Lancaster – Frances Ilene Oatney's oldest son said one of his mother's proudest accomplishments was graduating from Ohio University. She was one of the first students to enroll at the Ohio University Lancaster Campus when it opened in 1956. That's why he decided to feature her time at OUL prominently in her obituary. Oatney, 87, passed away in May.
"I was 11 years old when she started at OUL," said Tom Oatney. "She had three children and always wanted to go to college to become a teacher. With OUL starting in Lancaster, she was able to go to school and it was really her only option to go to school close to home because she couldn't get to Athens."
Oatney took classes at night after her husband, Neil, came home from work. She received the Ohio University Freshman Scholarship for the 1956-1957 school year, which is what made it possible for her to attend full time.
"She wanted to go back to school a lot earlier, but she got married during World War II and wasn't able to because she had to work for a while," said Tom Oatney. "Then, the three kids came along and it wasn't until the youngest got into school that she was able to go to college."
Ilene Oatney's college story was featured on the front page of the Lancaster Eagle Gazette in 1957. She graduated from Ohio University in 1963 and went on to teach 4th grade in the Lancaster City Schools. She worked in the schools for 29 years.
"It really always was her dream was to go to college," said Tom Oatney. "There wasn't an easy way to do it because of the times and everything else going on. It was a situation where once the opportunity came about she jumped on it. She would not have been able to afford to go to college if it hadn't been for the scholarships she received."
In lieu of flowers, Oatney's family encouraged friends to give to organizations and scholarships close to Ilene Oatney's heart. That included the Alpha Nu Ohio University Lancaster Scholarship Fund, Terri Garrett, Treasurer, 11651 Parkview Drive, Stoutsville, OH 43154.
"It was a situation where, if it weren't for OUL, she would have never gone to school. Because of her experience in college, all three of her kids have college degrees and that stems a lot from what she did," said Tom Oatney. "My brother and I both have master's degrees. We've gone on further than the four year degree.Her encouragement and what she did made some of that difference."