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History of State Government Alumni Luncheon

The Ohio University Public Affairs Advisory Committee originated from the State Government Alumni Luncheon, and has helped Ohio University achieve its public affairs mission. Ohio University is proud to have such distinguished partners, most of whom also are alumni who continue to bring honor to our university.

OHIO Public Affairs Advisory Committee


In 1983, Ohio University held the first State Government Alumni Luncheon at the University Club in Columbus, Ohio in 1983. Former OHIO president Charles Ping hosted about 20 alumni and university officials on behalf of the university’s department of political science and the Institute for Local Government Administration and Rural Development (ILGARD).

This was a way to recognize alumni’s contributions to state government and, more importantly, to provide a way to involve alumni in the University’s development of public affairs programs annually. The focus then was on three programs: the political science department’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, which became known 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 attended. That reputation continues today: The event draws between 120 and 170 people.  

A New Tradition
The tradition of asking a prominent political leader to keynote the events began at the inaugural luncheon. These keynotes’ appearance increased key Ohio leaders’ awareness of the important role Ohio University graduates play in state government. Keynote speakers include three speakers serving in the Ohio House of Representatives and three presidents serving in the Ohio Senate.

Adding the Alumni Awards
In 1985 the event began to give the State Government Alumni Awards in recognition of outstanding achievements in state service by Ohio University alumni and friends. The State Government Alumni Luncheon has honored a wide range of elected officials, executives, senior staff and public agency innovators, all of who serve the state of Ohio.

The Committee Takes Shape
In the late 1980’s, the Ohio University Public Affairs Advisory Committee took shape and luncheon awardees served.

In 1992, OHIO’s Department of Political Science began to recognize alumni outside of Columbus, honoring David Wilhelm, then-campaign chairperson for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, with an award. Wilhelm’s successful launch of Adena Ventures, the first community equity fund in Appalachian Ohio, was made possible because of his partnership with OHIO, the Voinovich School and the Appalachian New Economy Partnership.

The Committee Today
Today’s committee includes the Columbus group and several distinguished professionals from outside the state.  This group has been instrumental in developing and sustaining the university’s public affairs programs, and actively hiring OHIO students as interns and as staff. They have taught classes, met with students, helped design programs and participated in training.