Religious life has been part of Oberlin colony and college from the very beginning, and the prophetic spirit of this place has been a driving force in all of our efforts for social justice.

Oberlin was originally founded as a utopian Christian community centered on a collegiate institute charged with spreading the good news of peace in the West. Central to this idea was that spiritual life was not only concerned with the afterlife but with making oneself and the world better here and now.

This led to Oberlin's groundbreaking commitments to abolition, women's rights, and an ongoing engagement with peace and justice that has taken many forms.

The religious life of the college has had different shapes over the years, from its Protestant founding to the increasingly pluralistic demographics that compose Oberlin’s religious, spiritual, and ethical life today. In the beginning, the college presidents were the primary leaders of its spiritual life, and around 1900 this charge became specialized in the role of the dean of the Graduate School of Theology (GST).

When the GST merged with Vanderbilt in 1966, the directors of the YMCA and YWCA at Oberlin had become key spiritual leaders on campus. Oberlin had some of the most active Y chapters in the country, engaged in both spiritual and social justice work. In 1970 as the Y movement on campus waned, the college appointed its first campus minister. In 1987, reflecting the then-predominant faiths on campus, the college developed a model led by three chaplains—Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish—with the college providing the Protestant chaplain.

In 2008, responding to the increasing religious diversity of the campus and the need for interfaith work, the college replaced this model with one led by a multifaith director of religious life and affiliates serving particular traditions. This model supports the vibrant multifaith vision of spiritual life that enriches Oberlin today.

Oberlin College Religious Life Leaders

  • 1835-50 Rev. Asa Mahan
  • 1851-66 Rev. Charles Grandison Finney
  • 1866-89 Rev. James Harris Fairchild
  • 1891-96 Rev. William Gay Ballantine
  • 1899-1902 Rev. John Henry Barrows
  • 1902-27 Rev. Henry Churchill King

  • 1904-23 Rev. Edward Increase Bosworth
  • 1923-48 Rev. Thomas Wesley Graham
  • 1948-58 Rev. Leonard Albert Stidley
  • 1958-60 Rev. George Peter Michaelides
  • 1960-65 Rev. Roger Hazelton
  • 1965-66 Rev. Harold William Fildey

  • 1902-04 W. Moreton Owen
  • 1904-05 (Fall semester) James Eliphalet Sprunger
  • 1904-05 (Spring semester) Robert Legan Ewing
  • 1905-07 Robb Ozro Bartholomew
  • 1907-09 John Griffith Olmstead
  • 1909-12 Daniel W. Jones
  • 1912-13 Hugh Wells Hubbard
  • 1913-14 Samuel Marks Kinney
  • 1914-15 James Treat Carter
  • 1915-16 William Treat Martin
  • 1916-17 Carlton Cisne Compton
  • 1917-18 James M. Groves
  • 1918-19 Bruce R. Baxter
  • 1919-20 (Unknown)
  • 1920-21 William R. Catton
  • 1921-22 Robert Nathaniel Montgomery
  • 1922-24 Harold N. Skidmore
  • 1924-27 Charles Gideon Stewart
  • 1927-28 Ralph Ewing Albright
  • 1928-34 (Unknown)
  • 1934-38 Daniel Chapin Kinsey (part-time)
  • 1938-49 (Unknown)
  • 1949-51 W. Robert Rankin, Director of Religious Activities
  • 1951-55 George Ball, Director of Religious Activities
  • 1955-58 Harvey G. Cox, Director of Religious Activities
  • 1958-60 Richard L. Gelwick, Director of Religious Activities
  • 1960-65 Paul W. Rahmeier, Director of Religious Activities
  • 1965-69 Robert Carroll Williams, Director of Religious Activities
  • 1969-70 M. Michael Morse, Director of Religious Activities

  • 1905-06 Georgia M. Carrothers
  • 1906-07 Jean James & Lucy Hopkins
  • 1907-08 (Unknown)
  • 1908-09 Lucy Hopkins
  • 1909-12 Helen Fitts
  • 1912-13 Mary M. Lindsay
  • 1913-14 Margaret E. Bennett & Mary M. Lindsay
  • 1914-16 Margaret E. Bennett
  • 1916-18 Helen Hutchcraft
  • 1918-21 Marion Colcord
  • 1921-22 Genevieve Morrow
  • 1922-36 Althea Woodruff
  • 1936-41 Ann M. Graybill
  • 1941-43 Mary Lou Keller
  • 1943-44 (Unknown)
  • 1944-57 Elizabeth Blakesley
  • 1957-58 (Unknown)
  • 1958-60 Gladyce A. Ohrt
  • 1960-64 Marjorie S. Schreiber
  • 1964-70 Beverly L. Moffet
  • 1970-72 Nancy D. Richardson
  • 1972-73 Elizabeth H. Olstad, Director of YM/YWCA

  • 1970-76 Rev. David D. Byers
  • 1976-84 Rev. Willis Ludlow
  • 1984-87 Rev. Susan E. McGarry

  • 1987-2007 Rev. Manfred J. Lassen
  • 2007-08 Rev. Glenn Loafmann, Interim

  • 2008-2013 Rev. Gregory W. McGonigle
  • 2013-Present Rev. David F.H. Dorsey