Charles F. Kettering’s interest in education started early in his life. His dream was to attend college, which he eventually was able to do. In 1896, at the age of 20, Kettering started at the College of Wooster to study Greek, but had to drop out due to extreme nearsightedness which caused him to have painful headaches. When his eyesight improved he was able to teach school in Mifflin, Ohio for a short time before returning to college at The Ohio State University in 1898. Once again he had to drop out due to his eyesight. Finally, in 1901 at the age of 25, Kettering once again enrolled at The Ohio State University’s School of Engineering, and graduated in 1904.
His commitment to education continued throughout his life. Kettering served as a trustee of The Ohio State University, and was an important contributor to the enlargement and development of the engineering program at the university. Kettering also supported Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, to which he donated funds for the Kettering Science Hall and the Olive Kettering Library. He said that the laboratory and library at Antioch were in appreciation of his wife Olive.
When the Kettering Medical Center was being built it was decided that an education building should be built at the same time. Plans for the new education building were added to the hospital plans and a nursing curriculum was also planned. The initial nursing program would be a three-year program with the students spending their first year in the classroom and approximately two years at the hospital, gaining hands on experience. Nursing education was changing, and nursing schools across the country were also changing; it was decided that the school should be an accredited college and would offer two-year associate degrees. In addition to nursing, the college would offer degrees in radiology and respiratory therapy. In December 1966, the educational division of the hospital was renamed the Kettering College of Medical Arts, now known as Kettering College. In the fall of 1967, 130 students attended the college for the first time in the nursing, radiologic technology, and respiratory therapy programs. The first graduation took place on August 29, 1969 with 61 nursing degrees, four respiratory therapy degrees, and two radiologic technology degrees were conferred.
Across the country, Kettering’s name is attached to schools furthering his commitment to education and serving as memorials to honor the inventor. High schools in Michigan, California, and of course Kettering, Ohio; at the University of Cincinnati, the Department of Environmental Health is housed in the Kettering Lab; the engineering building, located in the Kettering Lab at the University of Dayton; The College of Wooster’s Department of Music’s endowed Olive Kettering Chair, named for his wife; as well as buildings at Ashland University and Wilmington College, both located in Ohio. In 1998, General Motors changed the name of its GMI Engineering and Management Institute to Kettering University, honoring the man who contributed more to the development of the automobile industry than any other person.