Education: Harvardmcm on the Hocking

At Ohio University, in the relaxed southern Ohio town of Athens (pop. 9,000), the current saying is: "A Yaleman founded the school, but a Harvardman put it on its feet." The Yaleman was Manasseh Cutler, who helped start the university in 1804 as the nation's first land-grant college. The Harvardman: 54-year-old John Calhoun Baker, Ohio's president since 1945.

When John Baker arrived at Ohio's Hocking Valley campus five years ago, he found the old college in shabby shape. While Ohio State at Columbus was booming along with 7,500 students, Ohio University's enrollment had dwindled to a mere 1,395. It was stumbling along...