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Honors Convocation
11/9/02 10 a.m.
Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium

Contact: Jan Hodson at 593-2496 or

  • Student Financial Aid and Scholarships

  • Inspired Giving at Ohio University

  • Cutler Scholars Program

  • Student Campaign Advancement Committee


  • November 7, 2002
    The 25th annual Ohio University Honors Convocation, being held Saturday November 9th, recognizes undergraduate student scholars and the generosity of donors who give to Ohio University student scholarship funds and also honors distinguished professors. Below you'll find two stories of Ohio University honoring generations.
    A Woman of Stature

    By Mary Alice Casey

    There's something to be said for consistency. And loyalty. And good deeds. When you weave Leona Hughes' name into the conversation, you can't say enough about any of the three.

    Hughes arrived in Athens in the fall of 1926, three years before the start of the Great Depression. A freshman from tiny Oak Hill, Ohio, she brought with her a strong work ethic, a regard for education that she attributes to her Welsh heritage and a determination to make a mark on her world. She has.

    One of Ohio University's most ardent supporters, Hughes, BSED '30, is a donor not only of her resources but also of her time and her ideas. She worked for the University for 11 years, including several in the office of President Elmer Bryan, and made lifelong friends during the more than seven decades she has been associated with her alma mater.

    "There have been a lot of emotional things that keep me coming back to Ohio University," says Hughes, who at 93 is more active than many people half her age. "The things I did to earn a living stemmed from my studies at Ohio University and Oak Hill High School."

    Those two institutions, and a small number of others in her adopted home of Sarasota, Fla., in which Hughes likewise has placed her faith, have been on the receiving end of her amazing outpouring of generosity. Hughes has established four Leona and Lewis Hughes Manasseh Cutler Scholarships and four tuition scholarships to Ohio University for students from Oak Hill, population 1,700. The Cutler awards -- among the most prestigious offered by the University -- cover tuition, room, board and stipends for summer internships and study abroad. Hughes also extends scholarship offers to students in the Phi Mu sorority and to Oak Hill High School alumni who may pursue graduate studies at the University.

    Sarah Spence, a senior majoring in journalism/public relations, was Hughes' first Cutler Scholar.

    "The first time I met Mrs. Hughes was at my high school graduation," says Spence, who in 1999 finished first in a senior class of 95. "She was the commencement speaker and then presented me with the scholarship.

    "Receiving the Cutler Scholarship was a life-changing event," Spence says. "I'm so grateful to Mrs. Hughes, and I honestly don't think I could ever thank her enough for the opportunity."

    Spence -- who dreams of one day being a White House press secretary or PR director for an NFL team -- says she considered seeking an associate's degree in communications at a community college near home before the Cutler award was extended.

    "Receiving the scholarship was a huge factor in my decision to come here," she says. "I love Ohio University and the great experiences I've had, not only here but also in my summer experiences that the scholarship provides. This scholarship has opened so many doors for me and has given me the ability to grow personally and professionally."Spence and six other Hughes scholarship recipients will join their benefactor for breakfast at the Ohio University Inn on Nov. 8, a day before this year's Honors Convocation that singles out top scholars and the donors who provided their scholarships. The annual breakfast is Hughes' way of keeping in touch with the students and their studies.

    Bob Axline, BSCO '57 and HON '02, met Hughes years ago through their work with the Ohio University Alumni Association. Now she's one of the family, spending Christmases with Jean and Bob Axline and visiting their Cape Cod home at least once each summer. In fact, she has her own bedroom there, and hanging just inside the door are the old keys to Ohio University Inn Room 101, where Hughes stays every time she visits Athens. (Axline talked OU Inn officials out of the keys several years ago when they made the transition to key cards.)

    "Some people who give do so blindly. Not Leona," says Axline. "She supports the causes she believes in, and she gives her time and her interest."Indeed.

    Hughes served 15 years on the alumni association board, including 11 as secretary. She "graduated" (her word) to The Ohio University Foundation board a month after her association term ended. She completed a nine-year stint on the foundation board in 2001 with a perfect attendance record, having traveled from Sarasota to Athens for three meetings a year. She remains active in the current Bicentennial Campaign -- as she was in previous capital campaigns -- and for 28 years has hosted a holiday luncheon for the alumni association's Suncoast Chapter in Sarasota.

    In Sarasota, she is a longtime member of the Sarasota Memorial Health Care Foundation board and also is on the distribution committee of the Bank of America Client Foundation.

