Hiram College

By Dominique Blanc ’09

There is a place special to Hiram, about three miles away from Campus. Some know about it, but it’s time that every student, alumni, and friend of Hiram College utilize and appreciate the James H. Barrow Biological Field Station.

The observation building at the Field Station.

In September of 1965, James H. Barrow, professor of biology, procured for Hiram College from the Udall family a 15 -acre plot on Wheeler Road. It was located mere minutes from the center of campus, and it was Barrow’s dream to expand this plot and allow students, faculty, and staff to use a natural reservation in their exploration of biological pursuits.

Professor Barrow with an emu at the Field Station.

Now, more than forty years later, the James H. Barrow Biological Field Station spans almost 400 acres. Including laboratory space, duck houses, barns, an observation building, a pond that houses Zeus and Hera — the resident swans — and an emu enclosure (just to name a few things), the field station has grown beyond even Barrow’s dreams.

Before the field station was the field station, before Zeus and Hera ruled the pond, and even before the trails carved a north and south loop through the woods, Barrow and his students used a small plot of land called Matty’s Pond (near to where the new dorm is now located) to complete their biological research. Barrow believed that the students deserved a wider array of choices, and space, with which to work. Beginning by petitioning the College in the mid-’60s, Barrow worked seemingly endlessly to obtain the plots of land down Wheeler Road that were almost all up for auction or sale. Udall’s property was the first the College acquired. Come November of 1966, Barrow had successfully secured the Rand Farm, adjacent to the Udall property already within Hiram’s possession.

Originally tagged a “wildlife preserve” by the dean of the College in 1965, Barrow’s vision was met with some obstacles. There were letter volleys, student involvement, and a lot of pestering, according to the files on record at the Hiram College Archives. “Of course,” said Director of Development Paul Sago, in a 1968 letter. “Jim Barrow is an exciting person and he stimulates the spirit of real adventure and meaningful study in students.”

Professor Barrow with students at the Field Station, observing Canada geese hatching.

Barrow was hungry for land and opportunity for his students — a real stickler for study and conservation. He utilized this hunger in letters to prospective donors of land: “Education is emphasizing interdisciplinary approaches to problems of relevance to modern man,” he wrote on 2 April 1970. “It is clear that the science division at Hiram will make an interdisciplinary approach to the studies of the environment of man… It is quite evident that students are changing from protest to action and are keenly interested in studies involving environmental studies.”

The passion he felt for the field station and its conservatory roots very obviously trickled down to his students, and, in the summer of 1967, a group of undergraduates spent the majority of their hiatus bettering the fledgling field station. Working diligently throughout the summer, the students built the field station from the ground up, making it more accessible for use by the Campus community at large.

Professor Barrow and his students used the Field Station for “hands-on” science learning – and shared that enthusiasm with the greater community.

In a Record-Courier article from 9 March 1967, one of the original field stationers commented on their work and their newfound space: “We’re very fortunate here at Hiram. Not only do we have the opportunity to conduct our own research in our own station, but we have the opportunity to make the station a part of ourselves. It’s our own thinking and our own work and our own help. We can see the results. The entire project is very rewarding.”

From Barrow’s vision and perseverance, decades ago, the Field Station as it exists today was born. It has been an on-going, evolving process, with some speed bumps along the way. And it’s not done. What we see today is yet the foundation of what Hiram science students, and the Campus community, will experience decades from now.