“We stand here today in front of Roberts Hall, named for the first president of this university, who also was one of its founders. J. T. Roberts was a minister in the Evangelical United Brethren Church, which chartered this institution in 1902 as Indiana Central University. As a seminary graduate who also had bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Hartsville College, the Reverend Roberts brought academic credibility and religious conviction to the presidency. As Dr. Fred Hill’s history of the University noted, J. T. Roberts was driven by a deep and abiding conviction regarding the need to keep United Brethren youth away from those state schools and schools of other churches, which he believed drove these impressionable young people away from their native faith.
“Despite his strong feelings about the purpose and value of a United Brethren institution, and his role in founding Indiana Central, Reverend Roberts was surprised to be selected as the fledgling university’s first president and business manager. He held those positions for three years—from 1905, when the University opened its doors to students, until 1908.
“Ironically, this is not the first residence on campus to be named Roberts Hall. The original was President Roberts’s own house, which the university rented in 1913 to accommodate a growing enrollment.Those rooms rented for 80 cents a week during its first year, and meals cost $2.50. Per week. The early days of the University were a time of considerable struggle, especially in terms of debt. President Roberts described his presidency as the ‘hardest work of my life.’ But the University weathered those storms and many others. This fall we again have a record number of students
on campus, and again have met the challenge.
“As we, too, work to serve a growing student body—as our forebears did 100 years ago—it is only fitting we again turn to our first president, naming this seventh residence Roberts Hall in his honor.”
—Robert Wingerter ’76
Roberts Hall, located on the south side of Hanna Avenue, has an initial capacity of 170 and offers semi-private bathrooms, a small fitness center, and other features designed to appeal to upperclassmen. Amid ongoing efforts to enhance the vitality of campus life, the University’s residential population has grown 50 percent in just 10 years. Total enrollment this fall was a record 5,432.