Oberlin College and its town in Ohio were founded in 1833 and named in honor of John Frederick Oberlin (1740-1826), an extraordinary Lutheran pastor who served in a remote region in Alsace until his death in 1826. Oberlin's founders, having read a biography of J.F. 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 Oberlin had done in Alsace.
Today’s Oberlin College and its 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 system of governance. Explore individual items from the Oberlin College Archives here, or go to the multimedia presentation Oberlin's Namesake to explore John Frederick Oberlin’s life and work and the relationship between the College and its namesake in a more interactive format. See also the finding guide to the John Frederick Oberlin Collection in the Oberlin College Archives.