UA founder's great-nephew gets longtime wish: Trip to UA


Harley Arvel Buchtel by Buchtel statue

Harley Arvel Buchtel stands with the statue of his great-uncle John Buchtel, who founded Buchtel College, the predecessor of The University of Akron.

Buchtel Hall was the dream destination for a most special visitor this week. 

Eighty-five year old Harley Arvel Buchtel arrived on campus to see—for the very first time—the place his great-uncle John built.

Harley BuchtelHarley Buchtel (right) has lived in Panama for several decades, but told his daughter JoAnn that his dream was to see Buchtel College, a place he had only heard of in family stories. 

With her father’s eyesight failing, JoAnn arranged for the trip and accompanied her father and his wife. They were provided a tour of the campus, and posed for photographs with Uncle John Buchtel. In return, daughter JoAnn Buchtel sent this poignant note.

“My father, Harley Arvel Buchtel, was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1928, and grew up in very impoverished conditions. He was only able to complete his education through the sixth grade, and then went to work at a soda fountain. For the next two years he saved every penny he could, $250, to go to a trade school to learn welding. At fifteen years old, he went to work at Curtis Wright Aircraft, and at seventeen, joined the Army-Air Corps., which took him far from Ohio. At nineteen, he married my mother, Elizabeth Morgan Buchtel, and they raised six daughters, and one son. His career led him to Panama, where he retired at the age of seventy-one, and still lives, in a tiny village called Las Iglas.

“Most people dream of traveling to Hawaii, or Europe after retirement, but my father’s dream was to visit the University of Akron. He has told me about it for as long as I can remember. I believe that much of the sense of pride he feels, for being the great nephew of John R. Buchtel, comes from knowing that someone, even if it was not himself, was able to contribute to the education of so many. I also know that being at the University for the short time he was, somehow made him feel that he was part of it all. My father has always felt inferior because of his lack of education, and this visit really removed much of that.

“The graciousness, and hospitality that was shown to us will be remembered always (and talked about incessantly). My words will never be able to express the emotion behind them.”

According to his tour guide, UA senior and political science major Joe Ryan, Mr. Buchtel was most impressed by the sheer size of the University and the vital role it plays in educating generations.  He also said he would encourage his granddaughter to apply to the University.

Buchtel statue 

Harley Arvel Buchtel with his wife, Nora Buchtel (left), and daughter JoAnn.

Media contact: Eileen Korey, 330-972-8589 or