The town of Oberlin, Ohio and its college were founded in 1833 and named in honor of John Frederick (Jean-Frédéric) Oberlin, a French Lutheran pastor from Strasbourg who served in a remote region called the Ban de la Roche in Alsace, France until his death in 1826.
Oberlin's founders in Ohio, having read a biography of Oberlin published in America in 1830, were inspired to create a new community and institution of higher learning, in what was then a wilderness, for scholars and students who wished to be of service to others and change the world for the better, as J.F. Oberlin had done in Alsace.
Today’s Oberlin College and community are the inheritors of J.F. Oberlin’s belief that an enlightened education is the crucible for social change, a sustainable way of life, and a truly democratic society based on equality and self-sufficiency. This presentation explores John Frederick Oberlin’s life and work through materials in the Oberlin College Archives, and the relationship between the College and its namesake.
Oberlin’s Namesake began as a physical exhibit prepared for a campus visit from a descendant of J.F. Oberlin, Anne Roser-Perru and her husband Didier, in 2009. The electronic exhibit was first designed and published in 2010 using Pachyderm (New Media Consortium). It was redesigned and published in Scalar v.2.1.7 (Alliance for Networking Visual Culture) in 2018. All surrogate images are of objects, artworks and texts in the Oberlin College Archives unless otherwise noted. For permission to reproduce any images in this presentation, please contact the Oberlin College Archives.