In 1983, Ohio University held the first State Government Alumni Luncheon at the University Club in Columbus, Ohio. About 20 Ohio University alumni and university officials attended the luncheon, hosted by the sitting Ohio University President Charles Ping on behalf of the University’s Department of Political Science and the Institute for Local Government Administration and Rural Development (ILGARD).
The alumni luncheon began as a way to recognize former Ohio University students’ contributions to state government and, more importantly, to systematically involve alumni in the development of public affairs programs at Ohio University. In the beginning, the focus was on three programs: the Department Of Political Science’s Public Affairs Internship Program started in 1974 by James Tilling, a former Ohio University political science faculty member; a master’s of arts program in public administration launched in 1977; and the university’s Institute for Local Government Administration and Rural Development, created by the Ohio University Board of Trustees in 1981.
Ohio University President Emeritus Robert Glidden continued the presidential tradition of hosting the event, and it developed a reputation as a “power” luncheon in Columbus in the 1990s when four of the five statewide elected officials and about 40 members of the Ohio General Assembly (including most of the leadership) attended. That reputation continues today. For the last five to seven years the number of people attending has averaged between 120 and 170, a huge increase from the first luncheon.
A New Tradition
The tradition of asking a prominent political leader to keynote the events was established at the first luncheon. These speakers added another dimension by increasing key Ohio leaders’ awareness of the important role Ohio University graduates play in state government. The list of keynote speakers is impressive, including three speakers serving in the Ohio House of Representatives and three presidents serving in the Ohio Senate.
Adding the Alumni Awards
Recognizing outstanding achievements in state service by Ohio University alumni and friends began in 1985 with the establishment of the State Government Alumni Award. This honor has gone to powerful capital strategists, whose careers, more often than not, began with key staff positions in the Ohio General Assembly. We have honored a wide range of executives and senior staff in the Ohio General Assembly and numerous innovators in the public agency realm.
The Committee Takes Shape
In the late 1980’s, the Ohio University Public Affairs Advisory Committee took shape. This volunteer committee was made up of individuals who had received the State Government Alumni Award.
In 2011, Ohio University took the long-standing State Government Alumni Luncheon tradition and transported it to Washington, DC, to establish the Annual Ohio University Federal Government Alumni Luncheon. The Outstanding Federal Government Alumnus award was soon established and recipients became members of the historic Ohio University Public Affairs Advisory Committee.
The Committee Today
The current Ohio University Public Affairs Advisory Committee includes the Columbus and the D.C. groups. They have been instrumental in developing and sustaining the University’s public affairs programs. They have hired OHIO students as interns and as staff. They have taught classes, met with students, helped to design programs and participated in the Voinovich School’s training.