    Not one to keep her views under wrap, Hughes is a visible force in the University community despite her diminutive stature. (She says she used to stand 5-foot-1, but adds, "I'm not that now.")

    One story easily conveys the point. In 1979, when the alumni association awards committee was deciding who would be honored at Homecoming that year, the discussion turned to nominee Esther Greisheimer, ELED '13 and BSED '14. Greisheimer, then almost 90, had both a doctorate and a medical degree, and had distinguished herself as a researcher and professor at Temple University. Some committee members, faced with a slate of strong nominees, suggested passing over Greisheimer until the following year.

    "I rose up to my full height," Hughes recalls, "and said, 'Look, if she deserves an award, she gets it now.'"

    Hughes won the argument. But between the time of her stand and the awards ceremony, Greisheimer suffered a stroke. Still, she wrote her own acceptance speech and had a friend read it at the awards banquet as she looked on from her wheelchair. It was an emotional experience for all. And one of the previously hesitant committee members later told Hughes, "Listen kid, you were right."

    Hughes' wisdom and service to Ohio University haven't gone unrecognized. She's received a Medal of Merit and the Alumna of the Year Award, both from the alumni association, and the John C. Baker Award, the highest honor bestowed by the foundation. The greatest distinction, though, came in 2001, when the University awarded Hughes an honorary doctor of humanity degree.

    "I was shocked -- and very proud, of course," she says. "It was something I never expected.

    "Many are called," she adds of honorary degree prospects, "but few are chosen."

    And perhaps none more deserving than Leona Hughes.

    Mary Alice Casey is editor of Ohio Today, a magazine for alumni and friends of Ohio University.

    Going the Distance

    By Katie Fitzgerald

    A senior from Kansas City, Mo., Matt Schario doesn't get to see his family often.

    "Kansas City is a 12-hour drive and airline tickets are expensive," he says. "It's hard to find the time."

    But this weekend, his mother, Holly, and his younger sister, Catherine, will fly to Columbus before driving down to Athens to see Matt participate in the 25th annual Ohio University Honors Convocation at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, in Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium.

    "She wanted to come down and this really motivated them to put those plans into action," says Matt. "It was the catalyst for the trip."

    Held annually since 1978, the convocation recognizes undergraduate student scholars, the generosity of donors who give to Ohio University student scholarship funds and honors distinguished professors. This year 2,900 awards were made possible through private gifts of $3.4 million. Distinguished Professor of Physics, Steven Grimes, who received last year's Distinguished Professor Award, will deliver the keynote address.

    "It isn't easy getting to Athens," says Holly Schario. "This is the first time I'll be there for Parent's Weekend, but the purpose is for the Honors Convocation."She and her husband, Jon, are extremely proud of Matt's accomplishments since coming to Ohio University in 1999.

    "He came to Athens not knowing a soul. It gave him the opportunity for some real growth," Holly Schario says. "He's worked really hard and I think he's enjoyed what he's studied and his time at Ohio University."

    Matt Schario will graduate with a bachelor's degree in English and is working to finish a Spanish minor.

    "It says a lot to be able to maintain that GPA at a college with the reputation of Ohio University," she says.

    Schario usually stays in Athens during breaks to work and take class only coming home for holidays and the occasional ski trip, so this weekend will be an opportunity for him to spend time with his mother and sister.

    "He hasn't been home for a long time," his mother says. "It will be kind of nice to sit and chat."

    As an avenue of spending time together Matt hopes to take his family to some local attractions such as The Ridges and to University events like the play "Iphigenia" while they are in town.

    Holly Schario says her daughter, Catherine, a senior in high school and can't wait to get to Athens.

    "She was thrilled when she found out she could come," Holly Schario says of Catherine. "She always wanted to come down for Sib's weekend, but she has just been to young."

    Matt is the oldest of four siblings and according to his mom is an excellent role model in the family.

    "It's his stick-with-it-ness," she says. "As a role model I couldn't ask for anything more from Matt."

    Though he doesn't really see himself as a role model to his sister, Matt Schario says he is glad Catherine will be able to see a glimpse of college life on the trip.

    "She gets to see what it's going to be like for her in another four years," he says.

    On Saturday, Matt Schario, who has received other scholarships while at Ohio University, will be recognized for receiving the Truman Scholarship, which assists future leaders in public service and government.


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