True or False?: ‘How I Met Your Mother’ References Wesleyan University in Connecticut

As a Connecticut native and fellow NESCAC school graduate (Bates College Class of 2009!), I was thrilled to see references to Wesleyan in one of my favorite shows, How I Met Your Mother. 

I’ve known for awhile that the New York-set sitcom’s lead characters Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor), Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel) and Lily Aldrin (Alyson Hannigan) are Wesleyan graduates. So, naturally I set out to write a post about a show with Connecticut connections fitting my blog code (no, Barney, no Bro Code for me as a lady) .

But today is the first time I had my knowledge of the Connecticut connections debunked. When researching the Wesleyan tie to How I Met Your Mother, Google revealed articles that not only reported on the show’s references to Wesleyan University in Connecticut, but also Ohio Wesleyan University in Ohio. To make the state references more confusing, Ohio Wesleyan University is in Delaware, Ohio.

A new question emerged for me. Did Ted, Marshall and Lily attend the Wesleyan in Connecticut or Ohio?

Let’s break down the case for both:

Wesleyan University (Middletown, Conn.)

  • Ted, Marshall and Lily landed in New York, so the proximity to a Connecticut college makes sense.
  • Craig Thomas and Carter Bays, co-creators of How I Met Your Mother, are Wesleyan University alumni. The liberal arts school near the corner of High Street and Route 66 in Middletown lists Thomas and Bays as notable alumni on its website and identifies them as the co-creators of the show and the lead writers. They graduated from Wesleyan in 1997 and How I Met Your Mother first aired in 2005, according to IMDB.com.
  • Craig Thomas wrote a post on wesconnect.wesleyan.edu, published June 9, 2011, about creating How I Met Your Mother called “Craig Thomas ’97 and Carter Bays ’97 tell tales out of school.” In the article, Thomas outlines the Wesleyan connections. Thomas met his wife, Rebecca Alson-Milkman ’98 at Wesleyan and wrote that he and Bays based Ted, Marshall and Lily on themselves and Rebecca. Marshall and Lily meet and fall in love on campus in Westco, a nickname for the West College dorm at Wesleyan (Is that why Ted calls himself Teddy Westside?).
  • The Wesleyan shirts we see the characters wear resemble the Wesleyan University lettering and colors. Ohio Wesleyan University’s mascot is the Battling Bishops and the shirts have a bishop leaning on OWU on the front rather than Wesleyan spelled out.

Knowing that, all of the evidence seems to point to Wesleyan University in Connecticut. But not so fast.

Ohio Wesleyan University (Delaware, Ohio)

  • In “Not a Father’s Day,” the seventh episode of Season 4, Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) talks to Marshall in his law office about an idea for a new holiday that celebrates people who aren’t fathers. About six minutes into the episode, you can clearly see Marshall’s Ohio Wesleyan University diploma framed on the wall. Ohio Wesleyan University posted that piece of trivia on its website Nov. 10, 2008 in its OWU Newsmakers segment. I watched the episode on Netflix to verify and the university was indeed correct.
  • Ted Mosby is a Cleveland, Ohio native and Yahoo TV reported in a July 20, 2011 article called “‘How I Met Your Mother’ Profile: Josh Radnor” that Ted’s alma mater is Ohio Wesleyan University.
  • Josh Radnor, the actor who plays Ted, was born in Columbus, Ohio, according to IMDB.com and exudes Mid-Western charm and kindness. Case and point, read his article, “Hollywood Rules: Kind Over Matter,” published recently in the LA Times. He went to Kenyon College and earned the Paul Newman Award for his drama work there, Yahoo TV reported. As a side note, Paul Newman, a Shaker Heights, Ohio native, also lived and passed away in Westport, Conn., according to IMDB.com.
  • Bays, who the Ted character is based on, grew up in Ohio before moving to New York to pursue a career in television and attending Wesleyan in Connecticut, according to clevelandmagazine.com.

All evidence considered, the diploma on the wall in Marshall’s office does most logically place How I Met Your Mother‘s Wesleyan in Ohio as Ohio Wesleyan University. But their alma mater is also based on the Wesleyan University we know and love in Middletown, Connecticut given the co-creators’ tie to the school and Craig Thomas’ statement about looking out for the Wesleyan references in the show. After all, a lot of the show is based on Thomas’ and Bays’ life experiences, including college.

Fiction is hardly ever based on just one place, one person and one memory. While one subject might be the foundation for a setting in a fictional story, writers write best when they write about what they know.

So, I guess the answer is Ted, Marshall and Lily attend Wesleyan University in Ohio and Connecticut. But there isn’t a definitive true or false about the Connecticut Wesleyan connections. It’s a trick question.

Which clues do you see in How I Met Your Mother that point to Ohio Western University in Delaware, Ohio or Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn.? Tell me in the comments!

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3 thoughts on “True or False?: ‘How I Met Your Mother’ References Wesleyan University in Connecticut

  1. Just finished watching one of HIMYM episodes and all I know is that it is definitely not the one in Ohio. During their freshman year of college, Ted and Marshall embarked on a road trip to their homes in Minnesota/Ohio for Christmas break and the very fact that they had to drive for hours before they could even reach Ohio clearly shows that their college was located outside the state of Ohio. Wesleyan in CT makes more sense because then it would have taken them more than 10 hours drive from there. All those Ohio Wesleyan signs are just results of a few mistakes by some staffs who got confused between the two after a quick google search.

  2. In Dual Citizenship from 2009 – Marshall says “Back in college, Ted and I used to take these crazy road trips from Connecticut…”

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