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Founders Day honors past, celebrates future

Concert and Distinguished Professor Lecture highlight week's events

On Thursday, President Roderick J. McDavis welcomed a crowd that included faculty, staff, students and community members to the Baker University Center Theatre to celebrate Ohio University Founders Day.

“Founders Day is a very special time of year for me,” said McDavis. “As we begin to emerge from the midpoint of the quarter and look toward the promise of warmer weather and longer days of sunshine, this day brings a certain peace and light during the hustle and bustle of our day-to-day responsibilities.”

His brief remarks before the Founders Day Concert celebrated OHIO’s history, born of determination, a spirit of adventure and fearlessness.

“This sense of adventure and fearlessness is reflected in our students who are focused on transforming lives through service learning,” he said. “It is seen in our faculty who are researching ways to improve the human condition and answer questions about how we can be better stewards of our precious natural resources. It is evidenced in our alumni who give back to their communities with passion, skills and experiences gained during their time at Ohio University.”

The president’s rousing remarks were followed by a video produced by students in the Honors Tutorial College (HTC) with assistance from University Communications and Marketing. The video highlighted OHIO achievements and the students and faculty who work so hard to bring these honors to OHIO.

Following the video was the concert, featuring School of Music faculty members Michael Carrera on cello and William Averill on piano. The pair played pieces from a variety of composers with deft skill and good humor.

On Friday, OHIO honored its newest distinguished professor, Charles Smith, professor of playwriting, with a portrait unveiling and lecture.

McDavis opened the ceremony with a brief introduction discussing the award’s history and Smith’s contributions to OHIO.

“It is because of his commitment to scholarship and teaching that we are here this evening,” McDavis said, “Mr. Smith possesses the very characteristics we seek in our distinguished professors. We are very proud and honored that he is a member of our faculty!”

Smith's portrait will be displayed with others in the Distinguished Professor Portrait Gallery on the third floor of Alden Library. It was unveiled to ohs and ahs from the assembled audience.

Smith was introduced by 2009 Distinguished Professor Peter Jung, who discussed Smith’s personal and professional achievements.
After the well-received introduction, Smith took the stage and launched into his lecture, “Helen Keller, Aliens, and WikiLeaks: How the Theatre Helps Define Our Place in the World.”

He thanked those in attendance and those who wanted to be there, but could not. Smith then discussed his difficulty in settling on a topic.

“It is a dictum of theater that you don’t talk about your work,” explained Smith.

He then elaborated that this was because a playwright’s work should speak for itself. But, following the advice of his colleague and nominator Distinguished Professor William Condee, Smith decided to speak about what was important to him.

He stated that it was well known that he hadn’t seen a play until he was 24 However, that did not tell his full story.

“My first true exposure to the power of dramatic exploration came when I was eight,” said Smith.

His class read the Frank Stockton short story, “The Lady or the Tiger,” where a young man, led only by the advice of his love, the princess, must choose between two doors. Behind one door is a tiger and behind another is a maiden who he must marry if he finds her. The story ends before the chosen door opens.

“We were eight years old and this blew our minds! It was a delicious dramatic exploration,” said Smith.

The rest of his lecture centered on choices and how people create devices and mechanisms when watching theater or movies. These choices and situations force the audience to ask aspirational questions; could they make the right choice?

“The answer is not nearly as important as the journey,” said Smith.