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University of Akron Celebrates 150 Years with Video Series That Finds Some Things Never Change

A new video series traces the history of the University of Akron over the past 150 years – and finds parallels between the past and present.

The sesquicentennial production, “Keeping the Lamp of Learning Burning,” took six months to complete and contains thousands of historic images. It takes viewers from the founding of UA’s predecessor -- Buchtel College -- in 1870, through the school’s importance to the rubber industry and its role in the civil rights movement.

Akron historian, attorney, activist, and former Deputy Mayor Dave Lieberth produced it. He says a recurring theme is that the university has been perpetually underfunded.

“That was true at the very beginning when John R. Buchtel dipped into his personal fortune and kept the university doors open. Parke Kolbe is the one in 1913 who thought there had to be a better source of funding, and sold the entire university – lock, stock, and laboratory – to the City of Akron.”

The documentary also highlights the school’s arts and athletics: everything from the renowned dance and jazz programs to the tenure of legendary football coach John Heisman.

Lieberth – who holds two degrees from UA and met his wife there in the late ‘60s -- hopes viewers come away with a renewed sense of pride about the university.

“There are hundreds of couples who met and married as a result of their life at the University of Akron -- hundreds of men and women who found their professional lives – and so this Zip Pride runs right through the campus from its very beginning right up until the present day.”

Lieberth on civil rights and pandemics at UA

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.