By Monica Chapman
An audacious act.
That's how Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl characterized the founding of Ohio University this morning in her final public address to the Ohio University community.
Nearly 250 people gathered in the Margaret M. Walter Hall Rotunda to celebrate the contributions of students and faculty at the 2009 Founders Day Convocation, during which Krendl, President Roderick J. McDavis and selected essayists offered inspiration and insights into the promise Ohio University has represented throughout its 205-year history.
"In many ways what [founders Manasseh] Cutler and [Rufus] Putnam sought to do in the founding of Ohio University defied rationality," Krendl explained. "What possible use could knowledge of Latin, Greek, astronomy, history, natural philosophy and jurisprudence be to a citizenry who in their daily battles against time, need and trees lived a subsistence existence?"
As one of five essayists to share views on the promise of Ohio University, President Emeritus Charles Ping put this query into context. The university's founding, he explained, made good on a promise first outlined in an amendment to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 -- the U.S. government's first commitment to a responsibility for education.
More than two centuries later, Ohio University is still making good on its promises through the outstanding contributions of students, faculty and staff, he said.
A round of applause
"Today we recognize students and colleagues whose dedication to learning and knowledge are allowing us to fulfill our promise," said Krendl, acknowledging the more than 150 student and faculty award winners.
Interim Honors Tutorial College Dean Harold Molineu recognized the 75 students who had won nationally and internationally competitive awards won over the past year. Among them: a Marshall Award winner, three Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship recipients, six NOAA Hollings Scholarship winners and 12 student Fulbright Scholars.
Krendl paid tribute to faculty award winners, including 2008 Distinguished Professor of Geology R. Damian Nance, University Professors, recipients of the Outstanding Professor Award and Presidential Teacher Award and the Outstanding Professor/Regional Campuses. Krendl also awarded 14 Vision Ohio Excellence Awards, an annual award created to honor those who contribute significantly to a realization of the Ohio University vision. (See related story.)
In a surprise move, McDavis deviated from the program to honor Krendl with the final Vision Ohio Excellence Award -- a move that prompted a standing ovation.
In his presentation, McDavis referred to Krendl as the "life force" behind the Five Year Vision Ohio Implementation Plan, adding, "That we have a strategic plan that has been instrumental in helping us make significant progress on our mission as an institution is and will be Dr. Krendl's enduring legacy."
"She has been undeterred in her pursuit of Vision OHIO because she believes wholeheartedly that it will be the means through which the academic mission of the institution will be empowered to realize its fullest potential," he continued.
McDavis went on to deliver the annual State of the University address. His speech called upon the university community to seek out creative solutions to the historic economic downturn, using innovative approaches to prepare students for the modern economy. McDavis lauded the university community for exceeding expectations in the face of adversity, concluding with an enthusiastic, "Let's go to work!" (See related story.)
A look back in time
Essayists chosen to read excerpts on the promise of Ohio University represented a cross section of university students, faculty, staff, administration and alumni. Topics ranged from the university's historic promise of developing national citizenship to its current focus on developing global citizens. (Read copies of the essays on the provost's Web site.)
"Founders Day calls us to look back to the past to better understand the present and to better serve the future," said Ping, as he stepped the audience through the university's first charge -- to educate for a political democracy.
In addition to Ping, essayists included Assistant Professor of Anthropology Haley Duschinski, Director of Learning Community Programs Wendy Merb-Brown (she was attending a conference, so colleague and friend Barbara Harrison read her essay), alumna Heather Baird Tomlinson and junior journalism major Quadia Muhammad.
Krendl expanded upon Ping's history lesson, referencing some of the most notable Ohio University alumni. She mentioned John Newton Templeton, who in 1828 became the nation's fourth African-American to graduate from college, and Margaret Boyd, the first woman to earn her degree from Ohio University in 1873. (Boyd, she noted, insisted that the university change the masculine endings of the Latin text on her diploma to feminine endings -- a request that Krendl acknowledged with a pump of her fist.)
"That's what happens when you found an institution on the principle of access in pursuit of excellence," she said.
Krendl peppered the ceremony with references to Thomas Ewing, who in 1815 became one of Ohio University's first two graduates and later went on to serve as an adviser to Abraham Lincoln.
In parting, Krendl charged the university to look after Ewing's desk, which now resides outside her office on the third floor of Cutler Hall, as "a symbol of the first promises that were kept at Ohio University and a reminder of all the promises yet to keep."
The Founders Day celebration continues with a lecture by Distinguished Professor Damian Nance at 7:30 p.m. today in Walter Hall 135.