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Vernon Alden poses with the Ohio Fellows

Photographer: Patrick Traylor

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University Libraries Dean Emeritus Hwa-Wei Lee attended the 50th anniversary celebration

Photographer: Patrick Traylor

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Presidents Roderick McDavis, Vernon Alden and Charles Ping pose in front of Alden busts

Photographer: Patrick Traylor

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President Emeritus Vernon R. Alden celebrates 50 years with Ohio University


On Saturday, a crowd of distinguished Ohio University faculty, staff, alumni and guests raised their glasses to toast President Emeritus Vernon R. Alden and the 50th anniversary of his inauguration as the 15th president of Ohio University.

Alden served as president from 1962-1969. His administration saw a doubling of enrollment and faculty, and a 750-acre expansion of campus, including the construction of Alden Library, the airport, and the iconic Convocation Center. He also advocated and helped bring to reality the rerouting of the Hocking River and the construction of the Appalachian Highway Network. 

At the reception, Alden was honored by speakers such as President Roderick J. McDavis, President Emeritus Charles J. Ping, Dean of Ohio University Libraries Scott Seaman, and Ohio Fellows alumnus Ro Fallon. Each speaker reflected on the significant impact that Vernon Alden had made on the university and on the lives of those he was close to.

Ping told a personal anecdote of his decision to take the position as the 18th president of Ohio University. He recalled seeing a plaque in Alden's office on which bricks, pipes and various other pieces of debris were mounted. Alden informed him that every item on the plaque had been thrown through the window of his home during his presidency, but even so he considered his years at OHIO the best of his life.

"I didn't understand what you meant then, but I do now," said Ping. "Vern built more space than any president in the history of Ohio University, but far more important than structures, Vern set about molding lives."

Many, whose lives were personally changed as members of the Ohio Fellows Program by the guidance of Alden, were in attendance. The Ohio Fellows Program was an innovative and well received mentorship program created by Alden. From 1964-1971 the administrators of the Fellows program fostered potential in carefully selected students to help them reach academic and professional excellence.

During the ceremony, the Fellows honored their mentor by revealing bronze busts of Vernon and his late wife, Marion. The busts were commissioned by the Fellows as a gift. Sculpted by Mike Major ('71), an Ohio Fellow, the busts will be on permanent display in Alden Library.

As the praises for one of the most influential OHIO presidents continued, McDavis read a resolution from Gov. John Kasich, which named Alden "a true education pioneer," and stated that OHIO is a "stronger place of education because of [his] leadership."

Alden and his family said they were honored and pleased by the event.

"This is the sort of things my father gets energy from, he'll be glowing for weeks," said Rob Alden, Vern's eldest son.

McDavis summed up Alden's impact in his own words.

"Vern Alden encapsulates what it means to be OHIO University," McDavis said. "Under his direction, OHIO became the modern and forward thinking university that it is today."