Desiring to place a public institution of higher learning within thirty miles of every Ohio resident, Governor James Rhodes proposed the establishment of a state university in Cleveland following a unanimous recommendation from the Ohio Board of Regents in June 1964. The result was House Bill No. 2, a bipartisan effort introduced to the House during a special session convened by Rhodes in November. The bill easily passed through the legislature and on December 18, 1964, Rhodes signed it into law. The new university assumed responsibility for Fenn College, making the campus its nucleus, and on September 27, 1965, classes officially began at Cleveland State University.
Fenn College was a small institution of 1,675 full-time students with only a few buildings comprising its campus including the 22-story Fenn Tower. CSU's first year saw enrollment jump to 3,416 full-time scholars and in order to accommodate the dramatic influx of students, military-style Quonset huts were erected for class instruction. Recognizing the need to expand, in March 1966 the Board of Trustees announced design plans for University Tower, Main Classroom, and the Science Building. Three years later under President Harold Enarson the Cleveland-Marshall Law School became part of Cleveland State, remaining at its location on Ontario Street until 1972 when the building was sold to make way for the new Justice Center. In 1977 Cleveland-Marshall's permanent building was completed on campus with Prince Charles presiding over the dedication of the school's new home. That same year CSU's second President, Walter Waetjen, announced the College of Urban Affairs would replace the Institute of Urban Studies, becoming the university's seventh college when its doors opened. Now called the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, it ranks #2 among schools of its kind in the country.
The 1980s in many ways proved to be a turbulent time for the young university. Over a period of several months in 1982 three people were slain on campus by Frank Spisak Jr. who was eventually apprehended in September and sentenced to death the following summer. The decade would close in controversy after a salary dispute led to the firing of administrator Raymond Winbush. The incident heightened racial tensions on campus and led to the student occupation of Fenn Tower in protest of his dismissal. Recruiting violations by the Men's Basketball program and the eventual demise of head coach Kevin Mackey added to the decade's despair, though the team would become a rallying point for the university in 1986. That year Mackey's Cinderella squad took the NCAA tournament by storm, advancing to the Sweet 16 before falling to Navy.
CSU had more to cheer about in 1991 as the long-awaited 13,610-seat Convocation Center was finally completed. Later renamed the Bert L. & Iris S. Wolstein Convocation Center, the venue has hosted a diverse array of events ranging from monster truck shows to a presidential debate. The new Convocation Center, however, could not prevent the turmoil that plagued the 1980s from spilling over into the 1990s as disputes between the administration and faculty led to the faculty unionizing while declining enrollment numbers forced the Board of Trustees to consider major cutbacks. Then, as the decade wound down and the world braced for Y2K, the PeopleSoft program the university used to manage financial aid records crashed unexpectedly. The fallout from this episode nearly forced CSU to close its doors and it took a number of years for the university to fully recover.
A new era was ushered in at CSU in 2001, however, when Michael Schwartz became Cleveland State's fifth president. Under President Schwartz the university moved away from its open enrollment policy in implementing admissions standards, the honors program was established, and campus revitalization efforts commenced. These efforts included the construction of a new student center, increased campus housing, renovation of the law school building, and installation of the now iconic "CSU" letters on Rhodes Tower. Schwartz stepped down in 2009 with Ronald Berkman picking up the torch in his place. President Berkman, a unanimous selection by the Board of Trustees, has continued to improve CSU, notably orchestrating the construction of The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
In 2014 Cleveland State celebrated its 50th anniversary and while the first five decades may have been trying at times, CSU has transformed itself from an inward facing commuter campus to an outwardly directed anchor of the emerging Campus District. Beginning with a handful of buildings tucked away between East 24th Street and the Innerbelt Freeway, Cleveland State now boasts eight colleges, over 200 academic programs, and an enrollment of some 17,000 students.