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Kerry and Lynne McCalla

Photo courtesy of: Division of University Advancement

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Two Ohio Fellows alumni still learning lessons

Alumni couple Kerry and Lynne McCalla share Ohio Fellows memories and the program’s influence


This story is part of a series about Ohio University’s Ohio Fellows Program (OFP), initiated by Vernon Alden, OHIO’s 15th president. The 1960s-era program exposed select students to unique seminars, visiting dignitaries, internship opportunities and travel that broadened their OHIO experience. Several OFP alumni recently made a gift of $365,000 for the program’s revitalization as part of OHIO’s The Promise Lives Campaign. Here you’ll meet Fellows Kerry and Lynne McCalla, who graduated and married in 1970.

There are as many definitions of success as there are people. Many Ohio University Ohio Fellows Program (OFP) alumni describe how the program opened doors and helped them secure successful and rewarding careers. Not Kerry and Lynne McCalla. Instead, they describe how it opened doors to their hearts and minds.

“The Ohio Fellows Program gave me the confidence to be who I was,” said Kerry McCalla, a 1970 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s degree in education and counseling. “It made me be a better listener and allowed me to better relate to people.”

Kerry McCalla's wife, Lynne McCalla, a 1970 music therapy graduate, offered a similar sentiment.

“It made me think outside of the box and made me unafraid to challenge things,” she said. “I really valued the diversity of that group and the chance to get to know people in a deep way.”

Both statements are testaments to a program that started as an experiment. Thanks to a recent gift by several OFP alumni to OHIO’s The Promise Lives Campaign, the experiment will continue as OFP is being revitalized for the 21st century OHIO student.

Kerry McCalla said the “spark” for the program’s beginning in the 1960s was President Vernon Alden’s desire not to let potentially great leaders escape from OHIO unrecognized.

“Alden wanted to harness hidden leadership potential in unsuspecting students,” he said.

Being a fellow meant attending seminars during which students engaged in dialogue, open thought and intellectual exchange, Kerry McCalla said. Ohio fellows also took trips to cities to meet leaders in fields such as government and business, were offered unique internship opportunities and had face-to-face meetings with prominent national speakers visiting OHIO.

“It was a safe place to share your thoughts and your ideas,” Kerry McCalla said. “You could talk about anything.”

Life-changing moments for Kerry McCalla came when speakers came to campus. His group of fellows was diverse, and he remembers one student in particular who was an artist.

“He asked a speaker a question from a totally different place than my question. I never would have thought to ask that artist’s question!” Kerry McCalla said.

Lynne McCalla enjoyed the sharing of ideas and passions with other students during the group seminars.

“Music therapy was my passion, my calling, my ministry,” she said. But, like the other Fellows, she relished all learning opportunities. “I discovered (the Ohio Fellows) were really just Renaissance people. It was a safe place to talk about anything: philosophy, politics, even personal issues,” she said.

Kerry and Lynne McCalla also fondly remember the trips the fellows took to Washington, D.C. and to Boston.

“These trips were an opportunity to bond with one another and talk to movers and shakers. We got to pick their brains. It was a fascinating and broadening experience,” Kerry McCalla said.

After Kerry and Lynne McCalla married they moved to Tennessee where he completed a master’s degree in pastoral counseling from Vanderbilt University and worked in community health. Lynne McCalla, unable to find work in music therapy, began a career at BellSouth Telecommunications, a job that offered her professional challenges and enabled her to put her husband through graduate school.

“I jumped into the business and challenged things,” Lynne McCalla said. “I was the first female district manager in Tennessee. I was ‘fondly’ called ‘the Hatchet Lady’,” she laughed, since her job was to close down the district office.

Kerry McCalla connected with his work in pastoral counseling, but when government funding for community mental health dried up, he joined BellSouth as well and stayed for 30 years. He tells a story similar to Lynne McCalla's and also found it challenging to work inside the structure of a large corporation.

“I was one of the few people who would ask why,” he said. “I found that people didn’t really want to understand the question. They just did their jobs in order to be told they were doing a good job. The Ohio Fellows program taught me to always search beyond that,” he said.

Lynne and Kerry McCalla are now retired and live in Franklin, Tenn. Both are involved with the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association and sing in several choirs. Lynne McCalla also teaches Sunday school and is the Music Librarian for a 120-voice community choir. Kerry McCalla volunteers with Habitat for Humanity.

Both Kerry and Lynne McCalla said the Ohio Fellow Program set them on a path toward life-long learning.

“If going to college is preparation for a job,” Kerry McCalla mused, “the Ohio Fellows Program was preparation for an intellectual life.”

To learn more about how to give to OHIO’s student enrichment programs like the Ohio Fellows Program and to learn more about OHIO’s The Promise Lives Campaign, visit www.ohio.edu/campaign.