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Rod Sauer named Housing and Residence Life’s first Distinguished Alumni Award recipient

Dana Wright
September 13, 2018
Rod Sauer standing in Baker Center

In the fall of 1966, Rod Sauer stepped onto the Athens bricks and joined the Ohio University Bobcat family as a first-year student. Fifty-two years later, Sauer’s OHIO story continues as the first recipient of Housing and Residence Life’s (HRL) Distinguished Alumni Award.

HRL established the Distinguished Alumni Award as a way to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of OHIO alumni who have been employed by Housing and Residence Life. To be considered for this award, individuals must demonstrate exceptional achievement in their chosen profession as well as meaningful impacts to their local and global communities.

Sauer, a 1971 OHIO graduate, was employed by Residence Life (Housing and Residence Life were separate departments during this time) as both a student and a professional staff member. After his time at OHIO, Sauer pursued a career in banking in Athens, always maintaining his connection to the university. Throughout his banking career, Sauer was invited to return to OHIO to teach workshops to seniors about managing finances after graduation.

Sauer was integral in creating the Bank One Coats for Kids coat drive. During this 12-year program, over 4,000 coats were donated to children and their families through the local K-12 schools. To this day, Sauer continues to work with his church to raise funds for local non-profit organizations that are making a positive impact in the Athens community.

Following are excerpts from an interview with Sauer, reflecting on his time in Residence Life at OHIO.

What staff positions did you hold during your time with Housing and Residence Life?

I did two tours with Residence Life. I was a resident assistant in Perkins Hall, second floor, my junior year. In March of that year, the resident director (RD) was drafted to serve in Vietnam, so the assistant resident director (ARD) moved up to RD and I became the ARD. I was also ARD of Brown Hall my senior year, room 120.

After graduating in 1971, I worked as an elementary school teacher for a couple of years. Then my second tour started when Bob Hynes (former director of Residence Life) asked me to come back to be a resident director. I was a resident director for two years.

I lived through floods, riots, strikes, the closing of the school and four different presidents at OU.

Tell us about your experiences as a resident director.

At the time, Jefferson was an all-male hall―325 freshman guys! And, I got married just two weeks before we opened the hall for fall quarter!

I had a staff of eight RAs. I wanted the relationship to start as a team, a community where we could all be comfortable as to what we were and where we were from, but we were still a team.

I wanted to carry that over to the students in the dorm. I wanted a sense of community, togetherness and bonding. My goal was to know the name, room and hometown of every resident so not only myself, but my staff, could relate to the guys on an individual basis. I used to roam the halls every night, sit in rooms or lobbies to meet with guys and relate. I think knowing the names made the guys more accountable in the long run―accountable to studies, interactions and enjoyment of their years at Ohio University.

What are you most proud of from your time on staff?

While I was the RD of Perkins Hall, all three quarters the residents had the highest cumulative GPA of any male freshman dorm. And then, when I came back and worked in Jefferson Hall, again, all three quarters of that year they earned the highest GPA of any freshman men’s dorm. I, along with my staff, stressed the importance of studies. Also, I am proud of the bonds I made with my peers.

Have you been able to stay connected with your co-workers and peers?

Oh yes. From my Perkins Hall RD time especially. I have made contact with most of my RA’s through social media. This summer the freshmen guys had their 40th reunion back on campus, and they invited me to join them. They built quite a strong bond. I mean these guys still, after 40 years, get together. It was great hearing what career paths they took. Plus, I still get together with the guys that lived across the hall in Perkins when I was a sophomore in 1967; we get together once a year.

What was your biggest challenge as a staff member?

The riots in 1970. That was a difficult time to say the least. I was an ARD at the time, and I can remember [my supervisor] making us go uptown to try to bring our residents back to Perkins Hall. Then, the next thing you know, you’re on the front lines of the riots. When the university closed, you had 24 hours to get out of town. Could you imagine everyone leaving campus within 24 hours?

What is one of your most memorable moments at Ohio University?

When I was ARD, the university sponsored J-Prom. A male dorm and a female dorm joined to create a 5-minute skit. The members had to write the script, make the costumes, build a set, write the music and dance. The set had to be portable since you carried it from green to green and performed. You could not talk while carrying or setting up; you had to use hand signals. So, you had 10 minutes to set up, perform and tear it down. It was great to see the creativity of the guys and girls. Engineer, art, music students all using their skills. Fun time!

What lessons did you learn during your time at OHIO that remain important to you today?

Listening was the most important thing. We had freshmen kids and who came into the dormitory with different backgrounds and different cultures―from small towns, big towns and out of the country. They each told a different story, and I think I had to learn how to listen to different people’s backgrounds and what they were experiencing.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

I graduated from OHIO. My wife Linda graduated from OHIO, and my daughter Shawna graduated from OHIO. Her husband, Aaron, as well as his parents, Ronna and Josh, graduated from OHIO. It runs in the family!

Join Housing and Residence Life friends, family and former staff members at our Homecoming Brunch, Saturday, Oct. 20 as we present Rod Sauer with the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award. Also, be sure to stop by the Division of Student Affairs tailgate tent at Pepsi’s Tailgreat Park after the Homecoming parade!

Housing and Residence Life is always accepting nominations for the Distinguished Alumni Award.