduate degrees including a master of science in nursing and doctorate of physical therapy.
As Walsh University continues to grow, it is with enduring commitment to its founders’ mission: to create leaders in service to others. Volunteer work is not simply encouraged; it is required as part of the university's core curriculum. In 2005, the Office of Service Learning was created to formally support service learning within the general academic curriculum.
“Our students participate in a wide variety of service projects, such as building homes with Habitat for Humanity, tutoring and mentoring schoolchildren, preparing taxes for low-income families, seeking solutions to domestic and global hunger issues, providing healthcare services and performing missionary work around the world,” says Dr. Douglas Palmer, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost.
Since 2012, an annual service trip has provided a unique service opportunity to personally connect Walsh students with the history and legacy of Walsh’s founders at the Brothers’ Notre Dame Spiritual Center in Alfred, Maine. The legacy of Br. Francis Blouin also inspired two service learning groups dedicated to continuing humanitarian work globally and locally. The Br. Francis Blouin Global Scholars Program provides students the opportunity to become part of a community dedicated to using scholarship and service to address major global issues, while the Blouin Leaders in Social Justice Program is designed to foster change-makers in the community and leaders in service to others.
“Today, 100 percent of Walsh students participate in service work,” says Dr. Palmer.
An international perspective, global awareness and global competency have been a part of a Walsh education since the university’s founding. The university is committed to creating, advocating for, and maintaining an inclusive environment that respects, supports, and values the uniqueness of all individuals.
“Walsh has successfully woven our academic and founding traditions into every new initiative on campus,” says Dr. Palmer. “For example, the Marlene and Joe Toot Global Learning Center is a state-of-the-art and technology-infused academic building designed to bring students together for real world, interactive learning experiences. It features a 16-foot video wall that highlights student projects, our Cavalier Café and labs to support growing academic areas in computer engineering, digital media, graphic design and video production.”
Prior to the building’s opening, more than 40 Walsh faculty members trained and piloted the type of active learning that is taking place in the Global Learning Center. Three interdisciplinary research institutes - the James B. Renacci Forum and Center for Civic Engagement, the Food Design Institute and the Gary & Linda Byers Family Institute for Community Health - support collaboration interactive learning where collaboration with faculty is fostered through research, interdisciplinary problem-solving, and community engagement using the latest and most advanced emerging technologies.
Walsh also offers global learning experiences, including the opportunity to live and study at Walsh's own satellite campus in Castel Gandolfo, Italy.
On August 5, 2019, Timothy J. Collins was formally inaugurated as the seventh president of Walsh University. As the successor to longtime president Richard Jusseaume, Collins spent the last 14 years at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. He also spent 23 years in the U.S. Air Force, with multiple senior command assignments in the U.S. and abroad.
“The place rocks,” Collins said in a recent interview with the Canton Repository. “I can’t think of a better place to spend the next 10 years of my life than helping to build the next generation of leaders in this country.”
Collins and his wife were already helping Walsh students before they even arrived on campus. He and his wife pledged $10,000 to help provide scholarships for incoming freshmen. The couple challenged the Walsh University community to match that gift, and more than $11,000 was raised in less than two weeks.
Isabelle Bibet-Kalinyak, a Member in the Business Department at McDonald Hopkins and one of the only French corporate lawyers in the Midwest, has worked with Walsh University since May 2016. She also serves on the Board of Directors at Walsh University, having been appointed to one of the five reserved seats representing the Brothers of Christian Instruction. “Isabelle has been wonderful to work with,” says Dr. Palmer. “She is very thorough, excellent with follow-up, and always considers our unique client issues. We can’t say enough about the excellent work she has done for Walsh University.”