Ohio University Recollections
In honor of the bicentennial, the Ohio University Emeriti Association invited emeriti, faculty, staff, alumni and friends who had a special affiliation with Ohio University to share personal memories to compile in a book, “Ohio University Recollections for the Bicentennial Anniversary, 1804-2004.”
Former University presidents shared stories from their terms in office. Retired faculty members remembered special events in the University’s history and moments they shared with students. Staff members told funny stories, Athens residents recalled community events and the influence of the University, and alumni remembered how the University changed their lives. In all, more than 40 individuals wrote memories related to the University.
Ohio Today Online is honored to feature excerpts from the book, the profits from which will benefit the Harry Crewson Scholarship Fund. Major funding for the book was provided by the Ohio University Credit Union in honor of its founder, Harry Crewson. The Emeriti Association and The Athens Messenger also helped with expenses.
For more information about how to purchase the book, visit the Bicentennial Marketplace or read more about the Ohio University Emeriti Association.
Read some excerpts from the book:
A Memorable Experience
By Vernon R. Alden, 15th president of Ohio University
During my tenure at Ohio University I had many funny experiences, sad ones and memorable ones. My relationships with the legislature in Columbus and with the governor were surprisingly good. I say “surprisingly” because coming from a private institution to a state-assisted university, I had been warned the legislators could be tough to deal with. Although Governor Rhodes was suspicious of me at first, because he thought I had been sent by the Kennedys to organize Ohio for the Democratic Party, we got along quite well. I shall never forget our evening together in Portsmouth.
Jim Rhodes was a skillful campaigner; his earthy, country-boy style went over well with Ohioans. One evening we were together in Portsmouth for the dedication of a new building on our branch campus there. Both of us were scheduled to speak, but before we were introduced almost every local dignitary spoke — the mayor, the chairman of the city council, the state representative, the labor union leader and others. By the time the governor was called upon, it was almost midnight. His entire speech was as follows:
“Some years ago we had a corn borer problem in Ohio. State troopers were instructed to stop every farm vehicle for inspections. One day a farmer was driving his wagon with his son sitting in the rear, legs hanging over the back of the wagon. A state trooper stopped them: ‘What do you have there, sir?’
“‘A load of manure and my son, John.’ A few minutes down the road they were stopped again — same question, same answer: ‘A load of manure and my son, John.’
“When about to be stopped a third time, the young boy sat up and shouted to his father: ‘Next time, would you mind introducing me first?’”
With that the governor sat down.
A Familiar Face
By Raymond H. Gusteson, professor emeritus, political science
During my 44 years on the faculty of Ohio University (from 1946 to 1991) I accumulated a host of wonderful and memorable relationships with OU students. Some were students who sat in my classroom, some were one of my many counselees, and some were members of extracurricular organizations that I served as faculty adviser. They were a marvelous four decades. During those years I had offices in Ellis, Ewing and Bentley halls.
I suppose, like all retiring faculty members, there is a “long gray line” of students who will always remain in my memory. Some I remember because they were superb students and many because of some elusive quality of personality.
That is not to say there were no moments of embarrassment in my contacts with students. I recall a Homecoming Saturday when, as usual, I came uptown to watch the Homecoming Parade. And, of course, I was on the alert to spot a familiar face from days gone by. As I walked along Court Street I did note a familiar face, and the young man spoke to me by name. We had a little time before the parade started, and we chatted for several minutes.
Finally I said, “Let’s see, where is it you are now?” He gave me a rather puzzled look and said, “I’m in your 11 o’clock class.”
By Van Gordon Sauter, BSJ ’57 and HON ’83, former president, CBS News and FOX News
I can’t recall her name, but she was not much older than I. Her hair, as I recall, was dark and quite long, framing a friendly face, beautiful by the fashion of the 1950s. I presumed she had been a sorority girl, not unfamiliar with the clumsy rites of dating and drinking that then characterized the Greek life on campus. But she was assuming a patina of sophistication; a graduate student, hardly imperious, but grave about her mission — attacking speech impediments.
For me, words that began with T’s, S’s, D’s, B’s and P’s were daunting. Starting a sentence with such letters was virtually crippling. I would expand all the air in my lungs trying to mold and shape that first sound, while sending forth an echo chamber of partially expressed words, not to mention appalling volleys of spit more appropriate to a Shakespearean actor on a warm summer night near the Thames. It was unattractive.
We quickly got down to work. Her drills and remedial techniques were effective. She also preached and demanded self-confidence. And I was to prove her technique through an academic trial by fire, a Dantesque descent into the most sulfurous hell: a speech class.
The initial presentation was critical. My progress had been admirable but fragile. Her academic aspirations could not accommodate a retrograde student. She thus suggested an illustrated speech: visuals and a sturdy wooden pointer as crutches and distractions. To elevate the bar to an appropriate level, she found a topic in the news. The French were then absorbing a thorough defeat in Indochina. It symbolized the collapse there of French colonialism. The critical battle site: Dien Bien Phu.
The dreaded trifecta of D’s, B’s and P’s.
The performance: boffo. Under her guidance, I prevailed. As it turns out, a windbag was released upon the unsuspecting world.
And Dien Bien Phu led to a history course with Professor John Cady. He was remarkably skilled in making the death struggles of colonialism seem so immediate, though it was impossible to believe those distant events would have a personal impact on my life.
Less than a decade later, I was a journalist in Vietnam. It was a mesmerizing story but not infrequently a horrific experience. It was not uncommon to seek relief from the devastation and danger by conjuring up images of more congenial times. And more than once that was done in the shell-pocked remains of French colonial buildings that dated back to the days of Dien Bien Phu.
Thought would turn to an idyllic college town in Ohio.
To a young, aspiring woman who literally liberated my voice.
To a professor who knew that history was a relevant continuum and sensed that all of us would someday be caught up in the wake of the struggles for freedom.
To the striking epiphany that Ohio University had served me so well!